After June 30 2009 an awful lot of people could theoretically be prosecuted for having failed even to apply to have their (lifetime) firearms licence renewed. From January 2005 to April 2007 only 242 000 applied, of perhaps 2.5m owners (including state departments and the security industry) of about 4m ‘formerly legal’ guns. Not so surprising since it takes forever to receive a new licence and some are being refused. Since those born during January to June should have applied before 2007, over a million gun owners must have already chosen to ignore the Firearms Control Act. They may be hoping government has lost their details, and that they will never have to actually shoot anyone in self-defence. If SAPS ever tried rounding up such an ‘army’ of harmless but determined innocents, the fiasco could make endemic victimless motoring scofflawry look quite trivial. The situation is both result and symptom of police incapacity. Some pragmatic backtracking and tiptoeing around an armed and insecure citizenry may be required. Meanwhile spare a thought for millions more of the currently unarmed who would defend themselves but simply can’t get legal licence or weapon. Helpless prey, except that thanks to millions of quiet gun-owners the predators can’t tell who’s armless.