Gun ownership in South Africa has again been thrust into the spotlight, in no small part thanks to the high profile criminal case against Oscar Pistorius gracing our television screens and the front pages of almost every newspaper and weekly publication. It is mindboggling that the allegedly negligent actions of but one famous public figure can reflect so badly on an entire population of lawful and responsible gun owners, the vast majority of which will likely never discharge their firearms at another human being during the course of their lives. Unfair indeed, but alas not unexpected: there is a deluge of deceptive, inaccurate, and downright untruthful misinformation about the nature of firearms and firearm ownership propagated through the media by organisations like Gun Free South Africa (GFSA), and the public readily believe these inaccuracies due to ignorance and naivety regarding the issue.
I am a lawful and responsible firearm owner. I carry my handgun with me every day as prescribed by law, and I do so for a very simple reason: If there is a criminal who wishes to do me or my family harm, I now possess the capacity to fight off his attack and protect my life and the lives of my loved ones. Our criminal element are not renowned for their courtesy to dispatch written notice to their intended victims as to the where, when and how they plan to perpetrate their vile deeds. They strike when they believe their target least expects it, using the element of surprise and extreme violence to achieve their objective. Therefore it is crucial to be prepared for that eventuality: a gun owned for self-defence is utterly useless locked away in a safe when you need it most. Our criminals seldom show mercy, and in many instances rape and murder their victims in a most brutal fashion. This is not something I am willing to let happen to my family. In my own social circle I am far from the only person who carries his gun concealed on him every day, most of my friends do exactly the same. We are all firmly aware that a great responsibility is thrust upon our individual shoulders when one owns and carries a firearm, and it is not something we as a community take lightly. We are not “Rambos” or “Cowboys” or self-appointed guardians of our fellow man: we are just normal everyday people going about our business and staying out of trouble. We avoid confrontations. We avoid doing things or going to places that we consider too risky or too unsafe. We avoid doing things we consider stupid an irresponsible. In essence we avoid as far as is humanly possible getting ourselves into situations where we would be forced to use deadly force to defend our lives. There is the argument that citizens do not possess sufficient training or proficiency to use their guns to protect themselves, which is utter balderdash. I have taken the liberty of providing some links below to stories involving successful defensive gun use by ordinary citizens like you and I, also bearing in mind that many defensive gun uses do not even make it into the media at all and these are but a few examples only.
South African firearms legislation, the Firearms Control Act of 2000 (FCA), is among the most restrictive and onerous gun laws in the world. It has failed to stem the out of control violence in our country perpetrated by criminals: the horrendous amount of people killed monthly in Manenberg, Mitchell’s Plain and Lavender Hill attest to that. Not surprisingly, none of the guns used in the numerous daily criminal acts are legally owned firearms. Criminals do not tend to bother licencing their weapons. There is the flimsy argument that if no civilians could legally own guns the criminals would be devoid of their source, which is naïve and ignorant: the SAPS and SANDF lose hundreds, if not thousands, of their firearms yearly. (link: http://www.beeld.com/nuus/2014-03-05-skoksyfers-oor-verlore-vuurwapens ) There are no prizes for guessing where these lost firearms turn up. Our criminal element has a virtually limitless source of guns with which to ply their violent trade, and the only thing a prohibition on legal civilian firearm ownership will achieve is to make law abiding citizens completely defenceless. There are frequent media reports on the inefficiency of the South African Police in responding to violent crimes in progress. Would any citizen want to gamble their and their family’s lives on the response time of our Police Service? I truly hope not. Yet if GFSA have their way, we will all be at the mercy of the SAPS response time. GFSA claim that they seek only expanded gun control and the stricter enforcement of the FCA, which is untrue: they seek a total prohibition of firearms in civilian possession, and they admitted this fact when pressed by Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA). What we desperately need in this country is more legal civilian firearm ownership, not less of it.
Lastly, there is the issue regarding Oscar Pistorius’ ownership of semi-automatic rifles, deceptively and inaccurately referred to as “assault rifles” in the media. There are thousands of dedicated sports shooters active in South Africa, and many of us own semi-automatic rifles to use when competing in the disciplines they are required for. SAPSA and SADPA are two major South African sport shooting organisations which are affiliated with even bigger international sport shooting bodies, IPSC and IDPA respectively, who sanction and endorse shooting events in numerous countries internationally. These sport shooting disciplines are no less legitimate sporting activities than golf, fly-fishing, cycling or cricket, and unfortunately tends to be about as expensive too. In short, there is nothing sinister about owning several semi-automatic firearms: they are each suited for a unique sporting purpose dictated by their design, which is to shoot different paper targets under different conditions on different courses of fire to score points, and hopefully win a match if you are good enough. Obviously participating in sport shooting events with semi-auto rifles is nothing short of barrels of fun, which is after all why we participate in any sport in the first place.
If there is any doubt in your mind regarding the conduct or nature of gun owners in South Africa, I invite you to find out where your nearest active shooting range is and pay them a visit. You may be surprised at the warm welcome you will receive and how much you may learn from experiencing what it really is all about: a bunch of boys and girls who get together over weekends to shoot their guns in a safe and controlled environment, some just for fun and others for a more competitive game.
Photo Credit: Ryno Albrecht