By Gideon Joubert
Last week saw the announcement to cabinet of a firearms amnesty for 2017. Despite many South Africans sitting in a legal grey area of expired firearm licence cards, they were to find no proposed respite from their predicament: disappointingly, the amnesty very specifically targets the circulation of illicitly-held firearms, and the statements offered give no indication of there being any effort to solving the expired licence card debacle before the onset of a court case pertaining to the matter in April.
Missed opportunities aside, you can be sure that this amnesty will be a highly-publicised event attracting praise from the usual anti-gun sycophants. They had much to crow about during the previous firearm amnesty, only to turn around and decry its results when it came to light that firearms handed in during the amnesty were leaked to criminals by corrupt police officers.
I wrote a piece in Politicsweb in response to this issue way back in 2014, and I think everything I said then is still relevant today. Are we about to see a repeat performance?
Gun control in SA has failed totally
17 June 2014
In light of recent developments regarding the SAPS supplying firearms to criminals, I think it is accurate to state that gun control in South Africa has finally failed in totality. Everything that the Firearms Control Act (FCA) of 2000 was meant to achieve has been spectacularly reversed by large scale and almost endemic corruption within the Police Service.
Reverend Alan Story of Gun Free South Africa was quick to condemn the scandal in a Politicsweb press-release, despite the fact that GFSA played a very active role in causing this debacle in the first place. When GFSA lobbied the government to change our firearm legislation back in the late 90’s they were warned by Gun Owners of South Africa and the SA Gunowners Association that not only would the changes to the law be difficult and expensive to enforce, but also that the proposed firearm amnesty, where gun owners could hand in their firearms to the SAPS for destruction, would be vulnerable to corruption and criminal exploitation.
GFSA’s official position is: “Internationally and in South Africa there is recognition that one of the most effective ways to reduce gun crime is to reduce the number of guns in circulation.” Reducing the firearms in circulation is naturally a function of the SAPS when they confiscate firearms or when citizens hand them in, as GFSA encourages law-abiding gun owners to do.
Yet instead of all these weapons being destroyed, they have ended up in the wrong hands. There has been report upon report of the SAPS losing firearms for years: one dating from 2012 states that the SAPS lost around 18 196 firearms between April 2005 and March 2011, and a more recent report claims that the SAPS lost over 1500 firearms during the last 2 years, with about 14 000 police firearms estimated to be in the possession of criminals. It is obvious that criminals using the police as a source of various types of firearms, including fully automatic rifles, is a very serious and expansive problem.
In light of the extensive exposure of police corruption in the mainstream media, I find it improbable that GFSA were not fully acquainted with the aforementioned facts. And yet they campaigned for citizens to surrender their legally owned guns to the SAPS, despite being fully aware that there is a high likelihood of these weapons finding their way into the possession of violent criminals. Had these firearms remained in the custody of their law-abiding owners, they may very well have never been supplied to criminals in the first place.
Recently GFSA fielded a televised advertisement stating that “if your stolen gun was there, so were you.” Considering the latest developments I find this advertisement to not only be incredibly disingenuous and intellectually dishonest, but also insulting in its hypocrisy. How many hundreds or possibly thousands of weapons surrendered to the police by civilians have been used by violent criminals to assist them in robbing, murdering and raping? Gun Free South Africa contributed towards making it happen.
Gun control in South Africa has failed. We have among the most restrictive and onerous firearm laws in the world, and it has failed to keep firearms out of criminal hands. Gun Free South Africa has lied to the public: it is evident that, should you surrender your firearm to the SAPS, it may very well not be destroyed but instead used against you by a potential hijacker or home invader.
I would like to see Gun Free South Africa apologise to the public for their involvement in this travesty. There are people out there who likely lost loved ones to the actions of criminals armed by GFSA’s firearms amnesty. I would like to see GFSA attempt to explain how this really isn’t their fault, but alas I rather think it is time we bid the likes of Alan Storey and his organisation adieu.
Gideon Joubert is a member of Gun Owners of South Africa. This article is written in his personal capacity.