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Top Cop Takes Aim at Private Gun Owners – Misses the Target

Ex top cop Jeremy Vearey suggests that guns in criminal hands originate from private owners.

Linking his assertion to shootings in the Western Cape between June 2019 and December 2021, Vearey, of late representing Gun Free South Africa as an activist, claims that ‘most guns used in illegal activity were once lawfully registered but found their way onto the streets’. He claims that past investigations have shown that many of the guns used to commit crime were once registered firearms but were lost by the owners. Conceding that this [source of unlicensed firearms] is often due to negligence and corrupt practices among cops or within the licencing process, he alleges ‘the guns that kill our people on the Cape Flats were at one stage guns that were part of the legal ownership process by a minority of people in this country. In a recent article he opined that possession of a firearm is not a human right . Read about that here.

It is misleading and disingenuous to suggest that if ‘a minority of people’ – in other words, private firearm owners are disarmed, the problem of unlicensed firearms in criminal hands will evaporate. In this article we show that the facts are somewhat different to what Mr. Vearey would have the public believe. There are multiple sources for guns in criminal hands and logically the majority ‘most’ of those originate from sources other than lawfully armed civilians.

These sources are widely accepted amongst informed government agencies and the formal firearms fraternity as confirmed supplies of unlicensed firearms in South Africa:

  • Firearms that cross our borders. Although official data on this source is challenging to procure, there are confirmed thefts from Zimbabwean armouries, and in January this year, Nigerian Auditor General confirmed 88,078 AK47 rifles and around 4,000 pistols (issued to the Nigerian police force) cannot be accounted for. It is well established that automatic rifles such as the AK47 are the firearm of choice in Cash-In-Transit heists in South Africa.
  • Firearms and ammunition stolen from Metro Police Departments – such as the more than 700 reported lost or stolen by Erkuhuleni Metro police department and the recent theft of tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition from the Johannesburg Metro police department.
  • Firearms stolen from SAPS – a report issued in December 2020 by the Civilian Secretariat for Police Services references official firearms lost by or stolen from SAPS officers and comments: ‘The persistent trends of lost and stolen SAPS firearms is indicative of police negligence, an unsafe and mismanaged policing environment, and poor training, which ultimately contributes to the criminal pool’. City Press reports 26,025 police guns missing. It is widely known that most amateur criminal attacks on police stations yield a haul of police duty firearms, in some cases including fully automatic rifles.
  • Firearms stolen or lost from official government institutions and agencies such as the State Security Agency in the SSA ‘Guns for friends’ scandal
  • Private firearms handed in during the various amnesties and unlicensed firearms (including those lost from official state sources) that are stolen from police stations. These include firearms stolen from Bellville South, Mitchell’s Plein and most recently Norwood police stations. There are currently more investigations involving other police stations too. In this pool we can also count the firearms that were sold out of police custody by ex-Colonel Chris Prinsloo. Although Prinsloo was convicted for around 2,000 firearms it is widely believed that the number is closer to 10,000.
  • Firearms that remain from the pre-1994 arms caches of political parties number in the thousands. It is speculated that some of those arms caches continue to provide a source of firearms to criminals.
  • Firearms stolen from or lost by the South African National Defence Force.
  • Firearms stolen from or lost by the private security industry.
  • Firearms stolen from or lost by private (civilian owners).

Considering this irrefutable data it should be clear that Mr. Vearey is being less than honest and accurate in suggesting, as has Gun Free South Africa since its inception, that private persons are to blame for guns in criminal hands. The policy of that organisation to disarm private firearm owners has passed its sell-by date, in a country where the police have admitted to and been proven to be incapable of protecting law-abiding citizens.

If Mr. Vearey is really expecting his return to civil society to protect South African communities from ongoing firearm violence he ought to work on getting the state to clean up its own firearms control, assist the embattled police to get a grip on crime and persuade Gun Free SA to abandon an extreme and illogical goal of disarming lawfully armed private citizens.

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