Challenges mount against plan to remove self-defence as reason to own firearm

Civil rights groups are opposing a proposed draft bill that seeks to remove self-defence as a reason to own a firearm. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Pop Nukoonrat

The Firearms Control Amendment Bill which, among others, seeks to remove self-defence as a reason to own a gun, has been described by civil rights groups as an “atrocity”, “reckless” and “irrational”.

The public has 43 days to comment on the proposed law.

“We will vehemently oppose this and other elements of the bill when it comes to parliament,” said the DA’s Andrew Whitfield.

“While the ANC are supporting a R26m increase to the VIP protection unit, they also support slashing the crime prevention budget by R3.8bn. This effectively means more guns to protect VIPs and less boots on the ground to protect ordinary South Africans.”

Damian Enslin of the Gunowners’ Association of SA said: “We are against the bill almost in its entirety. There is nothing in the bill that will work.

“It’s crazy that in the dangerous society in which we live, the government and cabinet want to take away the right to own a gun for self-defence but they are increasing money to protect themselves.”

He said they would make a submission to the Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) and to parliament about the bill being unworkable.

If this didn’t work, they would proceed to court, Enslin said.

The Dear SA grouping lists the changes the bill seeks to make. These include:

  • deleting of licensing of firearms for self-defence;
  • reducing the licence period to five years;
  • reducing the number of allowed licences;
  • limiting ammunition per licence; and
  • making it unlawful to reload ammunition.

Dear SA’s Gideon Joubert said the proposed ban on the use of a firearm for self-defence was concerning.

“In a country like ours, where we have one of the highest rape rates in the world, the action will make it impossible for a woman to defend herself against a rapist, a murderer  and an abuser, which is not only irrational, it’s also immoral and unjustifiable,” he said.

“The fact that the police service had its budget cut for about the third year in a row with a VIP protection budget significantly increased means the politicians have no problem protecting themselves against violence and crime but leave ordinary South Africans defenceless.”

The proposed law, he said, was a “complete shambles”.

“The entire thing is an atrocity and we need South Africans to make their voices heard.”

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said the bill was “out of touch with reality” given the extent to which the public was exposed to serious and violent crimes.

The organisation said it had asked its legal team to send a letter to the civilian secretariat asking for more details about the proposal to restrict civilian access to firearms for self-defence, and for the research and data it used to frame the policy.

“Even the most ardent anti-gun lobbyists point to police failures to uphold the law — rather than the law itself — as the heart of the crime crisis,” said the IRR’s campaigns head Gabriel Crouse.

Crouse said the IRR had over several years exposed the extent to which the police had been infiltrated by criminal syndicates, and the scale of police officers committing rapes, robberies, murders and assaults against members of public.

AfriForum said it would fight the proposals.

“The proposed amendments are irrational and reckless, especially since this draft takes away the ability of citizens to possess a firearm for self-defence purposes. Furthermore, it appears sport shooters and hunters will also come off second best with the proposed amendments,” the organisation said.

AfriForum said citizens should, within the framework of the law, be able to protect themselves and their families against criminals.

“This draft in its current format will result in citizens being left defenceless in a country where the police service has openly admitted it does not have the ability to protect citizens against a wave of crime.

“AfriForum will put a stop to this attack on communities’ defensibility. This draft amendment bill will be fought hand and nail and will be AfriForum’s main priority,” said Marnus Kamfer, AfriForum’s law and risk manager.

The DA said if the bill was passed, it would be a “victory for criminals who already enjoy a licence to commit a violent crime”.

The law would remove the last line of defence for millions of law-abiding South Africans, said Whitfield.

“We are calling on all South Africans who share our concerns to urgently submit their comments on the draft amendment bill to the CSP within 45 days of publication of the notice published on May 21 2021,” he said.

“Rising rates of violent crime together with outrageous budget cuts to the police service have left millions of South Africans more vulnerable than ever before. The police service is in a state of disarray, as can be seen by the chaos at the Central Firearms Registry and the backlog in DNA case exhibits.

“In the first quarter of this year, nearly 5,000 people were murdered in SA while there were 4,500 cases of attempted murder.

“Defunding the police and disarming law-abiding citizens in this environment is reckless and will place the lives of many more South Africans at risk.”

by Nomahlubi Sonjica

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