Saturday, July 20, 2024


Gun Free SA welcomes ISS call for government to prioritise gun control to reduce violent crime

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An Institute for Security Studies (ISS) report ‘Strengthening the SAPS for a safer South Africa: Recommendations for police reform’ launched last week calls on South Africa’s new government to prioritise gun control to reduce violent crime nationally.

According to Gareth Newham, Head of the ISS’ Justice and Violence Prevention Programme, “we have to get on top of our murder rate” which is “driven by firearms.”

With guns the leading weapon used in murder in South Africa, the ISS urged that firearm crime and violence be “the initial focus of SAPS.” Key priorities to recover illegal firearms and better regulate legal firearm stocks identified in the ISS report include:

· Mapping all gun-related crimes to ensure that police responses are better targeted, perpetrators are identified, and sources of illegal firearms are disrupted more effectively. In this regard the report calls for the establishment of dedicated firearm units with adequate intelligence support in all provinces.

· Implementing measures to address problems facing the Central Firearms Registry, which include rigorously addressing corruption in SAPS firearm management, fully digitising the system, and substantially enhancing oversight and accountability for lost firearms.

The report also calls on other stakeholders, such as the National Prosecuting Authority to prioritise the prosecution of firearm violence and other related firearm offences, and for parliament to oversee crime and violence prevention interventions.

Gun Free SA said in a statement that it welcomes the ISS’ recommendations. Says Adèle Kirsten, Director of GFSA, “gun violence in SA is at crisis levels: 34 people are shot and killed every day with mass killings becoming increasingly common. Addressing gun violence must be a priority for the whole of government.”

She notes that a key intervention to addressing gun violence in SA that was not included in the ISS report is the strengthening of South Africa’s gun law. “Since the Firearms Control Act was passed into law in 2000 a range of developments mean it is no longer fit for purpose e.g. loopholes are exploited by gun owners to accumulate guns and ammunition, while gun ownership for self-defence is allowed despite overwhelming evidence globally and in South Africa that guns are not effective for self-protection,” Gun Free SA maintains.

“The power of the law to reduce gun violence is evident from South Africa’s own experience. In the first years of democracy SA’s gun violence levels were as high as today, with 34 people shot dead daily. As a result of effective gun control that focused on both recovering and destroying illegal guns and restricting licensed guns to stop their leakage and illegal use, the number of people shot dead almost halved in 10 years,” Gun Free SA said.

“SA’s own experience shows that gun control is crime control,” says Kirsten, a fact that was recognised by Newham, who said that controlling guns is an “immediate and short-term focus that will have the biggest impact.”

Gun Free SA urged government to seriously engage with the IS’ report and prioritise gun violence reduction.

One of the big problems is not heavily controlled legal guns but illegal guns falling into criminal hands – sometimes via the police. Men and women in National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola’s SA Police Service reported 742 firearms stolen in the 2022/23 financial year with just a third of them – 245 – recovered, for example.

Criminals have also resorted to opening security companies to access firearms.

An earlier ISS report on multiple murders and gun crime found that rising firearm-related crime, often linked to the activities of criminal groups, partly reflects chronic dysfunction and corruption in the SAPS, including in crime intelligence and the firearm registry. These two components of the police should be vital to the control of illegal guns and organised crime, the ISS said.

Some suggestions for addressing these interlinked problems include a specialised firearms unit, or targeted police operations that confiscate illegal guns and ammunition. It is generally agreed that responses should include better intelligence gathering and analysis of crime data.

“These measures could be helpful, but a piecemeal approach will have limited impact. South Africa’s crime and violence challenge extends beyond firearms and organised crime to chronic problems such as gender-based violence, corruption and infrastructure theft.

“These problems can only be tackled through a strategic approach to strengthening the SAPS and criminal justice system. Until there’s a clearly defined programme for doing so, the state’s ability to deal with the deteriorating public safety situation is unlikely to improve,” the ISS cautioned.



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