THE Constitutional Court will on February 8 have the final say on laws regarding the renewal of firearm licences.

This comes after the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria’s, groundbreaking judgment, in which Judge Ronel Tolmay declared two sections of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional.

These deal with the procedures which should be followed in renewing firearm licences.

The judge said the system which was in place at the moment dealing with the renewal of firearm licences was clearly chaotic and a “dysfunctional system”.

Judge Tolmay gave the government 18 months to get its house in order and to streamline the process dealing with the renewal of valid firearm licences.

The effect was that firearm owners did not have an obligation at this stage to renew their firearm licences which had expired or which were on the brink of expiring.

The SAPS, in filing its notice of appeal, on the one hand said the judgment was suspended until the Constitutional Court had decided upon the matter.

However, gun experts have said the order remained in place – for now. But according to the SAPS, it was expected of firearm owners with valid firearm licences to continue with the timeous renewal of their firearm licences.

The SAPS said it would retain all firearms surrendered by persons who have failed to timeously renew their firearm licences in accordance with the Firearms Control Act.

Challenged

The police, however, promised that no prosecutions would be instituted at this stage against persons whose firearm licences had expired, or who had voluntarily surrendered such firearms to the SAPS.

The judgment followed an application by the SA Hunters Association which challenged the various policies of the SAPS relating to relicensing.

Gun law expert lawyer Martin Hood did not agree with the SAPS that the pending appeal has suspended the judgment.

He said the order was clear and it remained in place until the final word had been spoken on the topic.

“The order means that all licences that have expired are valid as an interim measure until the Constitutional Court confirms, varies or sets aside the judgment,” he added.

The purpose of the interim order was obviously to legalise the possession of a firearm by someone who had an expired licence and to avoid mass and unintentional criminalisation of the public, he said.

The court earlier also issued an order allowing anyone with an expired licence to hand their firearm to a licensed dealer.

In terms of this order the SAPS was obliged to process that cancellation.

Hood said the SAPS will also be called on to immediately implement electronic connectivity between firearm dealers and the Central Firearms register of the SAPS.

Electronic connectivity is compulsory according to the Firearms Act, but 13 years have passed since it last existed.

“We believe that one of the principal reasons why the administration of firearms by the SAPS is so chaotic is because it has failed or refused to implement the electronic connectivity.”

Hood said the association will not hesitate to turn to court in the meantime if the SAPS did not implement the electronic connectivity or if it failed to process cancelled licences in terms of the two court orders pending the Concourt ruling on the issue.

-source: The Mercury 4th September 2017 Zelda Venter

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