The highest court in the land ruled on Thursday 7 June that persons who have not renewed their firearm licenses and have not disposed of their guns, are in illegal possession thereof. But before rushing off to your closest police station to surrender your unlicensed firearm, the South African Gunowners Association (SAGA) suggests you wait a few days for the police’s reaction.

In a statement SAGA’s John Welch writes: “We propose you hold onto your firearm and wait for the amnesty declaration.”

The said amnesty was endorsed by parliament, via the portfolio committee on Police on 14 February this year. It was expected to be gazetted by 1 June.  Saga says however that they do not know when amnesty will come into operation – and that in fact it is yet to be approved by parliament.

Surrendering firearms

“Although we are extremely concerned about corruption and the theft and robbery of firearms at police stations, there is no other alternative and firearms may only be surrendered to the police. No unlicensed firearms may be disposed of through licensed firearm dealers or gunsmiths. One is not allowed lawfully to deactivate or destroy a firearm, licensed or unlicensed,” the SAGA statement read.

“Green” Licenses

Welch says persons who have never applied for licenses under the Firearms Control Act and who are still in possession of the “green” licenses issued under the previous Act, are, in his view, still covered by the judgment of the North Gauteng High Court of 26 June 2009. “However, where a person has applied for and was issued with a “white” license under the Firearms Control Act, but this has expired, he cannot, in my opinion, fall back on the “green” license that he still happens to have. I am aware that there are arguments to the contrary, however, I am wary to rely thereon,” he added.

The way forward

SAGA will soon be meeting with SAPS with a view to clarifying matters, especially the proposed amnesty and the enforcement of the law after the Constitutional Court judgment.

In the meanwhile SAGA urges its members to ensure compliance with the law and make sure they apply for renewal of licenses not less than 90 days before the expiry thereof.