Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Too many guns' in South Africa?

Following Zuma's recent comments that the country is "too armed", asked readers to share their opinions on guns in South Africa.

Gerard Schultz

Is gun control required in SA? Absolutely yes. The SAPS statistics have proved year after year, for more than two decades, that 99.95 percent of gun-related crimes are committed with unlicensed weapons.

That leaves 0.05 percent of gun-related crimes committed with licensed weapons. We must work tirelessly to rid SA of the scourge of crimes committed with unlicensed guns. When we have solved 99.95 percent of the problem, we can decide what to do about the remaining 0.05 percent.

No logical person should even be thinking about the 0.05 percent end of the problem before the 99.95 percent side is completely under control. Starting by addressing law abiding gun owners reeks of an agenda that does not go to crime control. Spending hundreds of millions to put in place a new Firearms Control Act, regulating licensed guns (the 0.05 percent section) and then wringing one's hands in despair when the 99.95 percent bit is not paying attention, is stupidity.

Huge successes have been recorded in some states in the USA with some simple laws.

When sentence is handed down for any crime, that sentence is doubled if the crime was committed with a firearm.

Some areas require gun ownership by all who are not disqualified. Crime has plummeted in those areas. The third time a criminal is convicted of a violent crime it carries a life sentence without parole.

Simple, all that is required is the will to do it.

Jim Shafer

I wonder how many times the following must be said? When gun ownership is against the law only the criminals will have guns.

Citizens must always be prepared to protect themselves since the local and national police forces cannot. Here in the United States, the two cities with the strictest gun laws (Chicago and New York) are where a citizen is most likely to get shot or victimized.

I prefer being able to protect myself rather than depending on an undermanned, underfinanced police force.

Johan Wessels

Ruger, a firearms company in the USA, used to include bumper stickers with the sale of their handguns that said: "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will own guns".

This is still true. With the collapsing law enforcement system in SA (read police, courts and correctional services) this is evident today.

Another point in history is prohibition during the 1930s in the US. If you drive some 'evil' out (read underground) you will not be able to manage it, and it will come back and bite you. The problem is not the system but the people in the system. There is no liability and accountability, they always blame someone or something else. It is now guns.

Guns do not kill, people kill with guns!

William Andrew Alexander

The criminal element in South Africa is typically armed with the ubiquitous AK47. The AK has never been a weapon that could be purchased by the general public, some examples are in the hands of collectors, but the bulk of these weapons are remnants of the various past and present conflicts on the African continent.

Law-abiding citizens are not the only source of arms for the criminal. I would like to know how many firearms have been stolen or lost from the state. We need real facts to pinpoint the source of the 'criminal gun'. We can then track the origin of each weapon used in criminal activity.

Let's start looking at this tally.

Case van Hattem

There can be no doubt that the people behind the guns are the problem. Statistics shows that an enormous number of police firearms are 'liberated' compared to those stolen from the public. This fact is not often put on display and is NEVER revealed by politicians and police officials. The number of civilians (and policemen and security officials, for that matter) shot by criminals vs the number of criminals shot is also not common knowledge. Both statistics would destroy any vestige of credibility that the police and politicians have regarding the reduction in guns owned. What is important is guns possessed, not guns legally owned! If the majority of stolen guns are not taken from the civilians, why penalise us? It is a cold fact that the police cannot protect all of the people, and we do not realistically expect that they will ever be able to. So what justification is there for taking our own means of protection away? Then, as an absolute show stopper, why does nobody talk about the massive arms smuggling business into South Africa across all borders? We have thousands of kilometres of borders - land and sea - and they are as porous as a colander. Guns flow through them every single day and night. And the authorities want to take guns out of the hands of responsible civilians and potential victims? Mr Zuma needs to realise that we now have far more black gun owners, who prior to 1994 had to defend themselves with sticks and cane knives. They are even more at risk than the white population, who live in safer areas. Is he going to disarm people preferentially? Or disarm everyone regardless? Either way, he is looking for a fight second to none and will start a prohibition-type scenario but with illegal guns, instead of liquor. I personally would rather face a court of law after protecting myself with an illegal gun than face a coffin lid!

Rikkie Schonken

# A few (admittedly one is one too many) policemen get killed in the line of duty and our president calls on policemen and women to shoot to kill. I have no problem with that, provided the police officer exercises due judgment, that the attack on him/her was life-threatening and that the attack was in process or imminent (the test for a plea of 'self defence'). Now the same president says that there are 'too many guns in circulation'. Clearly he is referring to legally licensed, privately-owned firearms. I'm confused now and would like to ask a couple of questions to try to clarify this: In the last year, how many legally licensed civilian firearms were used in the execution of a crime?

# In the last year, how many SAPS/SANDF firearms were used in the execution of a crime?
# In the last year, how many legally licensed civilian firearms were lost/stolen/misplaced?
# the last year, how many SAPS/SANDF firearms were lost/stolen/misplaced?
# In the last year, how many SAPS members died at the hands of armed criminals?
# In the last year, how many civilians died at the hands of armed criminals?
# Why is it that our president places a higher value on a police officer's life than that of a law-abiding citizen? And finally: could it be that our president is trying to tell us something?


I am panicky at the thought of policeman randomly shooting at people and all that they need to do to get away with it is to make sure that by the time someone else gets on the scene there is a gun in the dead person's hands! The thought that we are clearly being unarmed (or an attempt is being made by the government to unarm their citizens), while giving police forces power to shoot at anyone, makes me even more uneasy. How easy will it not be for a government to oppress their citizens if the government has the guns and the citizens may not have any? There are better ways of dealing with the problem. For instance: why not rather look at the current judicial system and the reasons why so many criminals are caught time after time. If the same person gets caught twice, why are they even considered for parole? What will happen tomorrow?

3 Opinion(s):

TerenceD said...

Too few guns in SA if you ask me, too few guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. We need the castle doctrine and we need it fast!

Martin2 said...

Pretty vague accusation that; "the country is too armed". I'd tend to agree though, given that SANDF and SAPS hold approximately 2.5 million guns; (Source: Snr Sup't Andrew Lesch, CFR spokesperson in 2004 at a SASA /CFR breakfast). -Thats about ten guns each per SANDF/ SAPS member. Then there's the million or so confiscated from legal owners over the last four years. Then there's the 40 tons of weapons that the ANC smuggled in during Operation Overland during the apartheid era; (Wiki/ Google it), then the ten thousand or so guns lost by SAPS in a recent two year period. Given that none of these weapons are audited, by anyone, I'd agree there are FAR TOO MANY guns in 'unaccountable' hands, wouldn't you Mr President.

Martin Hedington.
Research assistant & Admin: Black Gun Owners Association of South Africa.

FishEagle said...

Martin2, no can argue with those facts.