I think there is a part in all of us that wants things to happen that make us happy – this is because we are all optimists at heart. The reality is somewhat different in South Africa, because our country is at war with itself. We have the most atrocious crime statistics, particularly violent crime against women. We also have a government that does everything it can to escape taking responsibility for its failings while it is busy looting from the public purse.

You can imagine how my stress levels went up when I discovered two things during the course of September 2019 that quite simply demonstrate how low we have sunk as a nation and how much further we have to go before things begin to rectify themselves.
The first was a directive issued by the Central Firearms Registry, dealing with barrel changes. You might recall that the South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ Association (SAAADA) obtained a court order in July that stopped the police from implementing the practice of stopping barrel changes. Judge Millar effectively ruled that barrel changes were allowed, although this has to be finally determined by another court in due course.

On 19 September 2019, the police issued a new directive detailing a new procedure for barrel and calibre changes. This new procedure contained some additional conditions, such as requiring that the barrel be licensed before it can be put onto the firearm. Pause for a moment and think how you can do that with a Section 13 firearm: You are only allowed to have one firearm, so how can you license a second barrel before it is replaced? The second requirement was that you need to sign an affidavit confirming that the used barrel or a barrel to be replaced will be destroyed in terms of Regulation 94 of the Firearms Control Act.
In implementing these new requirements, which are not contained in the Act, it became abundantly clear that the South African Police Service were thumbing their noses at the High Court and at Judge Millar and were attempting to get around his judgment by imposing requirements that effectively could not be complied with. The cherry on top of the cake was that, although the directive was issued on 19 September 2019, the directive and its contents were used to refuse applications for barrel changes submitted before 19 September 2019: In other words, a requirement that did not exist at the time of the lodging of an application was used to refuse it in circumstances where the applicant could not have known about it. This is just a deliberate contempt towards our courts and towards firearm owners. It only happens because police officials think they can get away with it.
SAAADA immediately took action and launched an urgent application not only to set aside the directive, but for an order stating that only the minister can issue directives and that the Central Firearms Registry was acting unlawfully. That case is currently pending.
The second thing that I discovered was an old presentation of the Appeal Board that was presented to parliament in 2016.
The Appeal Board is an appeal authority: It should have no relationship to the police in order to be independent and it must of course be impartial. The presentation to parliament, however, highlighted what the Appeal Board regarded as certain shortcomings in the Act.

It stated, inter alia, in its presentation that:
“The purpose section FCA only refers to curbing the proliferation of illegally possessed firearms and not firearms in general. There was no provision for undergoing mental health, fitness checks prior to being issued with a competency certificate.” (This is wrong and demonstrates that the Appeal Board does not know the Act or regulations.) These are contained in Regulation 14.

Sections 14, 16 and 16A and Section 17 allow individuals to possess restricted and prohibited firearms: “Section 16A and 17 allow certain individuals to acquire an unlimited number of firearms.” Yes, this is correct. However, the police themselves drafted the legislation and must have realised this at the time. Furthermore, the police and their legal advisors at the time (who were pragmatic and not so highly politicised) realised that only a very small number of persons, predominantly collectors and museums, had more than 20 firearms each.
The Appeal Board is part of a committee established by the minister to review the Firearms Control Act.
I have two principle difficulties with these statements. Firstly, the Appeal Board quite clearly is biased against firearms. This is a very serious problem for the independence and impartiality of the Appeal Board. Secondly, an appellate or judicial authority should not be part of any policy-making process – it simply taints the process.
For those of you who are looking for nice, touchy-feely, happy things when it comes to firearms, the situation is worsening on a daily basis. Make sure therefore that you join your associations, pay your dues and that you are prepared to fight to keep your firearms. Hard times are not far away.

#I’m keeping my firearms!

Martin Hood from MJ Hood & Associates Attorneys can be contacted on 011 234 7520. E-Mail: martin@mjhood.co.za or visit www.mjhood.co.za

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