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Zuma wants fewer guns, but will he pay for them?

Zuma wants fewer guns, but will he pay for them?

Jacob Zuma believes guns are a problem. There's an easy solution to that problem (if it is a problem), which begs the question: will his government implement it?

Thanks to an SABC report we know that President Jacob Zuma on the weekend talked about gun control, or the need for it, in positive terms. Citizens have too many guns, he reportedly said. “We need to look at the law whether we should all have guns. Some people have guns and criminals take them and they even take them from the police. So, having so many guns actually helps criminals.”

Whether or not he is right in those sentiments is the kind of thing that anti-gun lobbyists and gun enthusiasts can hotly debate, complete with competing statistics and examples.

South Africa is beyond the point of debate, however. The Firearms Control Act and related regulation has already implemented quite draconian limits on how many weapons an individual may own, tightened up the process of obtaining a gun license and generally discouraged the sale or ownership of anything that uses gunpowder.

The constitutionality of that legislation is yet to be determined; hunters and other gun owners believe there is strong case for their rights being infringed. The biggest immediate hurdle for implementation of the rules, however, has been the issue of  compensation. The state is effectively seeking to expropriate firearms (or the right to own them, which comes down to much the same thing) without paying those who lose their property. That is clearly not on, even if the property in question is deemed dangerous by society as a whole.

When considering the issue of compensation, Zuma may also want to take into account the history of gun amnesties and buy-back schemes, both in South Africa and around the world. Such campaigns are invariably successful and combining the two (especially in the midst of a recession) is a sure-fire way to take guns out of private hands. And a cheap way to dent crime figures – if Zuma is right and guns are to blame.

By Phillip de Wet

Read more: SABC

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