Upset over new gun licence law

JOHN HARVEY

A Claremont pensioner fears that a decision to no longer accept late gun licence renewals will place people at risk as the suburb experiences escalating crime levels.

Colleen Dryden-Schofield, 75, discovered she has to turn in her firearm to police, despite initially being told to fill in the necessary documentation and present a new set of photographs as part of the licence renewal procedure at the Claremont police station.

Her licence was due to be renewed before January 10, but thought that because “no one has money in January”, the authorities would be more lenient.

“Despite getting all the necessary documentation and photos together after being told what was required, when I went back to the police station on February 25, only to be told that they couldn’t renew my licence and I had to turn in my gun. I have owned a gun since I was 18 years old.”

Ms Dryden-Scofield said she found it surprising that police officers at Claremont seemed equally baffled about why her licence could not be renewed.

“I mean they sent me away to get all the documentation and everything, and then I was told I couldn’t renew my licence. I’m also unhappy about the fact that no notice was given in the post, as is the case with television licences. They say they send out email and SMS notices, but this goes in one ear and out the other for me.”

She was particularly upset that this decision to relieve her of her weapon had come at a time when Claremont was witnessing a fresh crime wave, both in the business and entertainment hub and residential areas.

“Just the other day that young man had his hand chopped off outside a nightclub club,” she said, referring to an incident in which 19-year-old Zander Vermeulen was attacked while walking home alone in February (“High alert after attack, Tatler, February 4).

An elderly Claremont couple, Brian and Carol Hodgson, were also savagely attacked in their home last month (“Robberies hit the Claremont area”, Tatler, February 18).

Police spokesperson Captain Angie Latchman said the renewal date for Ms Dryden-Scholfield’s firearm was October last year. In terms of the Renewal Of Firearm Licences, Section 24 of the Firearm Control Act, in the case where a person wanted to reapply for a licence but the validity of the licence had already expired, the person should be informed that they are no longer in lawful possession of the firearm and that the firearm must be surrendered to the nearest police station.

“Taking this into account, the police officers were well within their rights to request Ms Dryden-Scofield hand in her firearm. Gun owners are urged to ensure their renewals are done timeously to avoid such occurrences,” Captain Latchman said.

On February 3, National Police Commissioner General Kgomotso Phahlane introduced a new directive on the late renewal of gun licences. However, it appeared as though this had only come to the attention of various firearm bodies on February 8.

Westlake lawyer Damian Enslin told the Tatler the SAPS had previously accepted late licence renewals, but would now no longer do so. This, he said, had been decided without consulting firearm groups and other stakeholders, and that the move was in contravention of the constitution.

Mr Enslin said the new directive would affect about 120 000 people who had filed late applications to renew their firearm licences.