Provisions aligns SA with legal obligations and global norms, is based on scientific evidence that reduced access to guns reduces gun violence, and added clarity facilitates enforcement 26 May 2021: Gun violence in South Africa has reached epidemic proportions: Nationally, guns have overtaken knives as the weapon most used in murders, while in Gauteng more people are shot and killed than die in traffic accidents.
Within this context, Gun Free South Africa welcomes the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill. We commend the government for boldly acting to address rising gun violence, which sees 23 people shot and killed every day in South Africa. In particular we support:
- The alignment of the Firearms Control Act with global norms which do not recognise self-defence as a reason for gun ownership, as well as SA’s legal obligations. These include a 2018 ruling by the Constitutional Court that gun ownership is not a right but a privilege governed by law as well as various protocols, most notably the global Firearms Protocol and the SADC Firearms Protocol.
- The reliance on evidence that reducing access to firearms reduces gun violence: Published South African research has linked lives saved, including the lives of women and children, to stricter gun control. Global scientific research shows that a gun in the home most endangers household members by increasing the risk of murder, suicide and death or injury from an unintentional shooting. Moreover, guns in the home are targeted by robbers, with a comprehensive study in South Africa confirming that civilian gun owners are the biggest source of lost and stolen guns. In this regard proposed amendments strengthen firearm tracking and tracing to reduce the risk of loss and theft, while a proposed amendment will reduce the risk of gun-related domestic violence by ensuring that if a gun owner or gun licence applicant has an interim protection order issued against them that ownership or the application process is immediately suspended until the matter is resolved.
- The sharpening of provisions in the Act to facilitate its enforcement. This includes identifying the roles and responsibilities of the state, in particular the police. For instance there are much stricter provisions for securing firearms and requirements to report firearm losses and thefts. In addition procedures and timelines have been clarified to reduce ambiguity and help firearm owners and businesses comply with the law. Gun Free South Africa recognises that all of us living in SA are grappling with ways to protect ourselves, our family, friends, colleagues and wider community from violent crime. The best way to do this is to use available evidence to make the most informed decision. The available evidence shows that reducing access to firearms helps make our homes, communities and country safer.