Gun Policy Briefs

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 10:52

Briefing 6 of 2017: Reducing illicit arms flows - Contributing to sustainable development

In September 2015, the United Nations member states, including South Africa, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, replacing the Millennium Development Goals, with a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets.

A significant shift in the development of these new goals was the recognition that a broader range of factors such as violence and insecurity contribute to ongoing underdevelopment, and that unless these are addressed in a comprehensive manner, the main aims of the 2030 Agenda, namely, to reduce poverty and promote health and education, will not be achieved.

Goal 16 which focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies makes a clear connection between development, peace, security and arms control, with Target 16.4 of Goal 16 making the link explicit: reducing ‘illicit arms flows’ is an important contributor to building peaceful societies.

Briefing 6 explores Target 16.4 of Goal 16 in more detail, with a particular focus on what steps South Africa needs to take to ‘significantly reduce illicit… arms flows by 2030’, which in effect means mopping up the existing pool of illegal guns and reducing the movement of guns from the legal to the illegal market.

Thursday, 08 June 2017 10:53

Briefing 5 of 2017: Protecting children from armed violence

In February 2010, three-year-old Leshay Arnold was killed by a stray bullet in Delft on the Cape Flats. The reason Leshay’s murder made headlines is that it was the first death to be linked to a nationwide gun smuggling syndicate in which a police officer, allegedly working with a gun dealer and a businessman, sold guns handed in to the police by members of the public for destruction to gangsters on the Cape Flats. The corrupt police officer, Christiaan Prinsloo, has admitted he stole 2,400 guns. To date ballistic tests have linked just some of these stolen guns to the shooting of 261 children (aged 18 or younger) on the Cape Flats, of which 89, including Leshay, were killed. That so many children were shot and killed or injured by corruption is tragic at so many levels; including that shootings like this are preventable. To coincide with Youth Month (June), Briefing 5 looks at the growing risk of armed violence for children within an urban context before unpacking three key interventions to protect children, and the broader community, from armed violence. In sum, these are:

1. Reduce the availability of guns by:

  • Enacting and enforcing comprehensive national gun laws;
  • Ratifying and applying international arms control instruments;
  • Undertaking comprehensive disarmament campaigns e.g. amnesties, gun buy-backs and audited gun destructions; and
  • Running awareness campaigns to alert the public to changes in gun control policy or practice, and the risks of gun ownership.

2. Limit access to alcohol, because of the close association alcohol has to violence.

3. Plan urban upgrades within the context of rapid and unplanned urban growth, which is an important driver of armed violence.

Thursday, 11 May 2017 10:54

Briefing 4 of 2017: Firearms amnesties - The Brazil example

In response to Briefing 3, GFSA was invited to make a presentation on the ten elements of a successful firearms amnesty to the Portfolio Committee of Police on 15 March; at this input Brazil was identified as one of the countries that had been successful in removing hundreds of thousands of guns from circulation through a national buyback programme.

Briefing 4 discusses the key factors that contributed to the success of the Brazilian firearms amnesty and explores lessons learned that could assist South Africa in making sure that the way in which the 2017 firearms amnesty is conducted has the best possible chance of success.

As with the FCA, Brazil’s national gun law, the Disarmament Statute, makes provision for a national buyback programme for the voluntary collection of firearms coupled with an amnesty for the registration of unregistered weapons.  The weapons buyback programme in Brazil was held over an 18 month period (from 15 July 2004 to 23 October 2005). A total of 460,000 firearms were surrendered during this period, and all of these weapons were publicly destroyed. As with the 2005 firearms amnesty in South Africa, the Brazilian amnesty also provided an opportunity for those gun owners who did not want to register their guns under the new law, to dispose of them safely and legally. Some of the distinguishing features of the Brazilian firearms amnesty campaign included cash compensation and a highly sophisticated and intense communications campaign by both government and civil society organisations, with significant cooperation with major media houses such as O Globo.

Wednesday, 08 March 2017 10:55

Briefing 3 of 2017: Firearms amnesties - Ten factors for success

Briefing 3 responds to a 1 March cabinet briefing at which the Minister of Police announced his intention to declare a six-month national firearms amnesty under the Firearms Control Act (FCA). His announcement follows a groundswell of calls for action (including appeals for an amnesty) to stop rising levels of gun violence in South Africa dating from October 2014 when Senzo Meyiwa, the national football team captain, was shot and killed. Drawing on lessons learned from South Africa’s own experience of holding amnesties as well as the experience of other countries, Briefing 3 identifies ten factors that contribute to the success of firearms amnesties and explains why they are important to ensure that the 2017 amnesty has the best chance at contributing to safety in communities by successfully removing guns; the ten factors for a successful gun amnesty are:

  1. Conditions of an amnesty – no questions asked/blanket amnesty;
  2. Location of hand-in points – neutral venues;
  3. Disable the weapon at point of hand-in – crush the weapon;
  4. Civilian oversight – develop partnerships with civil society organisations;
  5. Compensation & incentives – encourage people to hand in their guns;
  6. Public destruction – ensure all guns handed in are destroyed;
  7. Timing – align with other initiatives;
  8. Duration – not shorter than 6 months;
  9. Strong internal organisation, planning and capacity – on the part of the lead agency i.e. SAPS; and
  10. Good communications & public awareness raising programmes – this includes using a variety of media & communications strategy to reach a wide variety of audiences.

Thursday, 02 March 2017 10:56

Briefing 2 of 2017: Crime - The reality, the fear and the response

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:

  1. Reduce the number of guns in circulation; and
  2. 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.

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