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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Crooks with 3 million illegal guns won’t care about stricter gun laws

Research shows 3.8 million illegal firearms are currently circulating in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


Experts say implementing stricter legislation and laws to control firearm possession is not the solution to the rising illegal firearm crisis in South Africa.

Security expert Johan Burger said the success of firearm legislation was a strong police force.

“Without strong policing, the law and the legislation mean nothing. It’s just a waste of time,” he said.

Burger was concerned about the amendment to the Act that the police, with the support of Gun Free South Africa (GFSA), wants to scrap firearms for the use of self-defence.

“You cannot bring a knife or a bottle of pepper spray to a gunfight,” Burger said.

“They claim most illegal guns come from the private sector. What about assault weapons? You don’t steal those from private users.”

Firearm smuggling

Action Society founder Ian Cameron said the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime research showed 3.8 million illegal firearms currently circulating in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“It’s a hell of a lot of firearms. Yes, there is an ongoing war in Mozambique and there will be cases of firearm smuggling. Just the other day, police announced they destroyed 65 000 guns. That’s nothing compared to the legal or illegal firearms we have in South Africa.”

Cameron said the figure is about five million legal firearms versus 3.8 million illegal firearms in the hands of murderers.

Police ‘supplying illegal firearms’ to criminals

“The police were the biggest supplier of illegal firearms to criminals. The scary part is, the police lost between 26 000 and 30 000 firearms in the past 12 years.” It didn’t help to add more legislation to law-abiding citizens.

“They are not the problem. The illegal firearms are the problem,” Cameron said.

SA Gun Owners’ Association (Saga) chair Damian Enslin said illegal guns in South Africa came from a variety of sources, including smuggling, theft and corrupt officials. Enslin said they were often smuggled into SA from neighbouring countries, such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where firearms are readily available due to civil unrest and political instability.

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“Guns are often stolen from police and military armouries. Those are then sold on the black market.

“Addressing the issue of illegal guns in South Africa requires a multifaceted approach that includes addressing the root causes of violence and strengthening law enforcement efforts to combat the illegal trade of firearms.”

It was difficult to accurately estimate the number of illegal guns in South Africa as they were not registered.

“Some sources have estimated the amount of illegal guns from three million, to as much as five million – but we just don’t have accurate data on this,” Enslin said.

Multidimensional approach

GFSA director Adèle Kirsten said gun violence was a complex phenomenon and required a multidimensional approach.

“The circulation of all guns needs to be addressed. That means intelligence-driven operations to recover and remove illegal guns from circulation and reducing access to legal guns through strengthening the gun laws.”

Kirsten said the purpose of a gun law was to regulate ownership, the type of weapon and ammunition allowed and the circumstances under which a gun can be owned, such as sports shooting or hunting.

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“Therefore, doing away with guns for self-defence is one way to reduce the legal pool of guns.”

Criminologist Prof Jaco Barkhuizen said it didn’t help to make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to get firearms as most crimes were committed with illegal firearms.

Barkhuizen said police should enforce the laws regarding the destruction of illegal firearms, uproot corrupt cops who sell confiscated firearms to gangsters and clean up the firearm registry.

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– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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