Illegal guns amnesty hits a snag

2017-03-15 16:04
Guns. (Supplied)

Guns. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - The illegal guns amnesty that was due to start in April has hit a slight snag.

Gun owners would have been able to hand over illegal firearms to police from April when amnesty period was due to begin.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko on Wednesday presented the scope of the amnesty to Parliament's police committee.

The amnesty was set to start from April 1, he told the committee, and would run for six months.

But committee chairperson Francois Beukman pointed out that, according to the Firearms Controls Act, there had to be a parliamentary resolution before the amnesty period got underway.

Firearms will be destroyed

Parliament is sitting for its last week, before taking a break until May. This means the gun amnesty will not be in effect until then.

Nhleko said the amnesty would allow people who possessed illegal firearms to surrender them to the nearest police station without fear of prosecution.

This included those who had failed to register their firearms, and those who had inherited them.

The firearms would then be processed and destroyed within six months.

If the firearm had been used in a crime, it would be processed and a detective would be brought it, the police department told the committee.

Surrendering the guns would include a filling in a form and receiving a letter of amnesty.

In her presentation to the committee, Gun Free South Africa's Adele Kirsten suggested a blanket amnesty.

Criminals would not want to surrender their guns if they still had to fill in forms.

She said it would be better if people did not have to leave any identifying information when handing over their guns.

"There should be no questions asked," she said.

She also suggested that police would have to increase efforts to get public trust before the amnesty got underway.

"Neutral venues, such as municipal recreation centres, religious venues or NGO buildings that are accessible and located within communities are favoured over police stations; this because police stations are often regarded with suspicion and fear by residents," she said.

Blanket amnesty

Her suggestion for a more blanket amnesty was echoed by African National Congress MP Jerome Maake, who questioned if criminals would walk into a police station to hand in their guns.

"I don't know if blanket is the right way, but if I were a criminal and a police station was a shortcut, I would still run the other way. They would rather throw it into the river," he said.

National Freedom Party MP Ahmed Shaik Emam also called for a blanket amnesty.

Stephen Palos, the CEO of the South African Hunters Confederation, said the amnesty was a bit premature right now.

There were court cases of firearm renewals that would render the amnesty or parts of it moot, he said.

Read more on:    parliament  |  weapons  |  crime

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