Letter to the Minister of Police

Dear Minister Nhleko,

I have read your commentary regarding the tragic deaths of children at the hands of criminals and how this necessitates expanding gun control in South Africa. I agree that these crimes against children are tragic and unacceptable, but I request that you reconsider your view that further gun control will contribute to solving the problem. We must not lose sight of the fact that the people responsible for the deaths of these children are gangsters who acquired their weapons illegally. They did not complete the prescribed competency course or licencing procedure as stipulated by the Firearms Control Act of 2000, nor did they purchase their guns from registered dealerships. The phenomenon of gangsterism is a complex issue, and it tends to be inseparable from the numerous socioeconomic problems plaguing the societies in which it is a prevalent occurrence. If we want to see the violence and killing end we must address the root causes of the larger disease as opposed to merely treating the symptoms of it, which is much like taking headache tablets for a brain tumour. Expanding gun control would serve only to make it harder for law-abiding South African citizens to acquire effective means of self-defence, and have absolutely no effect on the criminal elements who would continue to conduct their illicit business as usual.

As tragic and terrible as the deaths of these children are, suggesting expanded gun control as a possible solution has potentially unintended and undesirable ramifications regarding the safety and security of millions of citizens of this country. International trends and examples furnish proof that gun control does not curb violent crime, the correlation is actually in the opposite direction; despite having a near blanket ban on the ownership of handguns Chicago was named the “Murder Capital of America” in 2013. Honduras has the highest homicide rate per capita worldwide at 90,4 murders per 100 000 people, even though the country has incredibly restrictive firearms legislation. It is highly likely that if we increase gun control in South Africa we will experience a tangible upsurge in violent crime that we are simply not prepared to deal with.

In contrast there is a strong positive linear correlation between increased private firearm ownership and decreasing levels of crime, as indicated by research studies conducted by John R. Lott and Harvard University in the United States. Extensive research conducted by the Journal of Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine concluded that women armed with guns or knives who resisted their attackers were raped in less than 1% of all cases, compared to 96% of women who were unarmed and could only cry or plead. It is clear that being a responsible and trained gun owner makes it much harder for criminals to turn you into a victim. The argument that citizens serve as an important source of firearms for criminals also loses its appeal when one calculates that the rate of firearms being lost or stolen from SAPS personnel far exceed the rate of loss from private citizens. This is a problem I am sure you are well acquainted with, and that presents in itself a difficult challenge to the ministry.

As citizens of South Africa we all have the Right to Life, Security of the Person and Property, Dignity, and Freedom as protected by Chapter Two of our Constitution. Without the effective and efficient means with which to protect these rights when violent criminals wish to make us their victims, I fear that those Rights become little more than pretty lines drawn upon a piece of paper. In quoting the most honourable past President Nelson Mandela; “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. This includes the freedom from the fear of crime. When citizens arm themselves legally against the onslaught of violent criminals we should not see it as a militarisation of society; it is the responsible actions of concerned people who take the safety of their families and themselves very seriously. There are more than 3 million legal firearm owners in South Africa, and I would like to ask on behalf of all of them if you would engage with us on these matters. We have much knowledge and assistance we can offer each other, and the only way we can effectively and efficiently solve the problems that face us is if we all work together: gun owners, government, and the police service. I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

Gideon D. Joubert

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