A CASE OF MISFIRING? Lazarides v The Chairman of the Firearms Appeal Board 2005 JDR 0584 (T)
Keywords:refusal of a firearm licence, review and setting aside
No person may possess a firearm unless he holds a licence issued by the Commissioner of Police (Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (s 3); (now repealed) Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969 (s 2)). Where an application for a licence is refused, the applicant may appeal to the Appeal Board (Firearms Control Act (s 133)). Under the Arms and Ammunition Act the appeal lay to the Minister of Law and Order, who could delegate this function to the Appeal Board (s 3(2) read with s 14A and 44(1)). The applicant in the Lazarides case applied for the review and setting aside of a refusal of a firearm licence. It is not clear from the judgment who all the respondents were. It appears that the Appeal Board (FAB) was the second respondent, the Central Firearms Registrar (sic) (CFR) the fourth respondent (being a department within the police which is responsible for the administration of firearm licences), and the Deputy Minister of Safety and
Security the fifth respondent. It is likely that the other two respondents were the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Safety and Security. The references to the parties in the judgment are somewhat confusing. The application for the licence had been made under the Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969 which was then still in operation. The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 subsequently replaced the 1969 Act on 1 July 2004 (see South African Gun Owners Association v State President of the Republic of South Africa (TPD) 2004-06-30 case number 16620/04 and the discussion by Van der Berg “The Role of National and International Sportshooting, Hunting and Collectors Organisations in Terms of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000” 2004 25(2) Obiter 468. The intention with the adoption of the 2000 Act was to control firearms more comprehensively and effectively (see long title of the 2000 Act), and further, to give effect to South
Africa’s international obligations in terms of the United Nations’ Convention against Transnational Organised Crime; see in this regard Vrancken and Van der Berg “The South African Regulation of the Conveyance of Munitions at Sea” 2005 30 SAYIL 147).
The judgment was marked not reportable. That is both strange and regrettable in view of the public and academic interest in the topic of firearm licensing (to the extent that a number of organisations representing large numbers of individuals unsuccessfully applied to interdict the new (2000) Act from coming into operation; see Van der Berg 2004 Obiter 468; see also Carnelley and Van der Berg “Reasons for Refusal of Firearm Licences” 2003 Obiter 555 and Vrancken and Van der Berg 2005 30 SAYIL 147, as well as
numerous reports in the news and popular media). There is a lack of reported case law on the subject. Very little information has been
forthcoming from the state authorities as regards considerations taken into account by the state authorities in the determination of applications for firearm licences. This leaves the public and the legal fraternity to a large extent in the dark regarding the prospects of success of firearm licence applications. It is almost impossible to judge when an application for a firearm licence is likely to be successful, and when not. It would be in the public interest to report whatever court decisions become available on the topic. (The judgment has since also been reported at 2006 1 All SA 396 (T).)
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