Armed and trained

2014-05-16 00:00

THE ongoing spate of business and house robberies, as well as armed hijackings, are enough to persuade many ordinary citizens to get a firearm (legally).

Once these firearms are acquired, utmost caution must be exercised. Exercising caution is necessary to avoid the weapon being used against you by the criminals you are trying to protect yourself against.

Many people have been victimised, and many more than once. In an attempt to protect themselves, the rich have resorted to living behind high walls and their areas are manned by security firms, with guard houses located in strategic positions.

I have lost count of the number of crimes that I know of, that have been committed in various parts of the city’s suburbs and townships in the past two months, with criminals using an assortment of firearms, from pistols to high-powered assault rifles.

The victims are left feeling traumatised, blaming themselves for not doing more to protect themselves and their families.

Security companies and the police must be credited for the sterling work they do in apprehending these bandits. The disturbing part is that the crimes continue unabated, as suspects are arrested today, but tomorrow you hear about another armed robbery, committed somewhere else, if not in the same area.

Last month, a Chatsworth resident’s Mercedes-Benz was taken at gunpoint from his home. The old man blames himself for being caught off-guard. The thugs used his vehicle as a getaway car in a house robbery somewhere else and they were caught on the N2 in a high-speed chase. When informed of the arrests, the vehicle owner, Mothichan Rajbansi, said he would love to do to the thugs what they had done to him — point a gun at their heads. Rajbansi said that had the thugs not caught him off-guard, they would not have been able to steal his car.

People should treat their firearms as they treat their cellphones — carry them wherever they go.

The situation is so bad that Professor Johan Ras, a criminologist and acting head of criminal justice at the University of Zululand, said the spate of armed robberies and house break-ins are a wake-up call for residents to go for shooting lessons. He said the criminals’ mind-set is that the suburbs are where the money is, and they know that residents rely on the police and security companies. If 10 criminals pull off a job and get away with R1 million, they are likely to go back for more because the R100 000 share is not enough.

Ras said: “To be on the safe side, go for firearm training and once you have the gun, exercise caution to ensure that it helps you, and doesn’t put you in danger.”

Like the professor said, people who take that route must exercise extra caution so as not to become victims of their own guns. No one deserves to feel imprisoned in his or her own home. Nor should people have to look constantly over their shoulders when they are shopping or on an outing with family.

Gun ownership is a calculated defence measure against victimisation, a measure that should be carried out in a manner that ensures that all in the immediate area where a crime is committed are not caught in the crossfire.

Another stumbling block to reducing violent crimes is the suspicion of police involvement in certain criminal activities. In a recent incident where four armed thugs were arrested, police radios, reflector vests and R5 magazines were found in their car.

An R5 magazine can only feed an R5 rifle, which is a police and army weapon. This does not mean that the police service is toothless, as some would argue. The problem is a few individuals who don’t take pride in their role in law enforcement.

The National Firearms Forum (NFF) contends that less than one percent of privately held guns are stolen in any one year. The forum notes that “the government’s own security services have been a far greater source of stolen firearms than the private sector”.

The NFF also says that only one out of 200 armed offences are committed with a licensed gun, clearly indicating that the legal ownership of firearms is not a significant source of weapons for criminals.

A study commissioned by Gun-Free South Africa, specifically to show the negligence of firearms owners, failed to produce any evidence of negligence.

This indicates that there is no reason why people can’t arm themselves and become trained in handling a firearm.

The sooner the better, for you don’t know when the bandits will strike.

• Chris Ndaliso is a reporter at The Witness.

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