No guns
  • A new legislative proposal will ban South Africans from getting gun licences for the purpose of self defence.
  • The draft law that would do so is theoretically available for public comment, though in reality not yet published.
  • But a leaked 2018 version of the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill shows how the police secretariat then planned to achieve the same thing.
  • It also points to new restrictions on hunters and sport shooters, who would still have access to handguns, but under stricter control. 
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Parliament will be asked to ban the licensing of handguns for use in self defence under a newly-revived legislative proposal, first reported by Business Insider South Africa on Saturday.

But hunters, and sport shooters, may also find themselves more restricted in how they can use their weapons.

A summary of a draft law published by the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP) shows it intends to seek an update to the law that would mean "no firearm licenses may be issued for self-defence purposes".

Despite claiming to have done so already in a formal proclamation that opened public comment on that plan, the CSP did not publish the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill which contains that clause.

See also | Self defence will not be a valid reason to own a gun in SA under a newly-revived draft law

But the same change was proposed in a 2018 version of the Bill, which leaked before it was put before Parliament.

A comparison of the objectives of the 2021 draft and the 2018 version suggests they are closely related, if not identical – and that the three-year-old version may show just how the law could change.

The law currently provides for firearm licences to be issued in what is, legislatively at least, a simple process. Applicants need show only that they need a firearm to defend themselves, and that they “cannot reasonably satisfy that need by means other than the possession of a firearm”.

That will do for a licence for any handgun that is not fully automatic, or a manual-action shotgun. Those who want more firepower, say a semi-automatic shotgun or rifle, need to show that ordinary weapons do not provide the protection they need, and must submit “reasonable information to motivate the need for a restricted firearm for self-defence purposes.”

The 2018 draft law (and, presumably, the 2021 version) strikes out that entire section of law, so that there are only two possible reasons to licence a firearm: hunting, and sport shooting. To avoid any confusion, it specifically says that licences may not be issued for reasons of self defence, the protection of property, or protection of another person.

Hunters and sport shooters would still be able to apply to licence a semi-automatic handgun, but would have to prove they actually engage in their claimed hobby.

Currently the law differentiates between "occasional" hunting and sports-shooting enthusiasts, and professionals. There is no requirement for the occasional shooters to be part of an association, or to take part in any events. And once they are licensed, they may explicitly use their guns "for a lawful purpose" – which could include carrying a firearm for self defence.

The 2018 legislative proposal would change that. Occasional hunters or sport shooters would have to show at least that they have written permission from the owner or occupier of a property where they could practice their hobby, a game farm or shooting range, to do so. 

The "lawful purpose" wording would also be scrapped, instead limiting hunters and sport shooters to using their guns only "where it is safe to use the firearm". The intention appears to be preventing the use of a hobby handgun for self defence.

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