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Gun Control in South Africa

, August 29, 2006

Re: A Drop in the Ocean: Dealing With Gun Violence in South Africa

To the Editor:

Your correspondent correctly identifies the root cause of the problem, as being illegal guns smuggled into South Africa for sale on the street from Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe by illegal arms dealers.

A further source of illegal arms are the thousands of guns "lost" by the South African Police Service and by the South African Defence Force as has been well documented by Gun Free SA and by the Gun Control Alliance.

He then, unfortunately, descends into the realm of fiction.

It is all very well to report that thousands of legal firearms were stolen in 2001. He should also note that statistics show most of those stolen firearms were recovered.

His allegation that 16-year olds are licenced to carry legal firearms is laughable. If that is true, it can only be a tiny, tiny handful of people since the South African Firearms Control Act contains strict provisions that prevent anyone under 21 years old from owning or even carrying a licenced firearm unless they can prove exceptional circumstances — such as an 18-year old who is working as a game ranger.

If it is true that "more than 26 000 convicted criminals own licenced firearms" then he should take this up with the Ministers of Justice and of Safety and Security since the law requires both the courts and the Central Firearms Registrar to cancel all existing firearm licences if the individual is convicted of a wide range of crimes which include domestic violence.

I find it extremely hard to understand how he could make the incredible statement that, "it is easy to obtain a gun in South Africa." He is correct regarding illegal guns from a street dealer but that is not what he implies. He suggests that is it easy to obtain a legal, licenced firearm.

The process of obtaining a firearm licence in South Africa involves, amongst other things, passing a competency test on the practical use of a firearm and on firearm law; using that competency certificate to obtain a police competency certificate; a physical inspection of your firearm safe; interviewing of your character references and of your wife; finding out why you should own a firearm in general, and why you should own that particular one for which you are applying; and proving that you have not been convicted of or are even being investigated for fraud, drug offences, public violence or domestic violence.

The entire process from your first application to actually being issued a firearm licence usually takes 12 months and can take up to 2 years. I speak from personal experience, both that of my own and that of many of my acquaintances.

Your correspondent is welcome to test the process for himself.

Finally, the comment quoted of BH Cele, the Kwazulu-Natal MEC for Safety and Security that he wishes to "discourage children from buying toy guns" is reminiscent of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. With all due respect to the honourable MEC, his efforts as a senior public servant attempting to bring down crime levels in South Africa would be far more usefully directed at removing illegal, unlicenced guns from the hands of violent criminals than they would be in telling 8-year old boys that must not play cops and robbers with their cap guns.

Chas Lotter
Centurion, South Africa

To the Editor:

The old and worn out excuse that "guns cause crime" in South Africa has been played to death. Many South Africans are beginning to see that gun control is a farce and that gun control will not turn violent thugs into angels.

Your article also claims that the member of the executive council (M.E.C.) for safety and security in Kwazulu-Natal, B. H. Cele, stated that "discouraging children from buying toy guns, and promoting a peaceful and gun-free society," as what South Africans should work towards.

This kind of rhetoric from political 'spokesdroids' exposes the harsh reality that we all have known for the past decade in this country; and that is that the ANC government is incapable of dealing with the true cause of crime which is the human thug; the criminal. More commonly known as a "Tsotsi."

Upon realizing that arresting and punishing real criminals for the deeds of crime is an impossible task for an incompetent and useless government with its equally useless administration of Justice, Safety and Security, the ANC has chosen to deflect attention away from this inability and proceeds to chase inanimate objects instead as a viable alternative. A sort of "we can at least do this, since we are useless in other avenues" scenario.

Instead the same incompetent Government chooses to chase an easier target. That of legal gun owners and their personal property. The ANC has to be seen to "be doing something about crime." Since the ANC cannot solve the crime problem by arresting criminals, it has chosen to deprive people of their property instead as an easier alternative. For the ANC, this is easier (and preferable) than finding and arresting criminals. It also fits in nicely with the ANC's communist and socialist agenda.

Despite worldwide evidence of the failure of gun control and despite the success of the U.S.A. in reducing gun crimes by scrapping gun control laws, the ANC continues to chase and back a dead horse in the form of gun control. Finding and arresting real criminals is akin to backing a winning horse, yet the ANC is hell-bent on wasting our tax money on failed social experiments in the form of gun control and the continued backing of a dead horse.

One is hard pressed to find a success story of how gun control has eliminated violent crime in Western society. The U.K., Australia and Canada all experimented with gun control laws and found that disarming the victims of crime through gun control actually worsened the problem of violent crime. It served to do nothing other than to provide the criminals with safe working environments by presenting unarmed victims to the delight of criminals.

Remarkably, the Canadians saw some sanity and talked of doing away with the expensive and useless long gun registry which was proven to be a failure.

However, the WorldPress.org attempts to pull the wool over our eyes by allowing 'Gun Free South Africa' to state its fraudulent claims in the article, unopposed, while the pro-gun lobby, consisting of several groups, was not asked for comment on the subject of gun ownership for the sake of balance and professionalism on this website.

Emilio Halepopoulos
Johannesburg, South Africa

To the Editor:

I would like to make the following comments. The writer is correct in the assumption that illegal firearms are a problem; however there are several statements that need clarification.

Firearm licenses are not easy to obtain, I have been waiting for over 2 years for a hunting rifle license, with no idea as to when it will be granted or refused. Furthermore, the firearm laws are very restrictive and it is virtually impossible to obtain a license, even if one meets all the requirements as prescribed by the Act.

I for one am sick and tired of hearing the old adage that "guns kill." Guns don't kill; people kill, be it with a knife, baseball bat or firearm! People kill!

Why can't children grow up playing cops and robbers with toy guns? I did as a child and I am not a brutal, gun wielding maniac. I am sure this applies to millions of other children throughout the world! No sir, criminals will always be criminals and you cannot blame firearms for their actions.

Furthermore, the source of illegal firearms is from within the government organizations; the army, police services and from the conflict within and around South Africa prior to 1992, not only from stolen, legally owned firearms. Yes, its true, legally owned firearms are stolen, but most are recovered, however, no mention is made of this!

It's ironic that you state that Gun Free South Africa is a non-government organization, yet they receive government funding. Furthermore, nothing can be further from the truth as far as their representation, claiming that they represent the majority of South African's feelings about firearms. The majority of GFSA members are non South Africans, who are just hired mercenaries, doing what mercenaries do best. ... paid to do a job! No one knows their true numbers, but we always hear from the same representatives from within the group and they certainly do not represent the majority of South Africans.

South Africans are sick and tired of crime, yet we are faced with inept officials who do nothing about it yet make profound statements "that we should stop whining about crime, or just leave the country," or better still, that "we must stand up against crime." These comments were from Charles Nqakula, minister for safety and security, the self same minister who is using the Firearms Control Act to disarm citizens of their legal firearms, yet does nothing to stop the flood of crime and illegal firearms. This begs the question, with what should we fight crime?

Gary Hagemann
Johannesburg, South Africa

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