Published originally in Gun Africa edition 26 (September).
Part One: The Section 13 Self-Defence licence application
Here we highlight what constitutes a good, proper and detailed motivation for various licence applications. These articles are not the final word, and are only meant to serve as a guide to ensuring that your licence application will pass muster. Circumstances differ for every person. You may have certain issues that may also have to be dealt with, such as previous criminal convictions, declarations of unfitness, etc., for which you should seek proper legal advice.
Although the issue can be debated, the Firearms Control Act, 60 of 2000 (FCA) provides no real detail or specifics as to what is required to obtain a licence successfully. It really only sets out the legal principals.
For the purpose of this article, we will start off with what is required for a self-defence licence application in terms of Section 13 which, in my opinion, has one of the highest refusal rates. I will quote only the most relevant portion pertaining to what may be required to obtain a licence for self-defence, namely Section 13(2):
(2) The Registrar may issue a licence under this section to any natural person who –
(a) needs a firearm for self-defence; and
(b cannot reasonably satisfy that need by means other than possession of a firearm.
The above appears to be fairly simple and straightforward. However, what motivation is required, or how much detail must one provide in the motivational letter, or what is sufficient to substantiate to the CFR that you have a sufficient need for “a firearm for self-defence” and “cannot reasonably satisfy that need other than by possession of a firearm” for self-defence?
Fortunately, having dealt with numerous appeals over the years, I have had sight of the usual reasons that the CFR provides when refusing licence applications, and hence have some insight into what the CFR requires. Generally most refusal letters state that the applicant has “not provided sufficient motivation” or “shown a need for the firearm”, or that there was “no supporting documents”.
Again, the FCA does not list these requirements. Thus it is apparent that the CFR has an internal policy document or criteria it uses for assessing licence applications. The SAPS and CFR have, to date, despite numerous requests, failed to furnish this policy document or criteria to the general public at large. Thus the SAPS and CFR have, to date, failed to indicate to the prospective applicant what is required for a successful licence application. Although some police stations do have checklists, or adopt a more helpful approach, it remains a hit-and-miss situation. Even the best DFOs/stations are not 100% sure all of the time.
With regard to putting pen to paper and furnishing sound reasons for a self-defence firearm: For instance, do not deal solely with your business or personal circumstances. Give the CFR a general overall view and idea of what you do, where and how you do it, what sort of travelling you have to do for business purposes, if any, as well as where you live, what the crime situation is in the area through which you travel, and always provide supporting documentation. Download crime statistics or articles concerning crime in your area and the areas through which you travel from the Internet or furnish local newspaper clippings.
Do not forget about your hobbies or interests, such as hiking or walking or cycling on a regular basis. Also mention that hikers and walkers have often been attacked, always substantiating such contentions with clippings or on-line articles.
If you do a fair amount of travelling either in your personal or business capacity, indicate on what roads you travel, such as the N1 and N2. Indicate how these main arterial routes have become extremely dangerous of late, especially in terms of hijackings or motorists being stoned or stopped, or people changing tyres being attacked and killed, etc. Once again, do not forget the supporting documentation.
For instance, if you are a person who banks cash or daily takings, mention this briefly, but do not emphasise one point above the others. Note further that, even where a motivation from a previous application may have been successful during the transitional period of licence renewals in terms of the old Act, do not bank on similar success this time around. Although in theory what was successful previously should succeed again, this appears not to be the case, with applicants often being refused a second time after having using a five-year-old motivation. At the end of the day, your motivation letter should be fairly substantive, running from three to five pages, with five to ten pages of supporting documentation. Therefore in my opinion it is clear that the CFR is looking for an overall picture of the applicant, with regard to personal and business circumstances, hobbies and interests, living arrangements, and any other special circumstances.
This is just a short synopsis to guide a prospective applicant. If you furnish the CFR with a well-drafted, all-round motivation, together with supporting documentation, you should receive your licence. If it is refused for whatever reason, then you should have a good chance of success upon appealing. In future issues we will deal with occasional sport shooting and hunting in terms of Section 15, as well as dedicated sport shooting and hunting in terms of Section 16, focusing specifically on self-loading or semiautomatic rifles, which also have a very high refusal rate.
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