2007-06-30 : Is a gun-free society possible?


2007-06-30 : Is a gun-free society possible?

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-07-03 09:02


30/06/2007 16:59 - (SA)
Is a gun-free society possible?

The Azanian People's Organisation says no one except military and police personnel should be allowed to carry firearms - but will its campaign get the support of the public? Priya Pitamber fires off some questions.

FANNY wa Sekoere is a responsible South African citizen and a businessman. He deals with VIP protection.

The only difference between him and many other South Africans is that he has carried a lethal accessory for the past nine years.

His 9mm Parabellum sits in a holster under his arm. Sometimes it is carried in the small of his back. But it is always with him.

“I was excited the first time I held it and I was impatient to use it,” says Sekoere.

Sure, he needs it for his job, but what about the other times?

And what about ordinary civilians carrying guns? Can that be helping a crime rate that has everyone talking?

The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) certainly thinks so. Their anti-crime campaign advocates guns be banned except for police and military personnel.

It is quite ironic then that Sekoere, an Azapo member, still has one.

His decision may seem puzzling to most people, even controversial, but he is quick to defend his stance.

“I already had a gun when the campaign started in April but if things go the way Azapo wants, I would definitely hand my gun in. If I had to hand it in now, it would just be a drop in the ocean.”

He has a point.

According to Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) there were about 3.7 million legal guns in South Africa in 2004.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gun Owners of South Africa (Gosa) estimate there are up to 4 million illegal firearms.

“The BBC reported that South Africa is the third most dangerous country in the world after Iraq and Colombia,” says GFSA project manager Sarah Agarwal.

“South Africans have had enough of violent crime and guns are, of course, the major enabler for violent crime,” says Agarwal.

According to Azapo, guns often end up on the wrong side of the law.

“The main aim of the campaign is to mobilise the South African public into taking proactive steps in discouraging criminal tendencies,” says Azapo secretary-general Dan Habedi.

Though he admits crime is a complex problem and there are no quick fixes, the banning of guns would be a good a start for Azapo.

“About 70 guns are stolen or lost every day. They all end up in the hands of characters that have ill-intent. All illegal guns were once legal,” says Habedi.

If people felt safe, Sekoere says, they would not be carrying guns.

“It’s just the idea that it is with me that makes me feel safer,” he says.

But guns are not always the solution.

Sometimes things just happen too fast and the gun you have for protection may be the last thing on your mind.

Sekoere did not manage to pull his gun out to defend himself during a recent hijacking attempt.

As a trained ex-combatant, he says a gun is used to destroy and kill and it is pointed at someone for one reason only.

“You do not point it at someone if you do not intend to kill them,” he says.

As the adage goes: “With great power comes great responsibility,” so too with guns.

“Owning a firearm is associated with lots of responsibility,” says Gosa chairperson Thomas Eastes.

“A firearm is an object that is an effective means to survive any life-threatening situation as well as preventing the terror and trauma of a criminal attack.”

But the Firearms Control Act of 2000 is preventing many people from acquiring a gun because it entails a cumbersome administrative process, says Eastes.

It can take a couple of months, even years, to get a licence.

“A firearm is a means to an end and does not contribute to the crime rate unless you believe that spoons contribute to obesity, lipstick to prostitution and tyres to global warming,” says Eastes.

But Agarwal says a gun-free society is safer because the chances of serious injury are reduced.

“I strongly believe that if there is security and the government and police can protect civilians, there would be no need for guns,” says Sekoere.

If the Azapo campaign is to succeed, it will first have to convince its members, like Sekoere, before hoping to get the support of the general public.
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