As the sporting world mourns the tragic and untimely death of Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, Senzo Meyiwa, the issue of firearm laws and the accessibility of guns has again come to the fore. The football star’s murder comes off the back of the recent sentencing of Paralymian Oscar Pistorius, for the shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, as well as the ongoing murder trial of British businessman, Shrien Dewani. The incidents are part of an alarming trend of violent crimes that have plagued the country, and have raised questions as to whether firearm regulations should be further strengthened.
E Daniel Kinnear, a senior executive associate at the Africa Strategy Group, described Meyiwa’s killing as a “callous” use of firearms, which deprived the country of a talented sportsman. Despite this, he said the focus should not be centered on guns, but rather the root causes which drove individuals to commit such senseless acts.
“That is the debate we should be having, in order to address the causes and not the consequences of firearms in our society,” he said.
South Africa possesses one of the strictest firearm regulations in terms of application and qualifying for a gun. The legislations in place require all applicants to obtain a certificate of competence, a firearm license and firearms permit amongst others, before a gun can be acquired. Despite this, Kinnear said the reality was that too many illegal firearms were still flowing into the country, and being sold for cheap.
“I think what we’ve seen in the sad occurrences of less publicized murders, is that a lot of these firearms are acquired for next to nothing,” he said.
“Life has become rather cheap if you have the money.”
He made comparisons between the firearms situation in SA, and that of Switzerland, where all able bodied individuals who have served in the military are allowed to return home with a gun. Despite the high number of weapons in the country, he said the Swiss had the lowest number of firearm related incidents in the world.
This was in stark comparison to SA, where the issue was more ‘endemic’. Amongst the several reasons given for the high rate of violent crimes in the country were the crippling levels of unemployment, lack of decent social services, housing, and adequent education.
“I think it’s trying to understand what the root causes of these frightening statistics are, and the impact it is having on communities and families. I am not against firearms and responsible individuals owning them, but I think it is out of control now,” he said.
Kinnear stressed that it was imperative that alternative solutions were brought forward, in order to address the issue. He was also critical of the decision to issue a R250 000 reward for Meyiwa’s killers.
“How many kids, and innocent men and women are being killed daily? If the law enforcement decides to use one high profile case and put a price tag to obtain evidence to track down the perpetrators, I think that is a very bad precedent, and compounds the whole issue that we are not addressing the core of the problem sufficiently,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)