Wrangle over late gun licence renewals heads to Constitutional Court

2017-07-28 17:27
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Cape Town - The Constitutional Court will now have to decide whether two sections of the Firearms Control Act of 2000, that govern late licence renewals, passes constitutional muster.

This came after the SAPS on Friday said it would appeal an earlier ruling by the North Gauteng High Court that had found these sections to be unconstitutional.

The appeal is the latest stage in a long-running legal wrangle about how South African gun owners go about renewing late or expired licences.

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the notice to appeal meant the earlier High Court judgment was suspended until the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter.

"The status quo is maintained pertaining to compliance with the Firearms Control Act and it is expected of firearm owners with valid firearm licences to continue with the timeous renewal of their firearm licences," he said.  

"The South African Police Service will retain all firearms surrendered by persons who have failed to timeously renew their firearm licences in accordance with the Firearms Control Act."

He added that the police would not prosecute anyone whose firearm licences had expired, and who surrendered them voluntarily to police.

The SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association had taken the minister of police to court earlier in the year, arguing that sections of the Firearms Control Act of 2000 were arbitrary, harsh and (had) "irrational consequences" for gun owners.

These sections, the association argued, made no provision for how gun owners should go about renewing expired gun licences.  

Deadline

In a judgment delivered in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on July 4, Judge Ronel Tolmay agreed that two sections of the Act, relating to how licences were renewed, were unconstitutional.  

She ordered that Parliament be given 18 months to amend the act, in order to ensure constitutional compliance.

She noted at the time of her judgment, however, that the Constitutional Court would have to be the final arbitrator in the matter.  

"(All firearms) which are or were due to be renewed in terms of Section 24 of the Firearms Control Act 2000 shall be deemed to be valid, until the Constitutional Court has made its determination on the constitutionality of the aforesaid sections," she wrote in her judgment.  

Gun Free South Africa's Adele Kirsten said, in her interpretation, the appeal by SAPS meant that a part of Judge Tolmay's ruling - that all firearms which were due to be renewed in terms of section 24 of the act were valid - was now suspended.

"Now, with the appeal, the entire judgment is suspended until the Constitutional Court appeal," she said.

"Basically people have to comply now with sections 24 and 28."

Read more on:    saps  |  cape town  |  judiciary  |  guns

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