The Central Firearms Registry (CFR) that is responsible for among others, the processing of firearm licence applications and the issuing firearm licences, has casually shifted the blame of the huge backlog in the issuing of firearm licences to civilians. According to Brig. L J Mabule it is the duty of firearm licence applicants to ensure that their applications are captured on the system.

 

In a five-page ‘informative notice’ to firearm stakeholders, signed by Brig. Mabule on 6 September, he said the CFR was ‘experiencing difficulties with incomplete applications that they receive from the various stations, and that they could not process those applications’. He said it was the obligation of the applicant to ensure that the local dedicated firearm officer (DFO) enters the information in the system.

 

Fred Camphor, CEO of The SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) that represents more than 44000 hunters and sport shooters, said it is absurd to place the onus on the firearm licence applicants to ensure that the information is entered on the system. “That is the job of DFOs at police stations and for which they are being paid.“

 

The performance of SAPS and CFR was highlighted in the recent report to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police. This report revealed the following:

 

Competency certificates: There is a backlog of 188 296 applications for competency waiting for assessment and completion. In the letter from Brig. Mabule, he explained that the CFR had to check each applicant’s criminal record, which is provided by the Criminal Records Centre.

 

Licence applications: There is a backlog of 138 908 licence applications. These are new applications, not renewals (renewals are done at provincial level, not by the CFR).

 

Amnesty firearms: During the 2019 amnesty, 29 758 firearms had been handed in and for which licence applications were submitted. Of these, only 50% (14 899) have been finalised. It has been more than two years since these applications had been submitted. 

 

In the 2020/2021 amnesty, 75 363 firearms were handed in for which licence and applications have been submitted. Only 5.6% (4 241) of these applications have been finalised. On this performance Brig. Mabule says in his letter that ballistic reports have to be obtained before the Police could finalise the applications.

 

Printing of licence cards: With regard to the issuing of licence cards Brig. Mabule said the CFR made an arrangement with the Government Printer to print and deliver the cards to the relevant provinces.

 

SA Hunters’ experience with SAPS’ and CFRs level of service, is as follows:

  • It takes between 12 and 18 months – or even longer - to finalise a competency application.
  • It takes about 12 months for the application and the issuing of a licence, on condition that your competency is valid.
  • Firearm licence renewal applications take 6 to 8 months, if you are lucky, on condition that your competency is valid.

Camphor said there were rare instances where applications have been finalised within three to four weeks. “This proves that it is possible to deliver service within a reasonable time if all role-players do their jobs.”

 

Camphor added that the frustration levels that law-abiding firearm owners have to endure, was beyond comprehension. Firearm stakeholder organisations have been trying for many years to provide constructive input to SAPS and CFR in the processing of firearm licence applications.

 

A consultative forum between SAPS and 12 accredited firearm stakeholders was established in 2005 to discuss issues of common concern. The forum last met in 2016, at which time the SAPS/CFR representatives stopped attending the meetings. Since them, the organised firearms community has been making ongoing efforts to get stakeholder discussions back on track.

 

On 22 April 2021, members of the Portfolio Committee for Police met with a few firearm interest groups to discuss the lack of engagement with the firearm industry. Both the deputy minister and the deputy commissioner of Police attended the meeting and undertook to ensure that proper consultation with firearm interest groups would be resumed. The deputy minister also confirmed that he and the national commissioner had visited the CFR and found that there were ‘real issues facing the CFR.’ The deputy minister expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to listen to the firearm stakeholders.

 

“It is now five months later since the April meeting, and we are still waiting for consultation between SAPS and the industry to resume,” said Camphor.

 

Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association