I take issue with Vanessa Farr’s opinion piece “Staring Down the Barrel of a Gun” in the 19 November Daily Maverick.
In her article she makes a rather bold claim that licenced firearm owners have over 50 guns a day stolen from them, according to statistics obviously. I have searched and inquired as to the validity of these damning statistics, but alas I have had no luck. Nor have any of my contemporaries. Dr Farr unfortunately neglected to provide any links to source material from which these statistics originate, which leaves me with no option but to conclude that she has made them up. I deduce that she bases her allegation that civilians lose eight times as many firearms as police upon these invented findings, in which case they are very much untrue.
Dr Farr also elects to ignore the significance of the social, economic, biological, and psychological causes of crime, and rather chooses to place all the blame directly on guns alone: “Because of guns, one sporting hero is dead, another disgraced and imprisoned; and South Africa now has a reputation as a holiday destination for those who wish to commit murder by proxy.” I think it is exceptionally insulting to those who suffer the consequences of crime in our society to trivialise the issue in this manner.
Crime is a complicated and perplexing social problem. Its causes are numerous and obfuscated, and its existence has left philosophers, scientists, and legislators searching for a solution since the dawn of civilisation. I am no criminologist, but I do advise Dr Farr to expand her reading upon the subject some more before making such flippant commentary in future.
What would Dr Farr say to all the South Africans who managed to successfully fend off violent criminals through armed resistance? Should their lives be forfeit because she does not deem them worthy of possessing the means with which to protect themselves? What of the thousands of South Africans murdered each year by use of something other than a firearm; are their deaths less significant because they were not slain by a firearm wielding murderer?
Our borders are porous, and it is estimated that thousands of struggle-era firearms are still in circulation to date. None of our security forces were issued with AK47s, thus the only source that armed robbers like these can procure their weapons from is across the border. In addition to thousands of police firearms lost, stolen and transferred through corruption to criminals, hundreds of thousands of firearms from the previous homelands are still unaccounted for.
It is patently obvious that we will never live in a gun free South Africa.
If Dr Farr is serious about tackling the crime and violence problem faced by all South Africans, than she should start by campaigning against corruption within our State Departments. Only when our police service and our judiciary are empowered to effectively and efficiently perform their duties, can the authorities ever hope to turn the tide against violence and crime.
Until then I propose a more pragmatic approach: arm and train every responsible citizen in this country, men and women, so that they may stand a fighting chance against those who seek to do them harm.