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SA’s gun death toll shooting up

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Murder accused Oscar Pistorius. File photo: Antoine de Ras

Cape Town - In the month since the shooting of model Reeva Steenkamp by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, Gun Free SA estimates that an average of 540 South Africans have been shot dead.

Gun violence may have dropped by half in the past 15 years, but as many as 18 people a day are still being shot dead, said Gun Free SA’s Adèle Kirsten on Thursday.

According to figures released by the police for the 2011-12 year, 15 910 people were murdered.

Of this total, Gun Free SA understood that about 42 percent involved guns.

Kirsten said extrapolated to a daily average this meant 17-18 people were shot dead every day. And that figure, in turn, meant that 540 people would have been killed by guns since Steenkamp’s death, based on the monthly average.

Yet they believed gun violence was preventable.

“The country’s gun laws are good, solid laws,” she said. “The strengthening of South Africa’s gun laws has helped save lives. Since 1998 the number of people shot dead has halved from a high of 34 people a day.”

However, she added: “More needs to be done.”

Loopholes remained in the gun licensing process, she said, and her organisation also suspected some legal processes - like mandatory background checks on gun licence applicants - were not being followed correctly.

“Gun Free SA calls for a complete review of South Africa’s gun laws, to close loopholes and tighten controls. This is one way in which we can reduce and prevent gun violence,” Kirsten said.

On its website, Gun Free SA reports: “Gun-related killings are not indiscriminate acts of chance that randomly affect people. There is a simple cause and effect - the presence of a gun puts everyone at risk for injury and death - whether it is used for self-injury such as in suicide, unintentionally in an accident, or in cases of family violence.

“For many South Africans having a gun in the home is about protecting themselves against the stranger intruder, but data both in South Africa and elsewhere shows that you are four times more likely to have a gun used against you than to be able to use it successfully in self-defence.”

Cape Argus


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