A National Firearm Amnesty period may be implemented from 1 September 2018 – 28 February 2019 following a request from Police Minister Bheki Cele to help reduce gun crime in South Africa and particularly the Western Cape.

A year ago, then Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, called for a gun amnesty period which never materialised due to his procedural missteps and his successor’s unwillingness to see the process through.

Cele’s proposal for a national gun amnesty period is welcomed in principle as it is one of the recommendations the Western Cape Government made in 2015 to the Civilian Secretariat of Police, to help reduce the circulation of illegally owned firearms and encourage people to hand in their unwanted legal weapons.

“The scourge of gun-wielding gangsters and drug lords in our communities requires all authorities to look at what else can be done to disarm the criminals and stop the bloodshed,” said Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato. In the Western Cape’s most gang-ridden communities, ill-gotten guns are too readily available and accessible.

Key to the operational implementation of the amnesty period is to ensure that weapons and ammunition handed over are traceable, disabled and prevented from being used again or finding their way back into criminal hands.

“As part of my oversight mandate over policing in the Western Cape, I will be requesting further details on the amnesty period from the National Minister of Police, Acting National Commissioner and Provincial Commissioner,” Plato added.

Plato’s requests will include:

– The various locations, operations and campaign drives to allow people to hand over their weapons.

– Process of disabling the weapons on site without compromising forensic firearm investigation and cataloguing.

– Process and timeframe for ultimately destroying the weapons and ammunition to prevent loss, theft or corruption peddling weapons back into communities.

– Who will be appointed to monitor the process to oversee and ensure compliance.

– What international standards, protocols or existing best practice models will be included to ensure success.

The proposed Firearm Amnesty period will be a prime opportunity to reduce the number of illegal firearms in circulation and to prevent unnecessary deaths at the hands of those who should not have a weapon in the first place.

The Amnesty period is a necessary step in the right direction towards reducing gun related crime in the country, especially in the Western Cape.

Pictures: Unsplash/GunFreeSouthAfrica.com

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