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Those with anxiety shouldn't have guns, says Pistorius witness

Devereaux Morkel

Speaking at the trial of Oscar Pistorius, a psychiatrist has told a court that firearms are what makes people with general anxiety disorder dangerous.

Athlete Oscar Pistorius at the high court in Pretoria. (AFP)

People with general anxiety disorder, like murder-accused Oscar Pistorius, are not dangerous but should not have firearms, the high court in Pretoria heard on Tuesday.

“People with general anxiety disorder are not dangerous as such. People with general anxiety disorder probably shouldn’t have firearms, that’s what makes them dangerous,” defence witness, forensic psychiatrist Merryll Vorster said during cross examination by prosecutor Gerrie Nel. 

“So many people in society have general anxiety disorder, but they are not threats as such. So the diagnosis as such is not one where one would associate [them] with violence.” 

She said such people were often at risk of obtaining firearms because they feared for their safety. Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He shot her dead through the locked door of his toilet in his Pretoria home on February 14 last year. 

He has denied guilt, saying he thought she was an intruder about to open the door and attack him. The state contends he shot her during an argument. Vorster told the court she looked at the defence’s version of what happened, but said she would not be able to say which version the court would accept. 

‘Anxiety disorder and the vulnerability’
She said she did not look at the state’s version. She was given a transcript of Pistorius’s version but did not go through it because “it is not necessarily the version that the court would accept”. 

Nel asked Vorster if the state’s version would affect her view or diagnosis. “No it wouldn’t have made a difference because the diagnosis stays constant. Two factors that are constant is the anxiety disorder and the vulnerability [of Pistorius],” she said. 

Nel asked whether a person with general anxiety disorder would be anxious in a fight. Vorster said yes, more so than normal people. “Because the individual would be anxious about losing a relationship. If there had been an argument about a relationship a person with general anxiety disorder would have been anxious.” She agreed that the general anxiety disorder would have played a role. 

Pistorius is also charged with three contraventions of the Firearms Control Act – one of illegal possession of ammunition and two of discharging a firearm in public. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges as well. – Sapa

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