Regarding the article in the Cape Argus “The war raging against our kids”, I find the subsequent calls by Prof. Sebastian van As for stricter gun control in light of the tragic deaths of several children at the hands of gangsters and criminals illogical and unreasonable. Professor van As is a board member of Gun Free South Africa and his statements should be seen as those of an anti-gun ownership activist rather than a respected academic and doctor. It is disingenuous that he would use his position at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital to this end and make unsubstantiated claims that expanded gun control in South Africa would stem the violence currently perpetrated against its citizens, regardless of their ages or backgrounds.
According to Prof. van As, “…research shows that the Firearms Control Act of 2004 helped to bring down gunshot injuries to children by a significant amount – but in recent years the number of children shot has crept up to unacceptable levels.” So if the FCA of 2000 has been a success, how then does he explain the upsurge? The criminals who are responsible for the shooting of these children did not acquire their firearms legally. They did not complete the required firearms competency course and did not purchase their firearms from registered dealers. Clearly gun control has not affected their ability to gain access to illegal firearms and ammunition, considering that corrupt elements within the SAPS and armed forces are a ready supply. The abject failure of the Firearms Control Act is also evident in the increasing levels of violent crime we have been experiencing: for the year 2011/12 to 2012/13 incidents of murder increased by 4,2%, attempted murder by 10,1%, and house robberies by 7,1%.
Gun control is obviously not the solution. Gangsters and criminals live beyond the boundaries of the law, and stricter gun control will only serve to make their potential victims completely defenceless. Gun sales are completely banned in the City of Chicago, Illinois, and handgun ownership is so restricted as to fall under a de facto ban. Yet, despite having among the strictest gun control policies in the United States violent crime is rampant in Chicago, and it was recently named the “Murder Capital of America”. Politicians are wringing hands over the problem, with some calling for even more gun control. A famous quote misattributed to Einstein is quite appropriate in this context, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
Law enforcement and the combating of criminal gangs is a challenging and difficult process. The structural and resource related problems plaguing the South African Police Service is making the task even harder. Considering the prevalence of gang related violence and crime in our country, the socioeconomic problems facing the communities most affected by it, and the near impossible task of containing it, it is cheap politicking from GFSA to suggest that further gun control would make anyone’s children safer. Their organisation is not known for its scruples, considering that the Advertising Standard’s Authority recently pulled their “if your gun was there, so were you” television advertisement from the air due to its misleading nature.
All South Africans have the right to Life, Property, Freedom and Security as stipulated in Chapter Two of our Constitution. Without the means to protect these rights they are but pretty lines written on a piece of paper.
Photo Credit: Richard Upstanding