Cape Argus : Delay in banning guns can be measured

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Cape Argus : Delay in banning guns can be measured

Postby GOSA » Mon, 2006-08-28 15:05

Delay in banning guns can be measured in children's lives lost

August 18, 2006

By Tasneem Matthews

How many children have to die before something is done about strengthening South Africa's gun legislation?

The use of firearms and violence against children taints South Africa's young democracy. If we are serious about enforcing and implementing the rights of children, then we need to start ensuring that children do not die of preventable causes such as gun wounds.

A case described by a Red Cross Children's Hospital paediatrician provides a snapshot of an incident of a firearm injury involving children and handguns. A 36-year-old security guard, watching a rugby game on a Saturday afternoon, ran to his neighbours to celebrate the victory of his favourite team. He accidentally left his gun on the coffee table in the lounge. As soon as he was away, his two children - six- and eight-year-old boys - began playing with the gun.

The six-year-old shot his sibling in the stomach. The bullet tracked through the abdominal wall, through the small bowel, through the stomach, through the spleen and through the chest. The child was rushed to hospital and required emergency surgery. After the operation, he was critically ill and developed multiple abscesses in the abdominal cavity, but eventually recovered. He was discharged in a stable condition six weeks after admission.

His father was counselled about taking safety precautions with his gun. What seemed to be harmless fun ended in an injury that caused physical and emotional trauma that the eight-year-old boy would live with for the rest of his life.

Similarly, a 32-year-old man with a nervous breakdown tried to shoot his wife during a domestic conflict. There were several children in the room and the mother was carrying their three-year-old daughter.

When the father fired his gun, the bullet travelled through the child's neck, transecting the spinal cord of his daughter - rendering her paralysed from the neck down for the rest of her life. The child is now living permanently in an institution for paralysed people.

Many children have died or been maimed for life because of firearms, especially by handguns. When a child is injured, it does not only cause physical disability and emotional trauma, it affects families and entire communities. These are predominantly impoverished communities where gangsterism and crime are prevalent.

In 1996 violence was the leading cause of fatal injuries in South Africa. This trend seems to be consistent almost 11 years later.

A study by the National Injury Mortality Surveillance Systems in January to December 2004 found homicide to be the leading cause of non-natural deaths. Firearms were the leading external cause of death

Although recent studies have illustrated a slight decline in injuries and deaths, an overwhelmingly large number occur every day.

The South African constitution says everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person. This right includes the right to be free of all forms of violence, from public or private sources. All South Africans should have the benefit of that right, especially children. So whose responsibility is it to ensure children are kept safe? The caregiver? Yes. Civil society? Yes. The state? Definitely.

Not enough or significant changes have been made to ensure children's safety against firearms - children continue to die. There is a need to reduce the number of firearms used and sold. A heightened awareness in communities about firearms control is vital.

Firearms, with in all their contradictions, were designed to protect, injure and kill. Children should not be burdened with the responsibility of protecting or defending themselves from or with firearms. The need for improved gun legislation, in accordance with the right to protection, is essential.

Parliament's portfolio committee on safety and security is holding public hearings on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill.

Stricter gun controls would prevent injuries to and deaths of children.

It is time for South Africa to ban handguns.

· Tasneem Matthews is a researcher for the Child Health Services Programme at the Children's Institute, University of Cape Town.
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Countering this propaganda

Postby GOSA » Mon, 2006-08-28 15:07 ... ollies.htm

2004 Volume 1
Gun Free Follies
By Peter Hammond

It is hard to get anyone from Gun Free South Africa to agree to a public debate. I suppose one cannot really blame them, they don't really have much of an argument.

Every time Gun Free South Africa representatives have gone head to head against a National Firearms Forum or Victims Against Crime representative, their arguments have misfired.

Like the GFSA Judge who gave as his reason why he got involved in the Gun Free movement. He described the gruesome Bains Kloof murder, which he had to deal with. A young couple were kidnapped, suffocated in plastic bags and dumped in a ravine. The Judge then paused and noted that although no firearms were actually used in the Bains Kloof murder, in fact, he added, perhaps it would have been more humane if they had) it entrenched in him the feeling that we need to get rid of all guns!

This was typical GFSA fuzzy thinking. Although firearms had nothing to do with the crime in question, their emotional response was to blame a tool - a cold metal object.

During another debate with GFSA representatives, one, a doctor, related various heart rendering stories of children that he had to treat at the Red Cross Hospital wounded and even crippled by gun fire. Because of these child casualties, he called for “tougher gun laws”.

However, when I asked him how many of these patients were gangsters themselves shot by police or by victims in self-defence or by other gang members, his answer was “almost all of them”!

When asked what the average age of these “children” were, he admitted that most of them would have been 16 years and older.

Upon investigation, I found that only about four patients a month at Red Cross Hospital were gun shot victims, and almost all of those were from illegal guns in the hands of gangsters. Many of the patients were actually gang members themselves.

It does not seem logical to disarm the licensed firearm owners when they are not even the problem.

Further research revealed that the vast majority of casualties admitted to the Red Cross Childrens Hospital were for falls (2 338 cases in the preceding year), motor vehicle accidents (1 030), burns (532), assault with blunt or sharp instruments (208), and poisoning (452 in-patients and 292 out-patients). Even dog bites (91) were more numerous than firearm wounds (50).

Vastly more children die each year in bicycle accidents, car accidents or drownings than from firearms. Children are 1,450% more likely to die from a car accident than from a firearm. Should we outlaw all motor vehicles?

No, the solution to the horrific carnage on the roads is not to ban motor vehicles, but to improve safety features in vehicles, educate drivers, promote the use of seat belts and severely punish drunken or reckless driving. As with motor vehicles, it would not be right to take away everyone's freedom because of the criminal activities or carelessness of some.

With over 9 million illegal firearms in South Africa, it seems unethical to disarm the law-abiding citizens who are potential victims of crime.

Every day countless crimes are prevented, hundreds of victims protected and many tragedies are averted by armed citizens. Armed citizens save lives and parents need to be prepared to protect their children from all threats. It is criminal to interfere with a father's duty to protect his children.

Some people do use firearms for evil purposes, but far more people use firearms for defensive purposes to prevent crimes from being committed.

Peter Hammond is the Director of Christian Action Network, and the author of Security and Servival in Unstable Times.
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