Each year, 9 July marks the UN’s Gun Destruction Day, which aims to raise awareness about the amount of illegal firearms that end up fuelling crime across the world. The timing could not be more poignant in South Africa, following a brutal weekend of gangland violence in Cape Town.
A total of 13 people were murdered over the course of two days in Philippi – a bloodbath which has since prompted government intervention from Minister of Police Bheki Cele. The area is blighted by gangsterism, and locals have been protesting against their dire living conditions since the beginning of last month.
Gun crime in South Africa and murder rates
Gun Free SA – a lobby group which advocates the removal of guns for public use – believe that the destruction of all unlicensed firearms would see the murder rate in South Africa drop dramatically. Heaven knows this country needs intervention too: In 2009, 18 people were shot and killed per day – a decade later, that figure now stands at 23 people.
It has also been revealed that almost 24 guns per day were “lost or stolen” in South Africa during the 2017/18 financial year. Gun Free SA Director Adèle Kirsten says stark figures like these are unacceptable and insisted that the only way to limit crime is to “destroy all excess and unwanted firearms”:
“It is globally recognised that destroying excess, unwanted and recovered firearms, ammunition and firearm parts is the only way to guarantee that these are not leaked into the illegal pool of weapons. By not destroying these guns, the police fail the public and South Africa as a whole.”
“The result of this loss of confidence is that members of the public with unwanted guns are less likely to hand them into the police for destruction. Instead, they remain in people’s home, where they can be used in domestic violence and suicide or be stolen by house robbers.”
Guns do kill people…
The call for action has never been louder. The last six months have been a nightmare for the Western Cape, and local forces have been able to keep a lid on the violence that has erupted in the more deprived areas of the province. The numbers are speaking for themselves right now:
- Recent estimates suggest up to 60 000 firearms are unaccounted for in South Africa.
- Almost 2 000 people have been killed by gun violence in the Cape alone during 2019.
- Six women were killed in a single shooting incident over the weekend in Philippi.
How to regulate firearms in Mzansi
Gun Free SA have made submissions to get the laws changed in South Africa regarding the ownership of firearms. They demand that all guns are marked, independently verified, and added to a comprehensive database linking them to an owner. Any that can’t be vouched for, they suggest, should be destroyed.
Meanwhile, we also got a response from those on the other side of the fence. Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA) represent the citizens of Mzansi who want to protect the ownership of their guns at all costs. They have previously expressed concerns about other draft laws, which seek to limit using firearms in self-defence.
Tim Flack, the media officer for the group, lambasted Gun Free SA for their stance. He made it clear to us that “removing the ‘gun’ from ‘gun violence’ still leaves us with ‘violence’”. He also claimed their last amnesty caused a surge towards illegal gun sales, thus exacerbating the problem. There’s no love lost between the two organisations:
“It is incredibly sad that so many people were murdered this weekend in Philippi. But it’s not a gun problem. Cape Town has a gang problem, it has for decades. There are three million law-abiding citizens of this country that own firearms.”
“We are not criminals. We are ordinary people, but some hold us responsible for the actions of criminals and who are a law unto themselves. [Gun Free SA] are just too self-righteous and ignorant to believe that there may be another way to approach this that’s more effective than gun control.”