Firearms amnesty ’plagued with problems’
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Cape Town - Gun owners have accused the firearms registry’s administrator, Lucky Mabule, of failing to bring problems to the attention of the National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole and Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Damian Enslin, chairperson of the SA Gunowners’ Association (Saga) and an attorney who specialises in firearm-related issues, said the firearm amnesty which ran from August 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021 had been plagued with numerous issues and problems.
Enslin said in the main problems were the poor communication about the amnesty by the police to the general public, multiple and contradictory directives from the police head office, and poor communication within the police to its personnel on the implementation of the various directives.
He said Covid-19 had also had a huge impact on not just the general public’s access to the police, but on the police itself, with many officers being off on sick leave or stations closing or partially closing because of the virus.
"All of which have created major problems for those firearm owners who are in possession of firearms with an expired licence and who wish to take advantage of the firearm amnesty. As a result of all these issues, Saga has written to the minister to request a further amnesty.“
Lawyer Martin Hood, a gun law expert, said another issue was the court cases brought against Brigadier Mabule who has purported to act on behalf of both Sitole and Cele, in circumstances where conduct as alleged in court papers of neglect, mismanagement and even dishonesty emanated from the very office that acts as the gatekeeper and stops matters being escalated to Cele.
Gun Free SA director Adèle Kirsten said the police have done very little to publicise and encourage the public to take advantage of the six-month amnesty, which started on August 1, 2020.
Police spokesperson Brenda Muridili said the firearm amnesty which ended yesterday had resulted in more than 40 700 firearms and 199 573 rounds of ammunition being surrendered.
Kirsten said even the initial commitment made by the minister to report monthly on gun hand-ins as a way of building public trust in the police had been ignored, despite repeated requests by Gun Free SA to give updates.
"At the same time, thousands of gun owners have failed to show that they are responsible. In 2020 the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld firearm licence renewals as a cornerstone of gun control. Under the July 23 ruling, any gun owner who failed to renew his firearm licence before it expired is in illegal possession and could potentially face 15 years in prison," said Kirsten.