Published in the government gazette recently, the proposed Firearms Control Amendment Bill has sparked a loaded debate. In a nutshell, the proposed bill states that applicants applying for a firearm should provide a valid reason for gun ownership and that no licences will be issued to civilians for self-defence purposes. The public may comment on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill until 4 July 2021.
The DA said it would vehemently oppose the bill when it came to parliament. Said Andrew Whitfield, the DA’s shadow minister of police, “Should minister Bheki Cele succeed with this draconian legislation it’ll be a victory for the criminals who already enjoy a licence to commit violent crime.”
Bheki Cele’s take
Police minister Bheki Cele said more than 17,000 written submissions had been received since the gazette was published. This number was growing by the day. He said the amendments to the Firearms Control Amendment Bill shouldn’t be interpreted as though government was looking into disarming citizens.
“There’s no right to bear arms in our constitution. 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. Arming citizens won’t solve the country’s high crime rate.”
Andrew Whitfield commented, “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.”
Petition gaining momentum
The DA has started a petition against the Firearms Control Amendment Bill and 45 000+ people have already signed. According to ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, “We strongly reject this amendment to gun ownership laws and will oppose this amendment through the appropriate channels. 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.”
Marksman’s Nest chief range officer Geoffrey Coetzee said, “We at Marksman’s Nest are emphatic about the fact that law-abiding citizens should have a right to defend themselves when confronted by crime. People should not have to live in fear when besieged by crime.” He urged Marksman’s Nest members and guests to have their say on the official participation page of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill and to sign the DA’s petition.
Martin Hood of the South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association said they were shocked by the move. He said the proposal was not properly thought through. “This would make South Africans more vulnerable to crime.”