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Firearms: Taking responsibility sets you free

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The phrase “stop relying on the state” unfortunately does not have the same ring to it as its Afrikaans counterpart, “hou op staatmaak op die staat”, but the fundamental message remains the same. There are two common experiences that all South Africans have fallen victim to, namely, having been affected by crime, and having been let down by the government. Why the first experience could probably could have been avoided in some cases, had the person owned a firearm, is common sense, but why owning a firearm could have likely helped them to avoid the latter, is a more abstract question.

South Africa has some of the worst crime statistics in the world. One would assume that a citizenry that is well armed and communally organized against crime, would be an obvious solution which the government would embrace. The ANC unfortunately does not share or appreciate this cooperative sentiment. This becomes evident when you consider the complexity of the legislation around firearm licensing over the past 26 years. You cannot help but notice a trend of a government actively discouraging private firearm ownership, as they increasingly introduce chaotic and slow license renewal procedures and create growing uncertainty around the gun amnesty situation. During the lockdown and despite many objections, the government still deemed it necessary to outlaw neighbourhood watches and farm patrols, resulting in a wave of preventable crimes such as farm attacks and livestock theft.

When you consider these absurd and obstructive policies, it becomes clear that the ANC is seeking a future where the citizenry’s overall reliance on the state for protection is maximized. Many of our compatriots understandably welcome this top-down approach, as they are seduced by the prospects of unloading some more of their individual burdens and responsibilities onto the broad shoulders of the nanny state. This is exactly how our people ended up in the helpless situation that we are facing today – not through one big, coercive power grab by the government, but rather through us as citizens persistently and willingly giving up our responsibilities. By doing so, we unwittingly sacrificed our precious freedoms to the state. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” The government has steadily been allowed to infest almost every facet of our lives, and therefore, the best solution for us, is to reclaim our independence, by increasingly state-proofing our communities again, starting with managing your own life as part of a community.

Cele guns firearmsThere is a good reason why Bheki Cele prefers to blame the country’s violent crime pandemic on alcohol. Solving the crime problem by banning alcohol, entails a further expansion of state control, while a path of facilitating a citizenry able to defend itself better with legal firearms, entails taking away power from the government. Whenever you struggle to wrap your head around a seemingly absurd ANC policy, just ask yourself one simple question: Does this “solution” grant the government more control, or less?

South Africa has become a country where the workable solutions are deemed by the government as “unacceptable”, while the “acceptable” solutions are clearly unworkable. Instead of putting your life and your assets in the state’s hands, you can take the first step towards independence by taking more responsibility for your own safety and belongings. By spending time doing research on how to acquire your legal firearm license, you incrementally start immunizing yourself against the debilitating virus of chronic government failure. State-proofing your community starts at home, with you. You can then extend this commitment by taking more communal responsibility, by joining a neighbourhood watch, and by encouraging and assisting your neighbours in the process of obtaining a firearm license and to go for training.

The incremental encroachment of the state into every part of our lives has led us to the unacceptable current situation. The only practical way out of this mess, is an incremental, bottom-up response – by taking back from the state as many of the responsibilities as we can reasonably manage. That is how communities have successfully functioned for the majority of human history, before the current state-led paradigm, where every member of the community took on their fair share of burdens and responsibilities. Getting your firearm license can be a tedious, time consuming task, but it is a miniscule price to pay, for not having to wait for the police to arrive in a crisis situation, where the difference between life and death, could be a matter of seconds.

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I therefore urge people to stop shying away from their responsibilities, and to reject the tempting but empty ANC promise that the state will provide. By now you should know better than to put your trust in this unreliable regime.  Andrew Fletcher put it succinctly, “Arms are the only true badge of liberty. The possession of arms is the distinction of a free man from a slave.” By procrastinating, you’re only robbing yourself of a life in which you control the safety of your family and contribute to the security of your community.

Ernst van Zyl is a Strategy and Campaign Officer at AfriForum. He co-presents on the Podlitiek podcast, hosts the Afrikaans “In alle Ernst” podcast, and has a South African news and politics commentary channel on YouTube. Ernst usually posts on Twitter and YouTube under his pseudonym Conscious Caracal (follow him at

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