Many of our clients and others are having sleepless nights because they forgot to renew their gun licences because a recent court case ruled that you could be criminally prosecuted if you fail to hand in your gun at the nearest police station, in the event that your licence has expired. Due to this ruling some of our clients were petrified and scrambled to hand in their guns at the police stations whilst others hid theirs.
However, there is some relief. The above case, in the Provincial division of Gauteng, by Judge Natvarlal Ranchod, was appealed and the decision was overturned. In the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal the position for firearm owners with expired licences was clarified. The court ruled that if your firearm licence has expired, you may re-apply without having to wait for a following amnesty period.
The problem arose because from the outset, SAPS refused to consider any new firearm licence applications for firearm owners, who failed to renew their licences timeously.
When the application of Fidelity Security Services to renew their licences was turned down by Judge Natvarlal Ranchod, they appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Bloemfontein. The Supreme Court of Appeal took a different view.
The Supreme Court found that neither in the Regulations nor in the Firearms Control Act (“the Act”) was it ever suggested that the termination of a licence by way of the operation of law, would perpetually prohibit the application for a new licence. The court emphasised the fact that eligible applicants include repeat applicants as well as newcomers.
The court established that it is logically flawed to interpret the Act in such a manner that the firearm owner’s licences who have expired, are deemed to be precluded from re-applying for a new licence and were required to purchase new firearms.
Nevertheless, the Volksblad quoted attorney, Jan Krijt, stating that even though the firearm owners now have a form of a relief, the judgment leaves the public in a grey area because in accordance with law, if one is in possession of a firearm with an expired licence, you are deemed to be in unlawful possession of the said firearm.
Thus, unless the court ruling is appealed at the Constitutional Court this is now the law. We suggest that if your licence has expired, re-apply as soon as possible whilst the legal position is in your favour.
Lastly, please ensure that you comply with all the rules especially safeguarding your gun because too many tragedies occur if children and unauthorised persons get their hands on lethal weapons.
Comments by Demi-Lee Hendrikse, Candidate Attorney at Faure & Faure Inc. For more information email email@example.com.