UPDATE: It was revealed on 21 May 2021 that government was proceeding with the proposal to remove self-defence as a valid reason for obtaining a firearm licence.
Parliament may soon adopt a law barring South Africans from obtaining firearm licences for the purpose of self-defence. That is if one considers a leaked copy of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill as the final intention of the African National Congress government. Understandably, this has caused trepidation among the upward of three million South Africans who legally own firearms.
A clause in the Bill proposes to insert a new section 11A into the Firearms Control Act, which, in part, provides:
“(1) The Registrar may not issue a licence that authorises the possession of a firearm unless the Registrar is satisfied that the applicant has a valid reason for possessing the firearm.
(2) An applicant does not have a valid reason for possessing a firearm if the applicant intends to possess the firearm for any of the following reasons –
(a) self-defence or the protection of any other person; or
(b) the protection of property, other than in circumstances constituting a valid reason as set out in this Chapter.
(3) Subsection (2) does not limit the reasons which the Registrar may be satisfied are not valid reasons for the purposes of justifying the possession of a firearm.” (my emphasis)
5.3 million people in South Africa currently possess firearms. Only about three million of those are legal licence-holders. If the Bill is enacted in its current form, it might make it impossible for South Africans who were granted licences for the reason of self-defence to renew those licences. Renewal on a periodic basis is required by law. New firearm owners will not be able to acquire licences at all, if for the purpose of self-defence.
The chairperson of Gun Owners South Africa, Paul Oxley said, “Once again [South African Police Service] leadership has proven that they are not serious about the lives of citizens in South Africa.” He elaborated:
“The major concern we have is the right to life of law-abiding citizens. Crime is escalating at an alarming rate, whereby the criminals perpetrating these crimes are becoming increasingly violent. Taking away a means to effectively defend oneself will see to an increase in violent crimes committed against all South Africans, this cannot be allowed to happen.
We urge all law-abiding legal gun owners of South Africa to write to the chairperson of the Police Portfolio Committee, Mr. Francois Beukman expressing your dissatisfaction at this preposterous and uncalled for attack on your right to life, and the ability to protect yourself against the crime infestation we all face on a daily basis. email@example.com
Now is not a time to roll over, in feeding the crocodile hoping to save your life you will only be eaten last. It is time to stand up and fight for your rights, not sit back and accept this. We urge all gun owners to join us in this fight.”
South Africans labour under one of the most violent crime rates in the world. It is therefore unsurprising that millions of us have armed ourselves both legally and illegally. Unfortunately, unlike in the United States, South Africans have no constitutional right to bear firearms. It is a statutory right we enjoy by virtue of the current Firearms Control Act.
In September 2018, Business Tech reported on South Africa’s latest crime statistics. Last year, there were 20,000 recorded cases of murder, meaning 57 South Africans out of a population of just over 55 million were murdered every day. That is a rate of 35.7 people murdered per 100,000 population. That makes the whole of South Africa about as dangerous as the city of Detroit in the United States, which had a murder rate of 39.7 per 100,000 in 2017. There were 40,035 reported rapes in South Africa in the same year. That’s 112 rapes per day, or five rapes per hour.
This bill has not yet officially been made available to the public, thus much of its content may (and hopefully will) change.