Police minister Nathi Mthethwa has announced that a commission of enquiry has been established to investigate ‘unscrupulous’ firearms dealers and illegally operated firearm training institutions that are not complying with the provisions of the Firearms Control Act.
The police ministry said that it is standard practice within the firearm dealership industry to collect payment as a deposit pending the processing of an applicant’s licence.
This process has resulted in a number of complaints, including that dealers withhold either the entire or a portion of, the deposit paid by the applicant when the application is either refused or where the refusal is subject to an appeal;
that dealers sell or dispose of the firearm for which a deposit has been paid to another person while the application for a firearm is still pending;
that firearms for self-defence purposes such as Norincos and Lorcins that have defects are sold or offered mainly to applicants who are members of the black population;
that there is collusion between certain firearm dealers with certain members of the Central Firearm Registry in the South African Police Service with the purpose of delaying the processing of the application for a firearm for self-defence purposes or the refusal of such application.
“The above concerns are serious and cannot be brushed off lightly. If proven to be true, they have potential negative indictment and impact on crime-reduction efforts,” Mthethwa said. “The proper, correct keeping of registers and the integrity of the Central Firearms Register are essential elements in our fight against crime. As such, any lack of proper controls may lead to a proliferation of unlicenced firearms throughout the country.
“In order to ensure that the provisions of the Act are properly complied with by the firearm dealers and that alleged malpractices do not take place to the detriment of applicants for firearm licences, I have decided to set up an independent investigation into the practices complained of is conducted,” stated the Minister.
The investigation will look at all these matters as well as investigating certain dealers issuing or selling competency certificates without proper firearm training; the issuing of training certificates by non-accredited training institutions; the compliance with the conditions of accreditation for dealers and training institutions and the effectiveness of the language of firearms training.
In addition, the investigation will look at the effectiveness of current policies, procedures and practices affecting dealers and firearms training institutions.
The Committee will be headed by a Senior Counsel and three other members drawn from the legal fraternity. It will be given six weeks to complete its work from the time it commences. The investigation will result in a written report to the Minister that incorporates findings as well as recommendations.