Maverick Citizen

Opinionista

Does the party you may vote for have a plan to deal with illegal guns used in crime?

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Adèle Kirsten is director of Gun Free South Africa.

Between 2020 and 2023, civilians reported the loss and theft of 16,486 guns, with the SAPS, SANDF and Correctional Services reporting a combined loss and theft of 2,381 guns, of which 85% were SAPS service pistols. On average, 24 guns enter the criminal market every day.

South Africa has a gun violence epidemic: 34 people are shot and killed every day. All of us are affected by the high levels of violent crime in our society. As we go to the polls on Wednesday, 29 May, we can make our mark for a safer, more prosperous country. Does the political party you want to vote for have a plan to combat the rising levels of gun violence in South Africa? 

While almost all major political parties include addressing violent crime in their 2024 election manifestos, most don’t mention gun control, even though guns are the leading weapon used in murder and attempted murder. 

The few political parties that do mention guns in their manifestos suggest that the solution to violent crime is to deal with illegal guns. Are they right?

Most gun-related crime in SA is committed using illegal guns, thus a key focus of effective gun control  must be the recovery and destruction of illegal guns already in circulation. By their nature, illegal guns are outside any control, which makes them highly valued by criminals and the weapon of choice to commit violent crime. 

Guns are a hardy, sought-after commodity, easy to conceal and move rapidly from hand to hand in the criminal underworld enabling multiple gun-related crimes to be committed using the same gun (For example, Maygene de Wee, Beeld, 16 July 2016: “Moordpad van één gesteelde pistol: 15 mense doodgeskiet binne ’n paar maande” [“Murder path of one stolen pistol: 15 people shot dead within two months”].

Guns are also more lethal: one in three people who are shot will die, in contrast to one in 55 people who are stabbed will die. Reducing the circulation of illegal guns will help reduce violent crime. The most effective way to do that is to establish dedicated intelligence-driven specialist firearms units in SAPS to recover the guns, trace their sources and then send them for destruction so that they are permanently removed from our society.

While mopping up the illegal guns in our homes and on our streets is a crucial step to reducing gun violence, it is not enough, as it stops short of addressing the sources of these crime guns. The latest available information shows that most crime guns were once legal. 

There are three main ways that legal guns feed violent crime in SA, providing a steady source of crime guns. 

Loss and theft

The most common and biggest source of crime guns is loss and theft of licensed guns. These are guns legally held by the government as in the police, military, Correctional Services and other government departments, the private security industry and private individuals. 

Between 2020 and 2023, civilians reported the loss and theft of 16,486 guns, with the SAPS, SANDF and Correctional Services reporting a combined loss and theft of 2,381 guns, of which 85% were SAPS service pistols. On average 24 guns enter the criminal market every single day. 

Other ways in which guns move into criminal hands is through fraud and corruption involving the police, businesses such as gun dealers and private security companies, and individuals. 

And third, crimes such as intimate femicide-suicide, where a man licensed to possess a gun uses his legal gun to kill his wife or girlfriend (current or previous) and himself. 

To reduce violent crime in SA, we need to close the tap that is responsible for most of the guns that enter the criminal market. This means reducing the availability of and easy access to guns, a proven gun control measure. 

South Africa’s own experience confirms the close association between firearm availability and violent crime. In the first years of democracy, SA’s gun violence levels were as high as they are today, with 34 people shot dead every day. 

As a result of an effective gun control regime that focused on recovering and destroying illegal guns, holding regular gun destructions, conducting firearm audits of state-owned weapons, developing intelligence-driven policing and tightening controls of licensed guns to stop their illegal use and leakage into the illicit market, the number of people shot dead almost halved in 10 years (from 1999 to 2009). 

The most effective way to reduce gun availability is to strengthen our national gun law. This means tabling the Firearms Control Amendment Bill of 2021, which despite wide consultation with relevant stakeholders, remains on the desk of the minister of police. 

Finally, gun violence costs the country billions of rands, including investment losses. In 2014 an estimated R6-billion (4% of South Africa’s national health budget) was spent treating gunshot-injured patients at state hospitals nationally; accounting for inflation this is about R9.3-billion as of October 2022. This figure only includes medical treatment costs and excludes other direct and indirect costs such as medical care post-discharge, loss of wages and quality of life costs. 

Does the party you want to vote for have a plan to deal with crime guns? Without a comprehensive approach to gun control, gun crime will not reduce, and crime guns will continue to be the weapon of choice for criminals. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Anthony Kearley says:

    Great point. Hardened criminals are kindly, reasonable souls who will stop murdering people when they have to use knives, axes, hammers, screw drivers, spades instead… after all, there were no murders before the invention of gunpowder, so we know we’d be safe in this crime-free paradise…

  • Neil T. says:

    It always concerns me greatly when individuals like Adele Kirsten are offered a soapbox by the press from which to preach and who do so by providing “facts” and “statistics” without providing any sources (whatsoever). GFSA has previously been found guilty of listing as fact certain “facts” and “statistics” which push their narrative (the sources of which were not independent and which were incorrect and/or inaccurate).

    In this article is is, once again, patently clear that Adele and GFSA are trying to blame lawful, law-abiding gunowners in SA for crime which is committed, by providing incorrect and blatantly false information. This is both unfair and unwarranted.

    Following certain cursory Google searches, it is clear that the majority of statistics she has cited are incorrect. Instead, the following figures were cited during a recent Parliamentary Q&A session from : (a) , approximately 2,168 firearms have been lost

  • Neil T. says:

    Why are Adele Kirsten & GFSA offered a soapbox from which to preach and permitted to provide “facts” and “statistics” without offering any sources (whatsoever). GFSA has on previous occasions listed as true, certain “facts” and “statistics” which push their narrative (the sources of which were found not to be independent and which were incorrect and/or inaccurate).

    Once again, it is patently clear that Adele/GFSA are pushing an agenda and blaming lawful, law-abiding gun-owners for SA’s terrible crime rates, by offering incorrect and blatantly false information. This is unfair and unwarranted.

    Following certain cursory Google searches, it is clear that the majority of statistics she has cited are incorrect. Instead, the following figures were cited during a recent Parliamentary Q&A session from Jan 2024: (a) between the 2019 fin year and last year, the SANDF had 42 firearms stolen (incl. 33 full-auto R4 & R1 rifles and more than 3,000 rounds of ammo, with few or no sanctions of those involved); (b) the SAPS had 1,725 firearms stolen between April 2021 & July 2023 (= 61 firearms pm); and (c) SAPS lost 26,025 firearms over the past 5 fin years (= approx. 5,205 firearms lost per year)…

    Link: Business Tech website – Article: “Hundreds of government issued guns lost or stolen – including assault rifles”

    But yeah… let’s allow Adele and GFSA to blame lawful gun-owners and call for even stricter gun laws than those already imposed on us by the authorities!!

  • Stuart Hulley-Miller says:

    Guns don’t kill people, people do.
    The utopia gun free people punt just does not exist.
    This kind of misguided do-gooderism by obviously well meaning people who live in their own utopia, completely at odds with the reality of life happening outside of their cocoons, which plays to a captive audience should not be part of Mavericks Agenda ….. create discussion and opinions by all means but stop picking hobby horses and ideals to punt. Maverick, you are doing this sort of thing too often now and as a long time supporter, I am now often discussing with myself and my friends as to whether you are loosing your way. A fine line I know but you are changing and the jury is still out on that. Just keep your eye on the ball. Thanks.

  • David Peddle says:

    I wonder who does her house security? Armed response? Goodness me!
    She once years ago, during a meeting I had with her, confessed to having a dangerous knife in her possession, which she rather hoped I would take away. It was a souvenir Moroccan curved knife, of dubious value, but I took it anyway.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Something to note about the ‘civilian’ numbers quoted is that they include all of the many state owned firearms not in the possession of SAPS or SANDF. They are not reported separately and therefore inflate the number attributed to licensed civilian owners. Something else that’s omitted are the very large numbers of firearms that have and continue to be sold into the criminal market by SAPS themselves. That nice Colonel Prinsloo being responsible for thousands himself most of which were the product of amnesties. We have no shortage of laws allegedly aimed at preventing every possible aspect of the misuse of firearms but thanks to the utter and total ineptitude of Cele and his minions they aren’t enforced. The notion that having more laws will cause criminals in and out of uniform will do less crime is plain silly. I’d love to see the Maverick publish an article from an organization like GOSA who advocate on behalf of responsible civilian firearms owners and regularly debunk the feelz based twaddle that GFSA are allowed to push through apparently without any of the ‘fact checking’ that is so popular in the media nowadays.

  • District Six says:

    I totally support GFSA, and I don’t have a licensed firearm. The only problem I have with the GFSA argument is that most citizens will t some point need to summon a person who is armed. It might be SAPS or a security monitoring company. We live in a crime-saturated environment. Therefore, I have sympathy with citizens who are licensed for firearms.

    However, whether such arming for self-defence is practical or effective is a whole different story. My guess is a personal firearm presents a clear and present danger to the bearer.
    Yes, of course, some people are highly trained. Who is to say that criminals are not trained? And the problem is how effective can one person be when attacked while going about daily business, by 5-9 attackers. The odds are overwhelmingly against Citizen Vusi. In our crime saturated country, we are outgunned.
    Preach away, Adele.

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