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A Privilege Not a Right: South Africa Sets New Constitutional Standard on Guns

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Firearm - Sputnik International
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On June 7, the South African Constitutional Court unanimously agreed on the constitutionality of two sections of the nation’s 2000 Firearms Control Act, requiring gun owners to regularly renew firearm licenses and to forfeit guns with expired licenses.

In addition, the court ruled that gun ownership is not a right under South Africa's Bill of Rights. Instead, the ownership of a firearm is a privilege defined by two sections of the country's Firearms Control Act (FCA).

Section 24 of the FCA states that anyone who wants to renew their firearm license must do so "at least" 90 days before the license expires, while Section 28 states that a license terminates "at the expiry of the relevant period in the Act," the Times Live reported. 

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Sections 24 and 28 of the FCA are vastly different from sections outlined in the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969, under which gun licenses never have to be renewed. Under the FCA, anyone who wants to own a gun must be licensed to do so and each firearm must be licensed as well.

In South Africa, as many as 1 million gun owners have "green licenses" under the Arms and Ammunition Act but have not been licensed under the much stricter FCA.

Gun owners with green licenses were previously excluded from the FCA license renewals until a motion was filed in the North Gauteng High Court in 2009 stating that all firearm licenses under the Arms and Ammunition Act "shall be deemed to be lawful and valid" until certain sections of the FCA are deemed unconstitutional.

In addition, 33 percent of gun owners licensed under the FCA did not renew their licenses in 2015 and 2016, the Daily Maverick reported.

In February 2016, the national police commissioner at the time, Khomotso Phahlane, said that police stations should refuse any late renewal applications for firearm licenses.

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