More than 2,000 firearms handed over

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Kgaugelo Maswe­neng van der Merwe /With Pi­eter

In less than 50 days since the start of the firearm amnesty pe­riod, 2,266 firearms were sur­ren­dered at po­lice sta­tions, says po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele.

In less than 50 days since the start of the firearms amnesty pe­riod, 2,266 firearms were sur­ren­dered at po­lice sta­tions, says po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele.

He was speak­ing at Linden po­lice sta­tion in Jo­han­nes­burg dur­ing the han­dover of 298 guns by firearms dealer Chris van der Bergh. Deputy po­lice min­is­ter Cas­sel Mathale and na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Khehla Si­tole were present.

Van der Bergh handed in 190 hand­guns, 60 ri­fles, 48 shot­guns and 2,984 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion. “He is one of thou­sands of South Africans who have taken heed of the SAPS call to present them­selves at var­i­ous po­lice sta­tions and sur­ren­der their il­le­gally possessed or un­wanted firearms,” said Cele.

The amnesty pe­riod runs un­til the end of May.

“Firearms re­main the en­emy of our so­ci­ety and we as the SAPS must do all in our pow­ers to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties from these il­le­gally ac­quired weapons,” he said..

“The dec­la­ra­tion of this amnesty pe­riod is in the in­ter­est of the pub­lic, and I be­lieve it will make a dent in deal­ing de­ci­sively with the ex­cess of il­le­gal firearms and un­wanted firearms that end up in the wrong hands,” Cele said.

Gaut­eng had the most guns sur­ren­dered so far.

Cele said 31,382 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion were now in po­lice hands. “These num­bers keep on grow­ing daily. It is clear South Africans are tak­ing up the call to take part in the amnesty and re­move il­le­gal and un­wanted firearms from our streets.”

The po­lice min­is­ter said that when the grace pe­riod ended the po­lice would show no mercy to those who had not taken ad­van­tage of the amnesty.

But Tim Flack of Gun Own­ers SA (Gosa) de­scribed the min­is­ter’s demon­stra­tion as “a bit of a joke” and a “sideshow just to make it look like the SAPS is ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing”.

He re­ferred to a high court in­ter­dict awarded to Gosa stop­ing po­lice seiz­ing a weapon “for the sole rea­son that the li­cence of such a firearm has ex­pired”.

As the amnesty is aimed at un­law­ful weapons as op­posed to ex­pired li­censed weapons, Flack said the 298 guns sur­ren­dered were “all old, out-of-date guns that were ei­ther bro­ken or had parts miss­ing”.

“Not a sin­gle one of those guns would have been il­le­gal firearms,” said Flack.

“They would have prob­a­bly been just dam­aged firearms that no-one wanted to buy or that were so out­dated that they needed to be de­stroyed.”

All the sur­ren­dered weapons re­ceived dur­ing the amnesty would be sub­jected to bal­lis­tic test­ing.

“It is im­por­tant to note that dur­ing this amnesty pe­riod there will be no in­dem­nity for firearms handed over which have been used to com­mit a crime. A de­tec­tive in­ves­tiga­tive team has been es­tab­lished to in­ves­ti­gate cases of firearms linked to crimes,” the min­is­ter said.

The lat­est crime sta­tis­tics show that firearms are still the most com­mon weapon used in se­ri­ous crimes. Firearms were in­volved in the mur­ders of more than 7,156 peo­ple dur­ing 2018/2019 — or nearly 20 ev­ery day — as well as in 13,360 cases of at­tempted mur­der.

This is the fourth firearms amnesty since 1994.

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