A RECENT court judgment which declared sections of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional has been applauded by local firearm owners and the Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA). The applicant, the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association, welcomed the ruling. Sections 24 and 28 were declared unconstitutional in the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday, 4 July. SAPS spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said that the SAPS will, according to the judgment, not prosecute firearm owners who have failed to renew their firearms (as prescribed by section 24 of the Firearms Control Act). The police will, however, not yet be returning firearms to the owners who have voluntarily surrendered their firearms as a result of compliance to these sections. Judge Ronel Tolmay acknowledged that Section 24, which required firearm owners to comply with certain time frames when renewing firearm licences, could not always be enforced due to a disordered and “dysfunctional” law-enforcement system. This meant it had become “extremely difficult” to meet the legal requirement.Furthermore, no indication was made as to what should be done with their “illegal” firearms, once firearm owners failed to meet the requirement of section 24. If at all possible, such a provision would fall under section 28. Early this year, a police directive issued, in an attempt to fill the gap in section 28. It stated that, “where a person wants to renew or apply for a licence, but the validity of the license has already expired, the person must be informed that he/she is not anymore in lawful possession of the firearm and that the firearm must be surrendered to the nearest police station”. But, as the Act did not provide for such a procedure, the directive posed a problem, mentioned Tolmay. Referring to the sections as “arbitrary, irrational and vague”, the judge stated that sections 24 and 28 were unconstitutional as it imposed on gun holders’ rights to equality and their property rights. Tolmay provided guidelines for the way forward. Parliament now has 18 months to amend the Act in a constitutionally justifiable way. On Friday, July 28 the SAPS filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court against the ruling of the two sections.The Constitutional Court is set to rule on its constitutionality. Until then, all legally obtained firearms will be considered legal, whether licences have been renewed, have expired or are due for renewal.Sources: www.gunownerssa.org www.