'Ask the hard questions': Gun control and your children

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"They should feel as comfortable asking about guns as they do about seat-belt use and inappropriate internet access."
"They should feel as comfortable asking about guns as they do about seat-belt use and inappropriate internet access."

The ready availability of guns has had serious consequences for all civilians, especially children.

A 2013* research study in South Africa showed that guns are one of the leading causes of death for children across the nation.

The research indicates that although gunshots have not overtaken stabbing as the primary cause of murder in children, they are still one of the primary causes of murder in the 15-17 age-group.

This can be attributed to poor gun control and weak gun laws within our country.

A comprehensive and coherent legal framework is essential to reduce gun availability and prevent armed violence. Legislation should prevent children and unauthorised or irresponsible users from having access to guns.

We need higher standards of gun control in place and limits placed on the types of guns allowed to different users.

Updates to existing laws

According to the United Nations, "The most successful gun laws rely on a robust system of licensing owners, registration of weapons and strong enforcement."

The draft legislation, the Firearms Amendment Bill of 2021, proposes tighter controls and management of firearms, and establishes a National Firearms Register.

The changes are aimed at reducing the number of firearms in private hands and associated incidents of violent crimes.

Also read: 'Curiosity can get the better of kids': Why your teen won't tell you they've seen suicide online 

Stricter gun ownership

The Bill also aims to improve the processing and control of firearms and the license application system.

More stringent firearm control legislation has gradually been implemented since 2000 to promote responsible ownership and possession of guns. The recent Bill is in line with these efforts.

The aim of the new Amendment Bill (soon to be Act) is to make gun ownership stricter and more difficult. Gun owners are already required by law to keep their guns and ammunition in a safe.  

Also read: 'It can seem as if they're dwelling on the loss': How to help your child cope with grief 

Mitigate the risks

The best way to mitigate the risks associated with a child’s visit to a house where there may be a gun present is to enquire about it.

Parents need to get into the habit of asking these hard questions.

They should feel as comfortable asking about guns as they do about seat-belt use and inappropriate internet access, two aspects of child safety now accepted as normal.

It is therefore important to ask the household your child is visiting about the presence of firearms and ensure any weapons are stowed away out of reach of children.

Fortunately, in recent years there's been a growing awareness about gun safety and the subject is no longer taboo.

Simon Dippenaar is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa and founder and director of private legal practice Simon Dippenaar & Associates.

*This article's stats were updated after publication.

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