Law-abiding gun owners targeted in changes to South Africa’s firearms act

“It’s a big fight, we are into this for the next two, three, four, five years. I can see that we’ll have to litigate because it’s all about private ownership and stuff like that.”

Herman Els, director of the National Hunting and Shooting Association of South Africa, says the country’s gun owners are under attack in proposed changes to firearms laws.

“The amendment to the firearms act is, is far reaching,” says Herman. “There is a political agenda, which is very difficult to fight, but we have to. It’s got ridiculous stuff. To me, the whole philosophy behind the act has been written out. It looks as if it’s an act… or amendment bill, which focused on trying to get firearms out of the hands of the public. No mention in the bill is made of any criminal possession of firearms and how they’re going to fight that. Then there’s a ridiculous thing… it will be an offence if you give a firearm to a person under the age of 16 to shoot with. It just becomes absolutely ridiculous.”

The government admits it wants to limit the number of guns and ammunition people are allowed, which it claims will reduce violent crimes. Part of this includes overhauling the application system and getting hunters to prove they actually hunt to justify owning a gun.

Crime has risen in South Africa and, as we’ve seen in the UK, US and Australia, law-abiding gun owners are being punished for something they have nothing to do with. Lawmakers seemingly forget they are pinning the blame on a section of the public that already undergoes intense scrutiny to bear arms. Herman says they’re barking up the wrong tree.

“It’s a knee jerk… the statements are made that there are more people killed with legal firearms than without which is just nonsense. They report that the firearms which get into the hands of the criminals come from legal firearm owners, whereas there are thousands of firearms stolen from the police annually.”

The implications of the amendments could be widespread and costly for South Africa’s gun owners. Under the proposed changes, limits will be put on transporting firearms and reloading ammunition prohibited.

“Private collection of firearms is totally written out of the bill,” he says, “that’s hundreds of millions of rands of firearms – if it gets through – is down the drain. Ammunition collection is down the drain. Reloading is written out, as if one could buy ammunition which shoots well. It just shows that the people who drew up the amendment bill have no idea of what firearms are about.”

The Firearms Amendment Bill was circulated on 22 May 2021 and people have 45 days from then to submit their objections.

The National Hunting and Shooting Association is part of SUCO, the Sustainable Use Coalition, which aims to protect all forms of legal and sustainable use of Africa’s natural resources and promote its benefits. 

You can find out more about NatShoot here and SUCO here.

Thanks to SCI LHAS for supporting this article.

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