Sakeliga plays consequential role in Constitutional Court litigation on firearm ownership
27 May 2022
Sakeliga has again been able to play a pertinent role in the Constitutional Court - this time in relation to the protection of property rights of firearm owners.
As amicus curiae (friend of the court), Sakeliga threw its support behind the security company, Fidelity. Fidelity has pursued litigation up to the Constitutional Court to prevent the Minister of Police from destroying hundreds of Fidelity’s firearms based on the police's senseless interpretation of the Firearms Control Act.
The court ruled in Fidelity's favour that firearms, in respect of which the licenses had expired and were for that reason handed over to the police, are in fact eligible for new license applications and do not need to be destroyed. The Minister of Police argued unsuccessfully that firearms with licenses that could not be renewed timeously by owners should be destroyed without giving the licensee (in this case Fidelity) an opportunity to make a new application for licensing and restoring legal possession.
Sakeliga congratulates Fidelity on this important victory for firearm owners. We are pleased to have been able make consequential contributions to the outcome, by way of unique arguments regarding the property rights of gun owners, economic realities, and fair procedure.
The Constitutional Court has given favourable consideration to Sakeliga's arguments. In the formulation of the judgment and final order, it appears that, among other things, the following arguments of Sakeliga had a noticeable impact:
Sakeliga argued: The state is obligated to protect, promote and realize firearms owners' rights to freedom and security of the person, and right not to be deprived of property. The Minister's interpretation of the Act achieves the opposite.
The court found: The Minister's interpretation is incorrect. The Act must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with constitutional values and protection of property rights.
Sakeliga argued: The Minister's interpretation of the Act is legally untenable, because it implies that weapons seized, for example due to negligence, are eligible for new license applications, but that weapons that have been used correctly but licenses not timeously renewed and thus voluntarily surrendered, are not and must be destroyed.
The court found: A distinction is not to be drawn between the methods through which the police deprive possession of weapons. Regardless of the circumstances under which possession is forfeited (voluntary surrender or seizure), firearms owners are entitled to an opportunity to restore legal possession of their weapons by applying for new licenses.
Sakeliga argued: The destruction of weapons that are otherwise susceptible to licensing but whose licenses have simply not been renewed in a timely manner amounts to a formalistic approach that is economically unsustainable for firearms owners.
The court found: It is neither sensible nor businesslike for the Minister to interpret the Act as if a firearm owner who handed in weapons to the police, due to expired licenses, may not apply for new licenses.