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POLL | Is banning civilians from using firearms in self-defence the right move?

27 May 2021 - 07:00 By unathi nkanjeni
The Firearms Control Amendment Bill has sparked a loaded debate.
The Firearms Control Amendment Bill has sparked a loaded debate.
Image: 123RF/123RF Premium

The proposed Firearms Control Amendment Bill has sparked debate since it was issued in the government gazette last week.

Among other things, the proposed bill indicates that applicants applying for a firearm should provide a valid reason and that no licences will be issued to civilians for self-defence purposes.

Members of the public have until the end of July 4 to comment.

According to police minister Bheki Cele, more than 17,000 written submissions have been received since the gazette was published on Friday and this number is growing by the day.

“The interest and the vast number of comments received so far indicate that South Africans are making their voices heard in this matter. We urge the public to continue with this momentum. All comments will be scrutinised and those considered useful will be incorporated to strengthen the provisions of the bill,” said Cele.

Cele said the amendments should not be interpreted as though government was looking into disarming citizens.

“There is no right to bear arms in our constitution and the Firearms Control Act in its current form grants no such right to citizens either. Owning a gun in this country remains a privilege made possible through the Firearms Controls Act, he said.

Cele also said that arming citizens won’t solve the country’s high crime rate.

“The mere possession of a firearm can lead to increased rates of victimisation, both for the gun owner and those living in the household. Simply put, this proposed change in law also has the potential to mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of women who are in the clutches of their abusers, inside their own homes,” said Cele.

Disagreeing with Cele, the DA said it will be vehemently opposing the bill when it comes to parliament.

“Should minister Bheki Cele succeed with this draconian legislation it will be a victory for the criminals who already enjoy a licence to commit violent crime. It will remove the last line of defence for millions of law-abiding South Africans,” said the DA’s shadow minister of police Andrew Whitfield.

“Minister Cele has made his views on gun ownership crystal clear on more than one occasion. He wants to disarm law-abiding citizens while his very own SAPS 'loses' hundreds of its own firearms into criminal hands every year.”

The party also started a petition against the bill, which more than 29,000 people have signed.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said the proposed bill will do nothing to prevent criminals that already have no regard for SA's criminal justice system from illegally obtaining guns.

“We strongly reject this amendment to gun ownership laws and will oppose this amendment through the appropriate channels,” he said. “Every day, the good, law-abiding and peace-loving people of SA are besieged by crime and live in fear, while criminal syndicates act with impunity.”

Mashaba said instead of targeting honest South Africans who are left to defend themselves, SA's law-enforcement agencies should focus on “disarming criminals as part of a holistic effort to turn the tide on violent crime.”