Reeva foundation joins call to get guns out of abusive homes

Cape Town - The Reeva Steenkamp Foundation has joined a Women's Month call for victims of domestic violence to have guns in the home legally removed for their own safety.

''Unfortunately in today’s times, the message has to be harsh in order for people to listen," said Kim Martin, CEO of the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation in a joint statement on Tuesday to mark Women's Month.

"The mere threat of a gun in the home is abuse in itself and will have devastating long term effects on a family,” she said.

Kim's cousin, law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, was murdered by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius on Valentine's Day in 2013.

The celebrated paralympic athlete admitted to shooting her four times while she was in the bathroom of his home in Pretoria. He pleaded not guilty and said he thought that the noise he heard before firing through the door was an intruder about to attack them.

He was originally convicted of culpable homicide, but the State appealed successfully and it changed to murder with a six-year jail sentence.

The foundation was set up in Steenkamp's name to focus on preventing domestic violence and abuse and to provide support to victims in line with Steenkamp's dream to open a safe house for abused women.

It has joined forces with lobbyists Gun Free South Africa (GFSA), Black Girl Fat Girl Magazine and Sonke Gender Justice to highlight the risks that guns pose to women in their homes.

According to GFSA, guns are supposedly brought into homes to protect the family. However, they are also brought out in some homes to threaten a woman into submission, sometimes resulting in death.

The organisations decided that the way to help prevent this is to remove guns from homes like these.

''Under the Firearms Control Act, it is a right for any woman who lives in fear of violence in her home to ask the police to remove the gun immediately,'' said GFSA.

''Furthermore, obtaining a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act allows the courts to remove guns and other dangerous weapons in domestic violence situations.''

The organisations called on society to resist violence against women with the same vigour that the women of the 1956 anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria showed and to get guns out of dangerous homes.

GFSA said guns can be removed not just over abuse, but also if the owner is feeling depressed or suicidal.

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