In light of the recent tragic shooting by renowned paralympic Olympian, Oscar Pistorius of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I feel the time is right to pen these few words relating to firearm ownership in South Africa.
Some people seem to want to pin the blame for this tragedy on the firearm itself or on the notion that civilians may legally own firearms, as I expect was the case with Pistorius - certainly I have seen nothing to suggest the weapon used was not a legally-owned and licenced firearm.Until we learn the true facts of the Pistorius case I would not venture to suggest any reasons for or causes of this shooting, nor speculate on the circumstances - save to say that, if you own a gun, then you had better have excellent control of yourself in all aspects and all situations. Guns and emotion do not sit well together and as a gun owner one must train the mind to obey this injunction at all times.
The law as it stands
As a long-time gun-owner myself I believe that ownership of a firearm for defensive or other legal purposes such as hunting, sport shooting etc is fully justified for all citizens who qualify in terms of the numerous, and onerous, parameters which one must meet, in terms of present firearms law.
These parameters seek to ensure that a gun-owner is of sound mind, with no criminal record and is competent in the handling of the firearm and of the law relating to uses of a firearm. Most licences are issued for a period of 5 years and must be renewed every 5 years. "Dedicated" owners such as sport-shooters, hunters etc may obtain a renewable licence for a longer period of 10 years after proving their status as a shooting-club member, regular hunter etc.
A 'gun-culture in SA' - hardly!
Short of an outright, and impossible to enforce, ban on all firearms, we have one of the most stringent laws governing ownership of guns in the world.
The facts of gun ownership are in truth, rather different to the perception of many people unfamiliar with guns, who seem to believe that gun-owners are a bunch of trigger happy yahoos, just itching to shoot someone! I would suggest that 99% of the approximately 2 million licenced owners in SA are responsible people who have accepted the burden of responsibility which ownership implies and who exercise that responsibility diligently and daily.In terms of the draconian punishments provided for in the FCA of 2000, I would suggest that they continue to do so!
As stated some years ago in answer to a Parliamentary question, the then Minister of Safety and Security answered that "The figures for crimes committed with their firearms, by licenced gun-owners are statistically insignificant." If there were really a threat by licenced gun-owners to others in terms of violent crime etc, then there would exist detailed statistics. However there are so few cases it is in fact impossible to statistically quantify.
Statistically SA has fewer guns un private legitimate hands than many other countries - like the US, Yemen, Finland, The EU States and Uruguay. In SA only about in 1 in 20 households is a licenced gun present. In households where criminals abide, who knows? - certainly not the government or the SAPS!
The Anti-Gun lobby in SA
The anti-gun lobby is represented in South Africa by Gun Free SA, a unit of the United Nations global campaign against armed citizens which began in the early 1990s under the false flag of limiting trafficking and trade in small arms related to the numerous small wars in many parts of the world. This campaign has 700 NGOs worldwide like GFSA, all financed and supported mostly from various foreign-to-SA sources, many of which remain shrouded in a veil of secrecy! Why?
Gun Free South Africa is a small organisation of perhaps 10 or less key management people, possibly not even working full-time these days, supported by a small numbers of employees and volunteers, dedicated to removing the right to private ownership of guns from all citizens of South Africa.
They are a part of the UN-led "coalition against small arms" and have managed during the 1990s to prevail upon and influence the government of SA to enact draconian laws, which on the face of it allow firearm ownership under strict conditions, but actually suppress the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms through the imposition of excessive costs and other onerous and sometimes unreasonable requirements. As their title states, it is their ambition to see a gun-free SA, against the expressed wishes and constitutional right-to-life and right-to-property-ownership of every legitimate gun-owner.
GFSA has not been elected by anybody in SA - their mandate to pursue these objectives comes not from South Africa, not it's government nor it's people - but from the United Nations and various UN and UN-created and funded bodies aligned to the same objectives - these objectives are sought worldwide by such bodies, as part of a global anti-gun campaign.
Regrettably Gun Free South Africa, and indeed the whole anti-gun movement started by the UN some years ago, has designed a programme which is extremely dangerous to honest people and extremely friendly to violent criminals.
Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) was formed in 1994 with the stated aim of reducing the number of firearms in South African society.
What is this global campaign against arms?
The stated strategic objectives of Gun Free South Africa are:
- To reduce the demand for and use of guns by young people.
- To increased popular support for the reduction of firearms.
- Effective and strict implementation of the Firearms Control Act.
- To reduce the use of firearms in gender based and inter-personal violence in selected high-risk communities working with GFSA.
They also say: "We are deeply concerned about the high levels of gun violence in South Africa and the effects that this has on human life, on human security, on social capital, and on transformation and development. We believe that the best solution would be the abolition of civilian firearm ownership. However, we see the Firearms Control Act (FCA) as an important tool for reducing gun violence. Research shows that it has already made a major contribution in reducing gun-related violence in this country."
Their stated vision includes: "A South Africa where there will be no need for anyone to own or carry a firearm."
Sounds reasonable to any right-thinking person, doesn't it? But the padding in these statements does nothing to obscure the central truth of what GFSA is all about - "We believe that the best solution would be the abolition of civilian firearm ownership" - and by degrees and increments this is what they are working to achieve.
But where in all the fine words of GFSA is there mention of any attempts to control the illegal use of guns by criminals who smuggle those guns from Mozambique and other nearby territories, or who use stolen guns? Why focus on legitimate and law-abiding owners? Perhaps it is simply too difficult to control anyone else, since the law-abiding tend to allow themselves to obey laws whilst criminals do not.
"He who goes unarmed in paradise had better be sure that that is where he is." — James Thurber
Unfortunately we have not yet reached that utopian condition of paradise in South Africa - indeed the current tidal wave of crime, ongoing and unabating now since shortly after democracy arrived, tells us that we are a long way off achieving even a semblance of that! None of these realities seems to touch or moderate the agenda of the ostrich-like gun control and disarmament lobby to instead safeguard the interests of law-abiding citizens wishing to ensure that they are prepared for defence against violent criminal attack.
The vision they espouse of "A South Africa where there will be no need for anyone to own or carry a firearm." would indicate that they expect that there may come a time when criminals have somehow disappeared from society entirely, thus no need for defensive firearms - or is it perhaps that they foresee a time when the police are able to individually protect each and every citizen as he or she goes about their lives - like having your own bodyguard, perhaps? Or more ominously do they foresee a time when defensive use of a firearm will in and of itself, as has been the case in the UK, be a criminal offence?
It is pretty clear to see the woolly thinking in all of this and the danger to the law-abiding - neither condition on which their "vision" rests can be achieved in any foreseeable short to medium term future of SA, although such statements do have emotional appeal on a quick reading. And thereby hangs the problem - the entire misguided UN - led anti-gun movement has been an appeal to emotions, without any foundation in reason and logic - or indeed in reasonableness.
In any event - what about the here and now? - daily violent crime reports demonstrate clearly how prevalent is gun-crime by criminal assailants using illegally held guns in SA - why then should the law-abiding be placed in danger through lack of the tools to offer powerful defence and protection?
Whatever utopian society may lie at some time in the future imaginings of GFSA people, that time is not here and not now - should that unlikely utopia ever arrive it will be solely through the efforts of decent citizens - not by disarming the law-abiding - but by DISARMING AND DEALING HARSHLY WITH CRIMINALS!
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