Gun Policy Briefs

Thursday, 24 October 2019 10:51

Briefing 5 of 2019: Gun control and violence - South Africa’s story over 25 years

Yesterday’s news that parliament’s police portfolio committee has approved a firearms amnesty – the fourth in South Africa’s history – is warmly welcomed.

It’s also perfectly timed, as today marks the first day of global disarmament week (24-30 October), which has been observed annually around the world since 1978.

To commemorate disarmament week, Gun Free South Africa has published a comprehensive report on the history and impact of gun control in South Africa over 25 years.

Policy brief 5 of 2019 summarises the report Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story, showing how gun control - including firearm amnesties - saves lives.

In the 10 years that firearms were strictly controlled and less available in South Africa (2000-2010), guns stopped being the leading cause of murder and gun-related deaths almost halved, from 34 people shot and killed a day to 18.

However, from 2011 gun violence began increasing due to various breakdowns in South Africa’s firearms control management system. This included fraud and corruption, deliberate leakage of guns from secure stores into the illegal market, inappropriate target-setting, under-resourcing and poor planning.

As a result guns have become increasingly available. As gun availability increased so has gun violence.

The latest national crime statistics (2019) show that guns are again the leading cause of murder (47% of murders in 2018-19 were from gunshots and 31% were knife-related).

In sum, Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story is a map to reducing gun violence in South Africa and halving crime in the country in the next 10 years. It identifies tried and tested gun control interventions, including firearm amnesties, that saved lives in the past. These same interventions can again save lives.

Copies of Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story, are available online:


Tuesday, 03 September 2019 12:12

Briefing 4 of 2019: Women under the gun - Actions to protect women from gun violence

This past August – which is women’s month – 93 women were shot and killed, an average of three women a day.

To give a face, a name, a story to this number, to this horror, Gun Free South Africa collected information on just 21 women who were shot and killed this year to symbolise the number of women shot and killed in one week in South Africa.

While these 21 women’s stories were being profiled, the killing continued. Also published on 1 September were the following three shootings:
‒ Six year old Nathlia Pienaar died in hospital after she was shot while playing outside in Lavender Hill. She was caught in the crossfire and was still holding onto her skipping rope when her family found her in the street just minutes later.
‒ South African female boxing champion Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels was shot dead on Friday by her police officer boyfriend against whom she had a protection order.
‒ A 39 year-old woman was shot in the head by her estranged husband as she tried to pick up some of her belongings at his house in Summerstrand on Saturday. The couple’s three children, aged two, seven and ten, were present during the incident.

Briefing 4 looks at women under the gun; it locates the murder of women and girls within a global context and identifies clear and proven actions to protect women from gun violence.

While South Africa’s Firearms Control Act (2000) has provisions that allow the police and courts to remove a gun from a violent individual and which prohibit violent individuals from accessing guns, these are not being uniformly implemented.

Below is a summary of five urgent actions to protect women from gun violence:

Reactive: Remove guns from individuals with a history of violent behaviour
1. Immediately remove firearms in incidents of IPV
2. A gun owner who is declared unfit surrenders all licences, firearms and ammunition.

Proactive: Ensure systems are in place to prevent individuals with a history of violent behaviour accessing guns
3. All gun owners comply with “fit and proper” provisions in the law.
4. Electronic criminal record and firearms databases and registers be established and linked.
5. Police officers dealing with firearm-related issues are empowered with knowledge, skills and resources.

These interventions will not stop what the United Nations has described as the “widespread, at a high level and normalised” violence against women and girls in South Africa. But, because guns are 12 times more deadly than other weapons when used in intimate partner violence, they will help save women’s lives.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019 09:04

Briefing 3 of 2019: Halving crime in SA needs effective gun control

Briefing 3 of 2019 was issued on 9 July, which has been declared by the UN as #GunDestructionDay, making it the official date for the destruction of small arms worldwide.

On 9 July, as on every other day, 23 people will be shot and killed across South Africa. The vast majority of these deaths will not be reported on as they are not newsworthy.

It takes a mass shooting, as happened on the 6-7 july weekend in Philippi East on the Cape Flats – when 11 people were shot dead, including 6 women in a single incident – for a shooting to make the news.

Guns are now the leading cause of murder in South Africa, replacing knives.

But this wasn’t the case: Violent crime, particularly murder but also attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, decreased between 2000 and 2009 as various gun control initiatives were undertaken nationally.

In his State of the Nation address on 20 June this year, President Ramaphosa identified five “fundamental goals” to be achieved in the next 10 years. One of these is that “violent crime will be halved, if not eliminated.”

Firearms Control Briefing 3 of 2019, which uses a public health model to identify risk and protective factors for violence. We believe it is a useful and practical guide to break the chain of violence and help halve crime in South Africa.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019 09:00

Briefing 2 of 2019: Western Cape mortuary surveillance shows gun deaths doubled in 6 years

Firearms Control Briefing 2 of 2019 summarises a comprehensive report Western Cape Injury Mortality Profile: 2010-2016, which tracks the pattern of fatal injuries in the Western Cape over seven years.

The report shows that gun deaths in the province have doubled between 2010 and 2016.

Although dramatic and higher than the national average, the pattern of steadily rising gun deaths in recent years is not limited to the Western Cape; it is countrywide, as a forthcoming publication Gun Control & Violence: South Africa’s Story shows.

The steady increase in gun violence from late 2010 across South Africa can be directly linked to a breakdown in gun control. Poor enforcement and compliance, whether inadvertently or due to deliberate criminality, have created a vacuum which has led to an increase in the availability of guns.

Guns are designed to kill. Data show that gunshot injuries are 18 times more lethal than stab wounds: One in three people who are shot will die, while one in 55 people who are stabbed will die.

Unless urgent action is taken to recover and destroy existing stockpiles and limit the flow of new guns into communities, South Africa will again experience the unprecedented levels of gun violence of the 1990s.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019 08:48

Briefing 1 of 2019: How many guns are there in SA? The importance of stockpile management

The first Firearms Control Briefing for 2019 looks at the importance of managing weapons stockpiles as a guarantor of peace, security and development.It argues that stockpile management is broader than securing state-owned weapons and ammunition stocks. Instead it incorporates managing all weapons and ammunition stocks – state and civilian – through five distinct actions:

  1. Safe storage;
  2. Scheduled audits;
  3. Regular collections;
  4. Frequent destructions; and
  5. Accurate record-keeping.

Globally stockpile management is a ‘hot topic’ as states across the world recognise the long-term and far-reaching devastation caused by poor stockpile management: Gun Free SA’s director Adèle Kirsten will be making an input on ‘Theft and looting of stockpiles, including seized and collected weapons’ at the Commonwealth Dialogue on countering the diversion of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition in the UK from 6 to 8 February, while progress on achieving SDG Goal 16: ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ (particularly target 16.4, which calls for a significant reduction in illicit arms flows by 2030) will be reviewed at the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations.

As described in detail in Briefing 1 – which forms the basis of Adèle’s input at the Commonwealth Dialogue – the South African government has not adequately enforced the five steps of stockpile management, thereby failing in its duty to ensure that all who live in SA are and feel safe.

Urgent actions to be undertaken by the Minister of Police and National Police Commissioner include:

  • Review and upgrade weapons storage and destruction facilities to prevent loss and theft and ensure weapons earmarked for destruction are destroyed;
  • Set down the 2009 North Gauteng High Court interdict which exempts gun owners with ‘green’ licences issued under the Arms and Ammunition Act (1969) from having to relicense under the stricter Firearms Control Act (2000);
  • Appeal the 2018 interim North Gauteng High Court order which has blocked the police from enforcing the renewals provisions in the Firearms Control Act;
  • Proceed with the necessary actions to hold a national firearms amnesty as soon as possible so that gun owners whose licences have expired can surrender their firearms to the state without fear of prosecution; and
  • Amend the Firearms Control Act to simplify the administration thereof and rigorously restrict access to handguns, which are highly prized by those who cannot get access through legal channels and are thus overwhelming targeted and used to commit crimes.

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