FACTS THAT EVERY FIREARMS OWNER AND PERSPECTIVE FIREARMS OWNER SHOULD TAKE COGNISANCE OF
Dealers all over South Africa are presently faced with the same frustration when it comes to firearms which are bought by them to sell to prospective firearms owners to be licensed by them. Dealers have to deal with the SAPS and attempt to get them to transfer these firearms onto their dealer stock so that the new owners could hand in their applications at their respective DFO offices in order to have these applications processed. In the mean-time the SAPS is changing the playing field as they go along, without taking anyone into consideration, or even considering the fact that the Firearms Control Act, 2000, Act 60/2000(FCA) governs all aspects in relation to firearms ownership in South Africa.
Section 39 of the FCA deals with the duties of a dealer and 39(6) states, and I quote: “A dealer must establish and maintain a workstation which links the registers referred to in subsection (3) to the central dealers database in the prescribed manner.” Regulation 38 – 40 of the FCA, further deals with the establishment of such a database. Regulation 38 indicates what the purpose of such a database is, and I quote: “38(2) ………..and which must provide for a daily electronic online transfer of data regarding business related to firearms and ammunition for the previous business day as recorded in the prescribed registers.”
After the implementation of the FCA, most dealers committed to the financial outlay and bought computers as was prescribed by SAPS in order to be able to have it linked to the central dealer’s database as all dealers saw the benefit that this link would have on business and for their clients. Since then, SAAADA and all other bodies involved have been fighting and arguing to have this implemented, to no avail as today, 13 years after the implementation of the FCA, no such link or database has been established by the Registrar as prescribed by the FCA.
Therefore, all returns are still submitted manually, which is also prescribed by the FCA, Regulation 39, which indicates that these returns must be submitted by dealers on a weekly basis. Dealers now even went further and started submitting these returns daily as firearms are received and booked out, therefore effectively doing these returns daily, weekly and monthly, yet in vain as these returns are not attended to, even though these returns are submitted to the relevant offices indicated by the Registrar, on e-mail addresses provided by the Registrar.
The above serves as background to what follows.
Since there are presently very few firearms manufacturers in South Africa, 99% of all new firearms are imported into South Africa by the various agents and importers who are also licensed with SAPS as dealers with their relevant dealer codes. These importers apply to SAPS CFR for a permanent import permit to import these firearms into South Africa and when they submit their application to CFR, they already have all the serial numbers of the firearms to be imported as these firearms have usually already been paid for.
Once the import permit for these firearms have been approved, the serial numbers of these firearms are all placed on “Government Department 29” which basically means “Imported Firearm”.
When these firearms are actually imported and received in South Africa, the shipment is inspected by SAPS before it is released and should then be transferred from Govt Dept 29 onto the dealer stock of the importer, from whom the dealers throughout the country purchase these firearms, and it is exactly here where the problems start. Firearms imported by the importers are often not transferred onto their dealer stock and when the various dealers purchase and sell these firearms, applicants can not apply for their licenses as the firearms all still reflect on Govt Dept 29. What should be kept in mind is that:
- SAPS inspected the shipment and signed off on it as correct;
- Importer reported to CFR that these firearms were indeed received by submitting a SAPS 350(a) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred onto the dealer stock of the importer;
- Importer reported to CFR that specific firearms were bought by a specific dealer by submitting a SAPS 350(b) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred from the dealer stock of the importer; and
- Dealer who bought the firearms from the importer reported to CFR that specific firearms were bought from the importer by submitting a SAPS 350(a) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred onto the dealer stock of the dealer.
If any problems were found on reports submitted at any time by either the importer or dealer, the SAPS 350(a) and (b) forms makes provision under paragraph “D” on the form for “PARTICULARS OF FIREARM(S) THAT COULD NOT BE REGISTERED”, which must be sent back to the dealer/importer and should then be attended to by them. To the best knowledge of SAAADA members, this function has never been used by CFR.
Bottom line therefore, this function of transferring the new imported firearms onto the dealer stock of either the importer or dealer who bought these firearms, are either not done correctly, or done reluctantly, therefore delaying the process of applications for new owners who bought these firearms from the dealers all over the country.
Secondhand firearms can be divided into two different categories:
- Firearms bought from another dealer
- Firearms bought from a private individual/institution
FIREARMS BOUGHT FROM ANOTHER DEALER
Dealers refer to this as “dealer to dealer transfer”. The same process is basically followed than with the new firearms as firearms bought from another dealer should already reflect on the dealer stock of the dealer from whom the firearms are bought. The dealers obtained these firearms from private individuals or institutions and had these firearms transferred onto their dealer stock by means of submitting transfer documents to their local SAPS DFO. When another dealer then purchases these firearms from the dealer, the sale is reported to SAPS by the selling dealer whilst the purchase of these firearms is also reported to SAPS by the purchasing dealer. Such firearms have therefore been dealt with by SAPS on various occasions:
- The transfer of the firearms were reported to SAPS by means of submitting a SAPS 534 document with attachments, as prescribed by Section 125(2)(a)(iii) of the FCA, to the DFO to have these firearms transferred from the private individual/institution to the dealer stock of the dealer, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred onto the dealer stock of the dealer;
- The dealer reported to CFR that these firearms were indeed received from the private individual by submitting a SAPS 350(a) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA,
- Selling dealer reported to CFR that the specific firearms were bought by a specific dealer by submitting a SAPS 350(b) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred from the dealer stock of the selling dealer; and
- Purchasing dealer who bought the firearms from the selling dealer reported to CFR that specific firearms were bought from the selling dealer by submitting a SAPS 350(a) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, upon which these firearms were supposed to be transferred onto the dealer stock of the purchasing dealer.
FIREARMS BOUGHT FROM A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL/INSTITUTION
These are the firearms which dealers obtain by purchasing the firearms in a private transaction from individuals or institutions who no longer want the firearms. In a case such as this, a Transfer of Firearm Ownership (SAPS 534) form is completed as prescribed by Section 125(2)(a)(iii) of the FCA. This form is completed and signed by both the private individual (responsible person of an institution) as well as the responsible person of the dealer after which it is submitted to the local DFO where it is registered in the SAPS 86(a) and sent through to the Provincial DFO. A copy of the SAPS 534 is handed back to the dealer after it was registered and signed off by the DFO (usually the dealer must take their own copy for this). The firearm is entered into the dealer’s register (upon receipt of the actual firearm and supporting documentation) and, after processing the SAPS 534, then it is also reported to SAPS on the SAPS 350(a) as prescribed by Section 39(8) of the FCA, that these firearms were received into the dealer stock of the dealer.
Prior to February 2017, SAPS accepted applications from individuals and institutions where firearms did not yet reflect on the dealer stock of the dealer from whom the firearm was purchased, as long as the documents provided indicated correctly where the firearm was obtained from by the respective dealer. Without prior notice or warning, SAPS changed the rules and instructed all DFO offices to no longer accept any applications if the firearms do not reflect on the dealer stock of the respective dealers from whom the firearm/s were bought. This was done without changing the procedure of capturing data on the Enhanced Firearms Record System (EFRS) in as far as firearms on dealer stock is concerned. Dealers were not granted any access to the EFRS as was prescribed in the FCA, Regulation 38(2), was not allowed to contact CFR directly with regard to any problems experienced and was still only allocated one(1) e-mail address to which all SAPS 350 returns were to be sent, without any guarantee that the e-mail will actually be opened, read and/or the documents captured and attended to.
In the meantime, dealers still had to keep their doors open and keep on doing business, this whilst DFOs at Station level started bad-mouthing dealers by informing prospective firearm owners that specific dealers are “selling illegal firearms” and “not doing their work” when firearms are not registered on their dealer stock. Meanwhile, dealers sent SAPS 350 returns to the designated e-mail address on daily, weekly and monthly basis without any possible way to check whether the SAPS 350 returns were attended to.
The only way for a dealer to be able to check whether the returns were indeed updated was to visit the local DFO on a regular basis and to physically check on function 10.5 whether the firearms have been transferred onto their dealer stock. This obviously places an additional burden on the local DFO offices who have to deal with the public, prospective firearms owners as well as dealers and institutions on a daily basis and who, apart from their responsibilities also have to do crime prevention duties on request of the Station Commanders on a regular basis when personnel is needed. Further to this frustration of dealers who now constantly request information from function 10.5 on the status of firearms which they bought, during the beginning of October 2018, function 10.5 suddenly started acting up. Once one (1) or two (2) serial numbers were tested, the system would suddenly give an error message and revoke the user who must then start from afresh and log in as if for the first time for that day. After a few attempts, the system would then hang and could not be accessed anymore, therefore ending any enquiry session immediately. DFOs are therefore understandably not very helpful when it comes to enquiries on the status of firearms by dealers, even though it is the only avenue presently available for dealers to ensure that the firearms bought by prospective firearms owners are indeed “cleared” and ready to be licensed.
This is a very sensitive issue which is dodged constantly by SAPS and for which no straight answer is forthcoming. Firearms owners should however take cognisance of this and act appropriately in order to ensure that our house is in order.
The SAPS EFRS can’t guarantee data integrity. This is clear when the above facts are taken into consideration since the transfer of firearms between dealers as well as between dealers and private individuals/institutions are not updated and in fact backlogged so far that it will never be caught up with. This must definitely be the reason why Regulation 38(2) of the FCA was included in the FCA. Why SAPS however have not implemented this remains a mystery. If dealers had access to the EFRS, I could guarantee you that data integrity would be closer to 90% as the accuracy of the system has a direct impact on their business, and maybe this is the reason why Regulation 38(2) has not been implemented more than 13 years after the FCA was implemented….mystery solved.
Maybe the question should be posed to the Minister of SAPS: “What is the % of accuracy in data integrity on the EFRS?” It would be very interesting to see what the answer to this will be. You do not need to have Grade 12 higher grade maths to calculate that the data integrity on the EFRS is less than 60%!!
As mentioned, all firearms owners should take cognisance of this. Many firearms for which licenses were issued under Act 75/69, suddenly now again appears on the dealer stock of firearms dealers from whom the firearms were initially bought. Firearm owners should go to their local DFO and request a 22.5.2 printout and have the local DFO date stamp and sign it. Compare the firearms which you have in your possession with what appears on the SAPS EFRS on your name. Where there is discrepancies between what you actually have and what is reflected on the EFRS, you need to take steps to have this rectified as SAPS will in the end use their incorrect data against firearm owners, even though firearm owners have no access to the EFRS, similar to what they are presently doing to dealers in the industry.
We are all in the same boat, so to speak, and I would therefore wish to call upon firearm owners and prospective owners to treat all dealers with patience. Dealers are all frustrated by what is presently going on but are united in the quest to find a workable solution. The dealers are not (mostly) the so-called wolf in the sheep-pen and would assist as far as they can and do everything in their power to ensure that your firearm license is approved, and the firearm is moved to your safe as soon as possible. If you experience any problems with any dealer, contact the South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association (SAAADA) and lodge a complaint. They will attend to it timeously and get back to you with a plausible solution. Do not however, stop buying firearms and shooting them, as this is our legacy which we leave our children and their children.
Marius du Preez
ARE YOU A SPORTSHOOTER, HUNTER, GAME FARM OWNER, PROFESSIONAL HUNTER, OWNER OF A SECURITY COMPANY, PRIVATE FIREARM OWNER OR AN ATTORNEY?
Marius du Preez
LEGALLY ARMED POLOKWANE