Police Minister Bheki Cele’s plan to stop South Africans owning firearms for self-defence continues to be criticised with political parties and think tanks adding more opposition to the move.
As criticism increases, digital publication Business Insider reported police are set to destroy 15 000 guns. The weapons were apparently either surrendered or forfeited to police under a firearms amnesty in place since January. The publication notes changes proposed for the Firearms Control Bill will not make provision for relicensing surrendered firearms adding “even more controversial is the bill’s aim to rule out self-defence as a valid reason to own a gun”.
This question posed in a News24 poll drew a resounding “yes” to “Do you believe gun ownership should be allowed for self-defence?” Eighty-eight percent of just on twenty-three thousand responses were “yes”.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow police minister Andrew Whitfield took a different tack, calling on Cele to rather look at disarming violent criminals and gangsters “including police illicitly selling firearms to crooks”.
“Instead of enabling police officers to combat corruption, fight crime and protect South Africans, the Minister is trying to remove people’s last line of defence against increasingly violent crimes through its draconian Firearms Control Amendment Bill which seeks to remove self-defence as a reason to own a gun in South Africa.
“Recent revelations from Project Impi investigations reveal the extent of rot among SA Police Service officials selling guns to criminals. Those weapons are then used in all manner of criminal activity, including gang violence and cash-in-transit-robberies.
“This means South Africans are hobbled on two fronts when it comes to eradicating violent crime. On one hand, SAPS is rife with corruption and ineptitude and there seems to be little political will to address this. On the other, law-abiding citizens’ last line of true defence against violent criminals is being taken away.
“Since its inception in 2013, Project Impi made numerous arrests, one of the biggest being former police colonel Chris Prinsloo who testified to distributing at least 2 000 firearms meant for destruction and funnelling them to a reservist, Irshaad Laher, who smuggled them to the Western Cape. Since his arrest in 2015, Prinsloo has turned State-witness and is currently out on parole,” Whitfield explained in strongly opposing the amendments.
A DA petition against the amendment has drawn 69 000 signatures to date.
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) added its voice to the nays on amendment of the Firearms Control Bills saying it will put women at greater risk of gender-based violence (GBV). This phenomenon has reached unprecedented levels in South Africa with all manner of interventions planned at government level as well as campaigns to halt it.
The Johannesburg-based think tank said: “Simply put, this proposed change in law has the potential to mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of women in the clutches of their abusers in their homes”.
IRR analyst Amy-Claire Morton maintains “the State is attempting to use legislation to evade responsibility for South Africa’s high crime rate trying to blame law-abiding gun owners rather than address crime and holding criminals – and the police – responsible”.