The South African Police Service Central Firearm Registry has confirmed that firearm license applications have been delayed, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued on Monday, police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the SAPS, like any other government department, is affected by the pandemic.
“This situation has resulted in unexpected consequences on the service delivery front.
“It is common knowledge this virus has been the cause for employees to frequently self-isolate after having tested positive or come in contact with persons who tested positive for the virus, and the SAPS had not been immune to this,” he said.
Naidoo said in compliance with the National Disaster Management Regulations and other safety related protocols, SAPS members are operating at reduced capacity in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“In the event a positive case is detected, buildings are also evacuated for purposes of decontamination, adding to the delays,” said Naidoo.
In light of these challenges in the year 2020, the Minister of Police approached Parliament with a request for the declaration of another firearm amnesty period after the amnesty that was declared from 1 December 2019 ended on 31 May 2020. This request was approved by Parliament, and the second amnesty period was declared for a period of six months, commencing 1 August 2020 until 31 January 2021.
Naidoo said applications for licences, in respect of surrendered firearms during the amnesty period, compounded the situation after the total number of firearm licence applications increased by more than 80% for the duration of amnesty.
“Applications for licences, in respect of surrendered firearms, require an entirely different process to that of a normal renewal of licence, which inevitably prolongs the turnaround time for their finalisation.”
Naidoo said while SAPS has put measures in place to mitigate the situation, the organisation has an obligation to ensure that strict protocols, with regards to the virus, are observed.
“One [protocol is] the balancing of finalising applications speedily with the health and safety of members of the SAPS. In light of this situation, the turnaround time for a firearm licence application is taking more than the normal 90 working days.”
After taking all factors into consideration, as well as to allow for proper administration of firearm licence applications, the period for the finalisation of these applications has been extended from 90 working days to 120 working days.
“Firearm licence applicants are therefore requested to please exercise patience and allow SAPS to do due diligence in administering these applications. An assurance is given that everything possible is being done to process these applications within the new 120 working days turnaround time,” Naidoo said.
The public is urged to observe the stipulated steps, while enquiries are considered. Enquiries pertaining to outstanding applications may be directed to the local Designated Firearm Officer (DFO) where the application was lodged. If no assistance is forthcoming there, then the Station Commander of that relevant station or the District Commissioner, where such a station is located, must be contacted. The relevant Provincial Commissioner’s office may also be contacted.