The one question you didn't think to ask before a playdate that can save your child's life

"Before I go I should probably ask a few questions..."
"Before I go I should probably ask a few questions..."

Which questions are you asking before you drop your little one off for a play date?

“Thoughts on screen time?”
“All organic food?”

Yes, these are all very important questions. Real talk, though: Chances are they’re not as important as the “lifesaving” question you’re not asking before a play date…

Scary Mommy recently posted a video staring Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero, and while it seems like a spoof at first, we soon realise we’ve forgotten to ask the more pressing and probably lifesaving questions.

Also read: 10 rules for play dates

A recent research report conducted by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, reported on the number of fatalities as a result of a firearm for 2016. South Africa made the list at number 12 with a total 3 740 deaths. Ethiopia was the only other African country on the list. 

For the most part, firearm-related deaths are recorded as a result of homicides and suicides, but accidental injuries make up a whopping 9% of deaths, according to the research report. 

Truth is, in South Africa, many people have a gun in the home and in most cases it’s purely for self-defence. And while having a gun isn’t a specific constitutional right here as it is in the U.S., our Bill of Rights states, “Everyone has the right to bodily … integrity … which includes the right to security in and control over their body.”

Also read: Teens in America are calling “BS” on lawmakers, planning mass school walk-out after Parkland school mass shooting

So while owning a gun and having it in the home may be a personal preference, regardless of the statistics, constitutionally there’s nothing wrong with owning a gun, provided there are regulatory restrictions on firearm access, which we have in South Africa.

Requirements to owning a gun in South Africa

Despite what you may think you can’t just walk into a store (even a dimly lit one at the end of a dark alleyway) and legally buy a gun. There’s a specific procedure to follow laid out in the Firearm Control Act of 2000. They don’t make it very easy to acquire a gun.

In Chapter 2 of the Act it clearly states that no person may possess a firearm without a licence, permit, authorisation or registration certificate. News24 clarifies that, before even applying for a license, one must undergo prescribed training at an accredited training provider and obtain a competency certificate. There are a few more requirements and it only makes sense that you must:

  • be a South African citizen/permanent resident,
  • be at least 21 years old,
  • be mentally stable and fit,
  • not be addicted to drugs or alcohol,
  • have a background check – you can’t have a criminal record.

With reference to the your license to possess a firearm for self-defence specifically, the Act also states that one may only own any

(a) Shotgun which is not fully or semi-automatic; or
(b) Handgun which is not fully automatic.

No person may hold more than one licence issued in terms of this section.

Chapter 16 reiterates that the licence may only be issued, and the gun may only be used, “where it is safe to use” and if, and only if, the person “cannot reasonably satisfy that need [for self-defence] by means other than the possession of a firearm.”

The licence will be valid for no longer than five years.

Also read: 5 ways to have a happy playdate

When having a gun in the home, always remember:

The Act stipulates that, when stored, guns must be stored, along with the ammunition, in a safe or strongroom that conforms to the prescriptions of SABS Standard 953-1 and 953-2, at the place specified on the licence, authorisation and permit.

So when arranging the next playdate, go ahead, ask about the dangers of the brain-melting crack that is screen time and the s-word (sugar) and uncovered fish ponds or pools.  

But don’t forget to ask the lifesaving question: “Is your gun locked up?"

Chat back:

Do you have a gun in the home? How do you ensure it stays completely out of reach of the kids? Tell us by emailing and we may publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous. 

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