Gun Policy Briefs

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.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017 10:56

Briefing 1 of 2017: Strong gun laws save lives; poor enforcement kills, disables and costs

As South Africa prepares for the 2017 budget speech, this first briefing of the year focuses on the costs of gun violence, showing that while strong gun laws save lives; poor enforcement kills, disables and costs.

The starting point is evidence that South Africa’s Firearms Control Act (2000) has not been properly enforced since 2011. Against this backdrop, this Briefing tracks how the gains in lives saved from gun violence (which date from 2000) have been reversed:

  • More people are being shot: Latest data show that approximately 100 people are shot at each day in South Africa, of whom between 16 and 18 will die.
  • More people are being disabled: Using hospital data, this Briefing tracks how gunshots have overtaken motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injury, which is “surprising” according to researchers, as South Africa is not at war.
  • Costs are rising: Increasing indirect and direct costs negatively affect the survivors of gun violence, their families, communities and South Africa as a whole.

By summarising the impact and costs of poor enforcement of the Firearms Control Act, this Briefing aims to put gun violence prevention firmly on the agenda for action in 2017; urging government to fully enforce the Firearms Control Act, strengthen the law by bringing the Firearms Control Amendment Bill to Parliament in 2017, and holding a national firearms amnesty to reduce gun violence and save lives.

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