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By Solly Maphumulo, Brendan Roane and Yolande Du Preez
Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius applied for six separate firearm licences in January. Less than a month later, he stands accused of fatally shooting his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The killing took place during the early hours of Thursday at his luxury home in Pretoria.
On Tuesday, as the Paralympian prepares to show compelling reasons why he should be released on bail, The Star can reveal that Pistorius applied for licences for the following firearms:
* A Maverick shotgun;
* A Winchester shotgun;
* A Mossberg shotgun;
* A Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver;
* A .38 Special revolver; and
* A Vector .223 rifle.
Police records indicate that the only gun he currently has registered to him is the 9mm Parabellum pistol which was believed to have been the weapon used in the shooting.
Pistorius's application for a firearm licence was initially rejected, according to a report.
The report said that the licence, for a 9mm firearm, was not approved when he applied for it in 2008.
It was not clear why the application was unsuccessful but the licence was approved in 2010 after Pistorius appealed against the decision not to grant him a licence.
Pistorius revealed in a 2011 interview that because of the high crime rate in South Africa, he sleeps with guns in his bedroom.
According to the Smith & Wesson website, its Model 500 is “the world’s most powerful handgun”. It is a five-shot, single/double-action revolver.
According to defence analyst Helmoed Heitman, the Vector .223 rifle is a powerful firearm which is used for hunting or kept by collectors, while the .38 Special revolver and shotguns could be used for self-defence.
Heitman said hunting or collector’s licences were needed to possess the Vector .223 and the Smith & Wesson.
He said he could not understand what the need for these firearms would be.
“I would understand if you are a collector or a farmer if you have a Vector .223 rifle. With all the attacks that happen on the farms, maybe a farmer can justify having that type of weapon in the house.
“It’s powerful enough that you wouldn’t use it in a suburb unless you are well trained,” he said.
Heitman added that the Vector .223 rifle was so powerful that its bullet carries on for a thousand metres. “If you shoot a burglar and you miss, you can hit somebody else 300m away,” he said.
A registered firearm dealer and instructor, Nick Bernhard, from Bernhard Agencies, said: “As a member of any accredited sporting collectors’ or hunting association, one is entitled to additional firearms over and above the prescribed limit of firearms from the SAPS.
“If the person is a dedicated hunter, dedicated collector or a dedicated sportsman (shooting enthusiast), you can apply for more than one firearm.”
A normal civilian was allowed to own four firearms as long as the person was above 21 years, had a competency certificate and the prescribed training, Bernhard said.
A weapons expert, who declined to be named, described the Vector .223 as the hunting rifle derivative of the SANDF’s R4 assault weapon.
“You would use it for shooting springbok at long distance – it’s perfect for that.”
He described the Smith & Wesson Model 500 as “a monster”. “That’s for revolver hunting, nothing else, with an incredibly long range. It shoots a half-inch bullet and is far too big to conceal or even to use for self-defence.”
The State claims that the killing of Steenkamp was premeditated, and prosecutor Gerrie Nel said on Friday that the State would argue that Pistorius be charged with a schedule 6 offence – which means that the athlete will have to prove exceptional circumstances before being granted bail.
Pistorius’s defence team, led by advocate Barry Roux SC, then indicated to the court they would provide evidence to the contrary, proving it is a schedule 5 offence.
Following a media frenzy on Friday, which resulted in the courtroom bursting at its seams as Pistorius made his first appearance, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development issued a statement indicating that only 26 members of the media will be allowed inside the courtroom.
It will consist of 10 reporters, two sketch artists, eight photographers, three TV cameramen and three radio journalists.
Pretoria lawyer Hannes Geel said that if Pistorius is charged with a schedule 6 offence, exceptional circumstances for him to be granted bail, generally speaking, would be for example that an accused is the only breadwinner for a family of five, and should he be detained in custody, his family would suffer. If Pistorius’s team convince the court he is accused of a schedule 5 offence, evidence must be provided only that it is in the interest of justice to release him on bail.
As Pistorius makes his bid for bail, 1 150km away, Steenkamp was to be commemorated at a service in her hometown, Port Elizabeth. She was then to be cremated in a private ceremony before her family and closest friends.
On Monday, police crime scene tape still surrounded Pistorius’s house, according to workers near the home.
“There are yellow tapes around the house, but there is no movement,” said Johannes Tsamago.
What state and defence will be arguing over
Schedule 5 crimes:
* Attempted murder involving the infliction of grievous bodily harm.
* Drug-related crimes, if the drugs are found to be worth R50 000 or more, or R10 000 if the suspect is part of a syndicate. If a law enforcement official is accused, the charge is a schedule 5 regardless of the figure.
* Corruption, extortion, fraud, forgery or theft involving a value of R500 000 or one fifth of that figure if the suspect is part of a syndicate.
* The illegal dealing or smuggling of firearms.
* Assault on a child under the age of 16, if the suspect has been convicted of the crime previously or is out on bail charged with any schedule 1 crime.
* The accused’s legal team must provide evidence that convinces the court that it is within the interest of justice for their client to be released on bail.
Schedule 6 crimes:
* Murder: if it was premeditated, planned or resulted in the death of a law enforcement officer or anyone giving evidence in a court case. A death as a result of a rape or robbery with aggravating circumstances is also included in this schedule.
* Rape: where either the victim is raped more than once, by more than one person, by a suspect who is charged with more than two rapes or by a suspect who knows he is HIV-positive.
* A victim who is under the age of 16, or mentally or physically disabled, also increases a rape from a schedule 5 to a schedule 6.
* Robbery: with the use of a firearm, where grievous bodily harm is caused or a car is stolen.
* “Exceptional circumstances” must exist and be proved to the court by the accused in order for a bail application to succeed under this schedule.
The Star and Sapa