This article deals with a few of the more important provisions of the Act which concern the ordinary citizen who possesses a firearm
The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000
Article by JB Gresse, Chairman, Criminal Law Committee, Law Society
Due to the conflicting media reports regarding the implementation of the Firearms Control Act No 60 of 2000, the Criminal Law Committee requested a senior member from the office of the Registrar of Firearms to address members of the Committee on the more important aspects of the Act so that this information can be conveyed to practitioners who are called upon to advise members of the public regarding the provisions of the new Act.
Members of the Committee were assured that the purpose of the Act was not to disarm sections of the community or to create a so?called gun?free country, but the increased availability and abuse of firearms and ammunition has contributed significantly to the high levels of violent crime in our society and the Act recognises that every person has the right to life and the right to security of the person which includes inter alia the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.
The Act does not specifically address the question relating to the possession of illegal firearms notwithstanding and the fact that numerous crimes are committed by persons who are in possession of such firearms but the Act is an attempt to comply with the State’s obligation as imposed on it by the Constitution to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of citizens as contained in the Bill of Rights and to this end the Act attempts to establish a comprehensive and effective system of firearms control
A few of the more important provisions of the Act, which concern the ordinary citizen who possesses a firearm are set out hereunder
1. Firstly, in terms of Section 3 of the Act, no person may possess a firearm unless he or she holds a licence permit or authorisation issued in terms of this Act for that particular firearm and in this respect the current Act differs from the previous one in that a separate licence has to be obtained in respect of each type of firearm and the Act furthermore distinguishes between various licences such as:
1.1 A licence to possess a firearm for self defence;
1.2 A licence to possess a restricted firearm such as a semi?automatic rifle or shotgun for the purpose of self defence;
1.3 A licence to possess a firearm for occasional hunting of sport shooting;
1.4 A licence to possess a firearm for dedicated hunting and dedicated sports shooting;
1.5 A licence to possess a firearm in a private collection.
2. Persons who intend applying for a licence for any particular kind or firearm are advised to fully motivate the reason why they require a licence for that particular firearm and a motivation such as the fact that the firearm is required for self?defence will not he sufficient unless full particulars regarding the circumstances and/or reason why the firearm may be required for self defence are mentioned.
CERTIFICATE OF COMPETENCY
1. Prior to the issuing of a licence for any particular firearm the applicant must submit a certificate of competency to possess a firearm and the certificate of competency together with the application form 14 to he submitted to the Designated Firearms Officer responsible for the area in which the applicant ordinarily resides.
2. Grounds on which an application for a certificate of competency will be considered are contained in Section 9(2) of the Act and it needs to be mentioned that when applying for a certificate of competency, no practical shooting tests need to be undergone, but the Applicant has to acquaint himself with the legal provisions relating to the possession of a firearm and it furthermore needs to be noted that an applicant is only entitled to a limited number of firearms.
3. In order to facilitate the processing of applications for certificates of competency by the police applicants have to apply to and submit certificates of competency within certain prescribed periods, depending on the date of birth of the particular applicant and in this respect it needs to be noted that the first group of applicants who had to apply for certificates of competency were those who were born during the period 1 January to 31 March, and these applicants already had to apply for and submit their certificates prior to the 31 March 2006, and as this period has already lapsed, those applicants who have not complied with the requirement have in fact committed an offence in terms of the Act should they still be in possession of a firearm and they have not timeously submitted their application for a renewal of the licence to possess such firearm.
4. The next group of persons who have to submit their applications for certificates of competency should they wish to apply for a renewal of a f rearm licence are those who were born during the period 1 April ? 30 June and these applications have to be submitted prior to the 30 June 2007.
5. Section 6 of the Act deals with the actual issuing of a licence after receipt of the prescribed application form, together with a full set of finger prints of the applicant, and the submission of a certificate of competency, as prescribed in Section 9 of the Act.
6. A licence issued in terms of the previous legislation and/or this Act, shall remain valid until the 30June 2009 and possible amendments to the existing Act may provide for the licence to remain valid for a longer period, but the holder of a licence will still be required to submit a certificate of competency every 5 years.
7. In terms of Section 102 of the Act, the Registrar may declare a person unfit to possess a firearm where, inter alia, a final protection order has been granted against such a person, or that person. has expressed an intention to kill or injure himself or another person, or because of the person’s mental condition or inclination to violence, etceteraof where he has failed to take the necessary steps for the safekeeping of any firearm in terms of Section 103 of the Act.
The Court may also declare a person unfit to possess a firearm when he has been convicted of any serious offence referred to in the relevant section.
8. When a person is declared unfit to possess a firearm, he is required within 24 hours to surrender to the nearest police station, all firearms as well as all competency certificates, licences, etcetera, issued to him or her, in terms of the Act.
9. In terms of Section 143 of the Act, any person whose application fur a competency certificate, etcetera, has been refused, has a right of appeal to the Appeal Board and the powers of the Appeal Board are set out in Section 133(2) of the Act.
a) No compensation is payable to a person in respect of a firearm forfeited to the State in terms or this act in the event of the holder of a licence having contravened a provision of the Act, or where such a person is declared unfit to possess a firearm.
b) No compensation is payable in the event of a firearm having been seized by the State if a person from whom itwas seized had no licence, permit or authorisation to be in possession of such firearm or if the firearm was for any other reason unlawfully in the possession of that person.
c) No compensation is claimable in the event of a firearm having been lost or stolen as a result of negligence and such firearm is subsequently seized by the State from another person.
d) In terms of Section 137 provision is made fur the possible payment of compensation to a person whose firearm has been surrendered or forfeited to the State under circumstances other than those referred to in the preceding paragraphs.
11. Inherited firearms
A person who inherits a firearm must apply for the appropriate licence, should he or she wish to acquire the firearm and if he or she does not wish to acquire the firearm, it must be deactivated or disposed of in terms of this Act.
12. Deactivation of firearms
Should a person wish to retain a particular firearm for sentimental or other reasons, such firearm may be deactivated by a gunsmith in the prescribed manner and the gunsmith must then issue a certificate to the effect that the firearm has been deactivated and the holder of a licence in respect of that firearm, must notify the registrar of such deactivation and thereafter it shall no longer be required of the holder of the licence to comply with the requirements of the Act.
13. The Firearms Control Act is a very lengthy act and it can be downloaded from the internet on the Google website ? firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 and click on FIREARMS CONTROL ACT No, 2000.