Fixing the Firearms Control Act

The Firearms Control Act of 2000, which was forced upon the SAPS and South African gun owners, is clearly not working the way its architects intended it to. The system is onerous, opaque, overly complex, and places such a strain on SAPS resources and manpower as to be nearly impossible to implement effectively. These same inherent flaws in the FCA also leave it vulnerable to exploitation and corruption, culminating in unacceptable incidents such as police officials leaking firearms handed in during the previous amnesty period to criminals. I bemoaned this failure of the FCA hardly two months ago. Clearly it is now up to South African firearm owners and the SAPS to work together to fix a broken system that they were saddled with against their will.

The current method of individually licencing each and every firearm is inefficient and places a significant burden upon police resources and personnel. The process of a single citizen licencing a firearm requires the unnecessary duplication of paperwork, and this entire process must be repeated as if it were a first time application whenever the licence is renewed. Considering that South Africa has around 3 million gun owners, the strain placed on the SAPS is significant. The solution to this and many other shortcomings inherent to the system is to licence the firearm owner as a person, and then register their firearms on a national registry like we already have.

It is a similar concept to holding a type of driver’s licence, and then registering the cars you acquire with the State. This is possible within the existing framework of the FCA and requires select amendments to the law, as opposed to having to scrap and rewrite whole swathes of legislation. The registry does not have to be administered by the SAPS, but can become the responsibility of another state department. The police is then tasked only with regulating the system and enforcing the FCA. This is not an alien concept considering how effectively SARS and law enforcement work together in matters regarding taxation.

The existing requirement that prospective firearm owners must complete a firearm competency course is desirable, and can be expanded to form the foundation of a firearm owner licence in conjunction with the required character references and criminal background checks. There are international examples of personal licencing and firearm registration that work effectively, one being the United Kingdom’s use of a Shotgun Certificate: a person goes through an application process to acquire a Shotgun Certificate, and all shotguns that are then purchased are recorded on the certificate. There is no limit to the amount of shotguns or ammunition that a Shotgun Certificate holder may buy. It is interesting to note that in the period stretching from May 2012 to April 2013 violent crimes in the UK involving shotguns only accounted for 6% of total offences committed with firearms. Criminals do not acquire firearms through legal channels, so this statistic is not unexpected.

With regards to how we could implement such a reform, there are numerous possible avenues to explore. The Central Firearms Registry (CFR) already has an online component. This can be expanded so that whenever a licence holder makes a firearm purchase, the dealer can immediately determine whether the person is allowed to buy that specific firearm or not. If the purchase is allowed the dealer can then and there register the firearm under the purchaser’s name, with all the relevant details immediately reflecting on the registry.

The authorities are thus immediately notified of the acquisition, the process being completely transparent, but without unnecessary paperwork. This transfer of responsibility will free up SAPS manpower currently inefficiently utilised in dealing with excessive paperwork pertaining to licence applications and other bureaucratic procedures, which can then be redeployed to audit and inspect firearm owners and dealers to ensure and enforce compliance with the law. It also places the onus on individual firearm owners and associations to ensure that they meet the prescribed requirements. This delegation of responsibility and element of self-regulation is much desired, and I believe it will be warmly welcomed by firearm owners and organisations.

With improved compliance, enforcement and transparency it will become much harder for corrupt practices to take root, and transgressors can be swiftly dealt with in accordance with the law. Reforming the system will also signal a move towards closer cooperation and mutually beneficial relations between firearm owners and the South African Police Service. South African gun owners are here to stay, and we want a system that is practical, efficient and workable. We are ready and willing to rise to the occasion and do our part to ensure that this becomes a reality.

Peter Stevens 2014/08/23 08:09:07 AM
Sounds like a good change to me except every dealer who wants to participate will have to be scrutinized carefully first and given individual encrypted access, renewable yearly, to be able to register and if a private individual wants to sell a firearm he/she would have to do it through SAPS ie new owner would have to go through the process of licensing themselves first, if not already licensed, then do the sale and transfer via an approved gun shop.
Michael Charalambous 2014/08/23 08:31:27 AM
What you talking about sounds like heaven to me. How I wish that if I wanted a new shottie or to upgrade my pistol I wouldnt have to go through that whole damn process again
Michael Charalambous 2014/08/23 08:32:31 AM
Oh yeah and... Gideon for president
Andre Meier 2014/08/23 09:18:25 AM
Another item that can be added to the licensing the Owner is that when the individual presents his permit to the Dealer, the card is scanned, with a fingerprint. The dealer now gets all the owners details including a photo to assist with positively identifying the correct person. This way, criminals will not be able to acquire firearms through a dealer.
Perry Dace 2014/08/23 09:27:21 AM
This sort of system would also free up police resources to properly police the really productive parts of gun control, such as training and management of dealers and auditing the training of owners.
Francois Du Toit 2014/08/23 10:18:26 AM
I really like this idea. Licensing the person as stated would free up SAPS resources and create a much more streamlined process within our current framework. The FCA as it stands does nothing to prevent violent criminals from obtaining firearms, it only makes it harder for law abiding citizens to have a means to defend themselves. I also fully agree with an online, transparent system, because with paperwork currently being sent by hand, it is a lengthy process with many points of potential failure.
David Blyth 2014/08/23 10:29:53 AM
A welcome change. However the onerous limits on ownership and ammunition should be removed
mantlekilo 2014/08/23 10:39:34 AM
2c. The firearm is not going away. We probably spend 80% of the available resources policing legally owned/managed firearms, 10% investigating why we do this, and 10% actually combatting possession of illegal weapons. Insanity is what this is ! We have replaced logic and unbalanced the scales of justice by elevating political correctness above health and safety. I recommend 'mandatory prison terms' for mere 'proven' possession. How do you know for sure that the water is hot without feeling the heat ??
Pieter Robertson 2014/08/23 11:07:59 AM
One big thing that is left out of most arguments by the anti gun people is the use of guns without discharging it. There are no statistics anywhere available to tell us how many crimes are avoided by this means of just letting the bad guys know that you have a gun or showing the gun to stop a potential crime. Just this unavailable statistic makes it impossible to ever know how successful a tool a gun is in the hands of good people. Get the illegal guns away from the criminals and stop the supply from corrupt police, army and other sources. Loads of guns that are used in crime are automatic rifles that are almost impossible to own by private citizens. They certainly dont come from farmers or ordinary gun owners. Look towards so called struggle weapons that has never been declared or deactivated and leave us law abiding people that want to defend the lives of our loved ones alone. We take responsibility for our selves and our own. You should do the same as no one else will.
Barry Kok 2014/08/23 11:43:11 AM
Well, I truly hope that the Government take notice of the options given by responsible firearm owners. Now is the time that misdirected pride in a failing system be put aside, to amend the FCA accordingly to improve its applicability and outcomes-based success. There is no point in trying to be politically correct in this matter or to pitter-patter around the real reasons (refer GFSA and other anti-gun lobbies) - as it ends up costing mostly innocent civilian lives. Is it really that hard to comprehend? Criminals do not follow the due legal processes - so why take away the only defence the law abiding citizen has, why make it so overly difficult? It's like saying, lets ban bread knives because people can use it to kill other people? While we at it, lets ban cars and sugar!! It's not the instrument, its the person behind the instrument! And don't show your ignorance by thinking the police will protect you. I have a lot of respect for our SA police force, for what they have to deal with daily. But they have their limits too and they cannot be everywhere all the time. So please, Government, allow the Responsible Gun Owners to take part in modelling a proper FCA, to make it a workable, practical and implementable system that benefits the country holistically - not just a single GFSA idealistic, nirvana-like; but ultimately unrealistic dream. Remove the criminal gene from humankind - then you can gladly take my self defence firearm as only then, I will not need it any more.