By now it is common knowledge within the firearm-owning community that Gun-Free South Africa has applied to the Constitutional Court to become amicus curiae (or “friend of the court”) during the upcoming case regarding expired firearm licences. In their application, which is attached at the bottom of the article, GFSA make several rather spectacular claims. We took some time to shred these claims apart in turn. So, for your reading pleasure, we present a few of the humdingers below. Please make note of these for the next time you become embroiled in an argument with somebody from the anti-gun lunatic fringe. We will release more of them in due course.
1. GFSA is a NPO whose aim is to reduce gun violence in South Africa. The primary aim of GFSA over the past two decades has been to contribute to safety and security in South Africa by developing intervention strategies to prevent gun violence.
Gun Free South Africa is an organisation majority-funded (up to 90%) by foreign NGOs, charities, and their affiliates. They are not remotely representative of South African society, have not published any membership figures, and it is highly implausible that they enjoy broad domestic support. They are therefore not fit or proper to make submissions on behalf of South African citizens. It is more than a little sinister that an organisation representing unknown foreign interests be given such a privileged position in the dictation of domestic legislation and policy.
2. Up until the founding of GFSA in 1995, and the successful 24-hour firearm amnesty campaign on 16 December 1994, more people were shot and killed in South Africa than died in road traffic accidents. This is a death profile characteristic of a country at war.
Claiming that a 24-hour amnesty had this type of impact is rubbish. It is more than likely that peace accords in KZN and Gauteng were responsible. The implication is that GFSA played a role in reducing the death toll conveniently forgets about the low-intensity war that was happening at the time in KZN and Gauteng hostels. GFSA had no impact then. They cannot claim that they were the reason for the amnesty: they climbed onto the bandwagon.
3. At the time the Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969 was inadequate to address the diversion of legal firearms into the illicit market, and was out of step with most other countries regarding criteria for civilian gun ownership.
Baseless claim. The reasons for our high levels of homicide prior to 1993 are explainable by the sustained levels of political violence that ravaged our country at the time. Correlation does not equate to causation, after all. The previous gun laws had nothing to do with South Africa’s levels of violence.When was diversion of legal arms (other than SAPS and SANDF or MK) into illicit markets ever an issue? This is a red herring. The homicide rate experienced its steepest decline in South African history under the old Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969. Between 1993 and July 2004 (when the FCA of 2000) became law, the continuous and unabated reduction in the South African homicide rate occurred at an unprecedented scale (from nearly 80 murders per 100 000 in 1993, to under 39 per 100 000 in 2004). The graph below speaks for itself.
4. GFSA seeks to be admitted as amicus curiae because the wholesale striking down of the renewals provision will do grave violence to the integrated system of gun control established in the Act. South Africa needs to comply with its international legal and political commitments. The evidence GFSA placed before the High Court irrefutably demonstrates that (the FCA) saves lives.
None of the so-called political commitments South Africa supposedly have are legally binding or of proven value. They are purely political, and therefore meaningless in the legal landscape. The continuous firearm licence renewal requirement itself poses serious danger to the very CFR system, and can very well lead to its collapse. There is clear evidence that the SAPS are not coping with the astronomical workload that continuous firearm licence renewals places on their resources. Also, there is no irrefutable evidence what so ever that gun control, and the FCA of 2000, has saved any lives. This is an utterly disingenuous claim that is backed by cherry-picked data, faulty (and possibly even fraudulent) academic methodology, and does not withstand even the most cursory scrutiny. GFSA making such a claim is entirely dishonest. In fact, there is an that firearm licence numbers increased by approximately 150 000 per year between 1994 and 1999 while the homicide rate fell steeply. There was thus an inverse relationship between firearm ownership numbers and the murder rate. Again, the claim that gun control irrefutably saved lives is patently untrue. Simple test here would be is to ask if the US is also bound by these?
5. The Firearms Control Act and, in particular, its licensing and renewal regimes, ensure South Africa’s compliance with its international legal and political obligations in so far as gun control is concerned. Protocols include the UN Protocol against Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition, adopted by the General Assembly in 2001, as well as the SADC Firearms Protocol of 2001.
Again, none of these international legal “obligations” are remotely binding or applicable. Mentioning protocols against illicit manufacturing and trafficking of arms and ammunition has nothing to do with firearm licence renewals, or even civilian firearm licensing. This paragraph obfuscates the issue at hand that firearm licence renewals are unnecessary and undesirable. The UN protocol deals with “illicit manufacturing and trafficking”, it expressly avoids dealing with legal firearms. Signatories commit to sharing information, and reducing illicit manufacturing and trafficking of parts. The only relevant part is with regards to marking firearms. The SADC protocol is much of the same. The rest of this paragraph is irrelevant dressing-up. The UN General Assembly protocols are not binding – this is obfuscation.
Written by Gideon Joubert, members of the Paratus team, and several independent researchers.
Gideon is owner and editor of Paratus