CAN I DISCHARGE A FIREARM IN A PUBLIC PLACE?
To discharge a firearm in a public place, as anticipated, carries with it many concerns, so in order to circumvent the dangers associated with it, stringent regulations are in place. In South Africa, the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 governs the control of firearms , which imposes strict procedural and substantive requirements on firearm holders.
Section 120 of the Act specifically deals with the discharge of a firearm. The Act stipulates that, in terms of Section 120(3)(b), it is an offence to discharge a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun in a “manner likely to injure or endanger the safety or property of any person or with reckless disregard for the safety or property of any person” and the Act further elaborates in Section 120(7) by providing that it is an offence to do so “in a built-up area or any public place, without good reason to do so.” The Act is silent in its definition of what qualifies as “good reason.”
In addition to the above, Section 120(3)(c) makes it an offence to have control of a loaded firearm in circumstances, “where it creates a risk to the safety or property of any person and not to take reasonable precautions to avoid the danger.”
Failure to comply with the above provisions could result in that person facing a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or face a fine whereby in respect of a first infringement, not exceed R50 000 and in respect of a second or subsequent infringement, not exceed R100 000.
Should a person intend on carrying a firearm in a public place, the Act places strict emphasis on how the firearm must be carried. If the firearm is a handgun, Section 84 states that it must be in a holster or similar holder designed to carry a handgun and it must be attached to his or her person. The firearm must be completely covered and the person carrying the firearm must be able to exercise effective control over such firearm. Failure to comply with section 84 could result in the infringer facing a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
In view of the above, the consequences of infringing the provisions of the Act far outweigh the necessity to discharge a firearm in a public place without having good reason to do so. Gun violence in South Africa over the past few decades has increasesd, so therefore, curtailing the negligent use of firearms, without paying close attention to the various aspects of safety that must be adhered to when handling a firearm, is one of the main objectives, the above provisions of the Act intends on achieving.
- The Firearms Control Act, No 60 of 2000