The amnesty for handing in illegally-owned firearms that was due to start in April has been cancelled. This was as a result of widespread condemnation of the SAPS disregard for following proper procedure in first obtaining parliamentary approval before announcing the proposed project. The amnesty has been seen by many within the firearms-owning community as a cynical move by the SAPS to disarm law-abiding citizens.
A series of penetrating questions were asked by MPs during Wednesday's Parliamentary Portfolio Committee sitting in which the SAPS proposed firearm amnesty, which did not have the required approval of Parliament, was unceremoniouslyÃ‚Â thrown out.Ã‚Â
Apart from being a highly embarrassing oversight on the part of the senior police officials involved, it also demonstrated an unhealthy contempt for due process and the authority of Parliament.
MPs were clearly not impressed by the proposals, and representatives from the ANC, DA, and FF+ sitting on the committee fired off numerous inquiries at the Minister of Police and SAPS officials:
1. Would a criminal really supply his name, address, and telephone and ID numbers on paper when they hand in the weapons they illegally possess and committed serious crimes with? Especially if the surrendered weapon will be subjected to ballistic testing. Is'nt this missing the entire point of the amnesty?
2. Will the criminals who stoleÃ‚Â 30 firearms from the SAPS this weekÃ‚Â hand these same weapons in on 1 April 2017? It was a rhetorical question asked and answered by stating that the reason why the weapons were stolen from SAPS in the first place, was for criminal intentions.
3. In reply to a direct question it was admitted that not one illegally owned firearm was handed in by a criminal during previous amnesties.
4. In reply to a direct question it was admitted that not one of the weapons handed in was linked to a crime.
5. It was agreed that the previous removal of weapons through amnesty did not reduce crime. In fact, crime noticeably increased after the conclusion of the previous amnesty.
6. It was stated twice that it appears the government is hell-bent on removing only the firearms possessed by legal registered owners whose licenses have expired. If this is indeed the case, then the government must admit to this openly.
7. The Minster of Police asked why people feel safe if they own a weapon. When asked in turn why he makes use of armed bodyguards, the Honourable Minster said that he will answer the question. Which the Honourable Minster never did during the remainder of the proceedings. I suppose that there is no answer seeing as even Gun Free South Africa uses armed bodyguards for their own protection.
What is painfully obvious is that this entire proposal was poorly thought-through, rash, and harboured the hidden agenda of confiscating the firearms of expired licence holders through intimidation and threats of arrest before the court cases dealing with the matter can be concluded.
It is heartening to see that the Parliament of the Republic has the integrity to protect the rights of the nationl's citizens from this type of abuse of authority.
Before any amnesty is proposed, the consequences of previous ones must be taken into account and the price paid by citizens for the bungling during and subsequent to the process must not be forgotten.
This is something that was clearly not done.
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