Civil rights groups join mounting calls against changes in the Firearms Act

The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service last week called for public comment on a draft of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill.

A spent shell leaves a pistol fired by a woman as she takes part in training organised by the women empowerment group Girls on Fire, in Midrand, on 7 February 2021. Picture: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

CAPE TOWN - Civil rights groups have joined a growing number of voices criticising proposed amendments to the country’s firearm legislation.

The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service last week called for public comment on a draft of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill.

Among others, it seeks to remove self-defence as a reason to own a gun.

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The public has until July to comment on the proposal.

The South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association's Martin Hood on Monday said they were shocked by the move and said the proposal was not properly thought through.

Hood said this would make South Africans more vulnerable to crime.

He said the proposal went beyond self-defence: “This is going to eliminate the training industry and a number of other industries, like the hunting industry.”

Gun Owners of South Africa chairperson Paul Oxley said in a country like South Africa where crime was high, government wanted to take people's right to defend themselves away.

“The problem is that firearms are stolen from the police at 10 times rate they are stolen from civilians.”

He said they were gearing up to mobilise to make their voices heard in collaboration with organisations and associations.

At the same time, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is also vehemently opposed to proposals to amend the country's firearms legislation.

The DA's Andrew Whitfield said: “We’ve seen increasing cases of GBV in the country and now ordinary, law abiding citizens are going to be left without the option of owning a firearm should they choose to.”

He said the proposed changes were fundamentally flawed and irrational.

“We also believe there’s a limitation proposed to be imposed on private security and hunting fraternity are extremely concerning and we call on the authorities to appear before parliament to present this bill. Parliament needs to get a head start on this issue because it is contentious and emotional.”

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