“The only people who should carry firearms are the police and the military. This is the ideal situation we are working in, but South Africans are currently living in fear because of the high violent crime rate in the country. ”So says Bheki Cele, the police minister.
At a conference in Centurion on Thursday, Cele said that the South African police would pursue this idea, therefore, that gun amnesty would kick off on December 1 this year and be sustained for six months.
According to Cele, weapons are the real enemy of the South African community. “Firearms are the most widely used tool when committing crimes, and especially violent crimes, and is the reason why South Africa’s crime and murder rates are so high.”
According to Cele, the six-month amnesty period aims to reduce the number of illegal weapons in private possession.
Since the beginning of October, 2,000 firearms have been taken out of “the wrong hands”, with more than a thousand of these firearms taken off in Gauteng.
“Last month, police destroyed about 20,000 illegal firearms seized during police raids last year.”
Cele goes on to say that firearm owners who have not renewed their licenses, for whatever reason, should take the opportunity to hand in their weapons. “People with licenses that have expired must submit their weapons in accordance with the Firearms Control Act of 2000. They must also submit their firearms in order to apply for a new license.”
Persons who wish to hand in their weapons or apply for a new license must personally hand in their weapons at any amnesty office. The persons must then apply for a new license within 14 days.
According to Adv. John Welch, chairman of the South African Rifle Owners’ Association (SAGC), is most firearms owners reluctant to hand over their weapons to the police as the police lose weapons. Welch said there have been about 4,500 firearms and 9.5 million rounds of ammunition at police stations across the country in the last five years.
“This year only 500 weapons disappeared from police stations,” he says.
However, Cele replied that several measures would be put in place to combat this problem.
In his speech, he said that provision will be made for nine central storage facilities in each province.
The officers handling the firearms that were handed in also had to go through stricter selection processes and meet certain criteria. Only officers who met these criteria were appointed to handle firearms submitted during the amnesty period.
Cele says each weapon will also be checked to ensure that the weapons were not used to commit any crimes in South Africa. The culprits will also be prosecuted, he says.
According to Cele, there are currently some 450 000 illegal weapons in South Africa because their owners’ licenses have expired.