Comment and Analysis

Ten things about guns in South Africa

Mail & Guardian Correspondent

GunPolicy.org estimates that there are six million guns in South Africa, roughly 12 for every 100 people.

Pistorius used was a 9mm Parabellum to shoot Steenkamp. (AFP)

1. The shooting of Reeva Steenkamp by her boyfriend, Olympian athlete Oscar Pistorius, has put guns and gun ownership in South Africa in the spotlight again. The weapon used was a 9mm Parabellum.

2. In January, Pistorius applied for six more firearm licences. They were for three shotguns (a Maverick, a Winchester and a Mossberg), two revolvers (a Smith & Wesson 500 and a .38 Special) and a Vector .223 rifle.

3. GunPolicy.org estimates that there are six million guns in South Africa, roughly 12 for every 100 people. The latest (August 2011) figures from the Central Firearms Registry report about 2.9-million firearms registered to about 1.5-million owners. Anti-gun group Gun Free South Africa says this is a substantial decrease since 1994, when 3.5-million firearms were licensed to about 2.4-million individuals. The law allows an ordinary citizen to possess four guns. The military is estimated to have about 350000 guns and the police about 260 000.

4. The Firearms Control Act of 2000 made the qualifications for private gun ownership stricter than they had been, including a competency test. The law came into full effect in 2004. Gun Free South Africa said that gun-related deaths decreased by nearly half between 1999 and 2009.

5. Gun Free South Africa also says, however, that "Since 2012, trauma surgeons ... have noted a spike in gun injuries. The organisation believed this spike is related to the fast-tracking of gun licences after the minister of police promised in November 2010 to deal with a backlog of licences by mid-2011."

6. The law gave gun owners five years, from January 2005, to re­licence or surrender their guns. Police said 180000 guns had been surrendered by the end of 2009.

7. According to Gun Free South Africa, both South African and international statistics show that gun owners are four times more likely to have a firearm used against them than they are to use one successfully in self-defence.

8. The South African Gunowners' Association says it is more about the person than the gun, and that "education not regulation" is the key. It believes the claim that "gun control equals crime control" is false.

9. As a manufacturer of guns, South Africa is rated "medium" in size by GunPolicy.org.

10. According to the World Bank's Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City, the most recent study of the subject, the price of an illegal AK-47 in South Africa was $180 (about R1600 at current exchange rates). By contrast, an AK-47 cost about $500 on the American black market.

 

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