South Africa declares amnesty for owners of illegal firearms

Posted by News Express | 28 November 2019 | 458 times

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• Police minister Bheki Cele

 South Africans with illegal firearms or those whose licences have expired have a six month opportunity to turn them in without facing prosecution.

Police minister Bheki Cele on Wednesday announced via a government gazette yet another amnesty from December 1 to the end of May 2020.

The latest crime statistics show that firearms are still the most common weapon used in serious crimes. Firearms were involved in the murders  of more than 7,156 people during 2018/2019 — or close to 20 every day — as well as in 13,360 cases of attempted murder. Crime experts have lamented the growing prevalence of illegal firearms in the country.

This is the fourth such amnesty since 1994.

According to the notice holders of unlicensed firearms or ammunition can drop them at any police station in the country.

Applicants will have to surrender their weapons or ammunition to a designated amnesty officer, who must provide a receipt. Gun owners who have failed to renew their licences will also be able to reapply for the weapon they have surrendered. Such an application — which will not apply to illegal weapons — must be made within 14 days of surrendering the firearm.

Cele said ballistic tests should be conducted on all surrendered firearms to check if they were used in any crime.

The amnesty is “part of government’s plan to tackle the proliferation of firearms in our communities and to deal decisively with the excess of illegal firearms and unwanted firearms”, the ministry said earlier.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on police in October approved the amnesty with the aim of reducing the number of weapons and ammunition in circulation.

While it is unclear how many illegal firearms are in SA, lobby group Gun Free SA estimates there are 4.5-million legal weapons in the country. Up to 27 are lost or stolen every day.

“Over the last four or five years you are beginning to see this increasing trend of gun deaths to be more prominent,” said Adèle Kirsten of Gun Free SA.

“When you make weapons less available you will have a direct knock-on effect on reducing your gun deaths,” she said, adding that about a third of the weapons surrendered during the past two amnesty periods were illegal firearms.

Kirsten called on the police to communicate clearly and regularly with the public during the amnesty.

“The SAPS needs to demonstrate to the public that they have in place a really comprehensive process of control from the point of surrender to the point of destruction,” she said, pointing to the low levels of trust between the police and the public.

The ministry was unable to comment, but said Cele was expected to make further announcements on Thursday.


(Business Day)

Source: News Express

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