Briefing 2 analyses three important sources of information on crime in South Africa that were released in February [Quarterly crime statistics, the most recent Victims of Crime Survey (VOCS) and the 2017-18 Budget] to better understand how the reality and perception of crime contribute to a domestic firearms race, which is fuelling gun ownership and gun violence. In sum, quarterly crime statistics and the VOCS show that: 116 more people – fathers, mothers, sons and daughters – were murdered between 1 April and 30 September 2016 than in the same period the previous year; and of all weapons used to commit crime and violence, South Africans fear guns the most. In response, increasing numbers of South Africans are opting to privatise their security, including arming themselves. The result is a domestic firearms race of fear, arming, violent death and injury, and more fear. Ending this “vicious cycle” rests largely on reducing crime levels, particularly gun-related crime – which is both feared and far more deadly; this in turn calls for a two-pronged approach to reduce the number of guns in the country:
- Reduce the number of guns in circulation; and
- Raise the bar for gun ownership to reduce the risk of misuse.
While the Annual Budget doesn’t detail what percentage of the policing budget will be spent on controlling firearms in South Africa; there is sufficient budget; the question is whether it will be correctly allocated to stop South Africa’s domestic firearms race. Not only will this save lives, thereby improving the country’s murder rate, it will reduce other serious crimes, thereby contributing to perceptions of safety in South Africa.