The SAPS has blamed the Covid-19 pandemic as the leading cause of delays in processing firearm licence applications.
“The South African Police Service Central Firearm Registry confirms that firearm license applications have been delayed due to various reasons, with the Covid-19 pandemic being the leading one,” SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said on Monday.
“The South African Police Service (SAPS) like any other Government Department is equally affected by the surging Covid-19 pandemic. This situation has resulted in unexpected consequences on the service delivery front,” Naidu said.
Police forced to self-isolate
Naidu said employees had to frequently self-isolate after testing positive for the virus or coming into contact with others who had tested positive. He said the SAPS had not been spared from this reality.
“In compliance with the National Disaster Management Regulations as well as 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,” Naidu said.
Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, approached Parliament with a request for the declaration of another firearm amnesty period after the amnesty that was effective from 1 December 2019 ended on 31 May 2020. Parliament approved the request and a second amnesty period of six months commenced from 1 August 2020 until 31 January 2021.
Naidu said applications for licences in respect of surrendered firearms during the amnesty period had 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 requires an entirely different process to that of a normal renewal of licences which inevitably prolongs the turn-around time for their finalisation,” he said.
Measures to deal with backlog
He said the SAPS had put measures in place to mitigate the backlog but the organisation had to ensure strict Covid-19 health protocols were observed.
“In the light of this situation, the turn-around 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 to 120 working days,” he said.
Naidu urged firearm licence applicants to be patient and to allow the SAPS to do due diligence in administering applications.
“Everything possible is being done to process these applications within the new 120 working days turn-around time,” Naidu said.
How to file a query about an application
Naidu added that enquiries about outstanding applications should be 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,” he said.