By Vernon Mchunu and Sapa
Living in South Africa should be enough reason for any individual to be a legal gun-owner.
This was the argument from the New National Party in Durban on Tuesday, in its attempt to make changes to the emotive Firearms Control Bill.
The bill, drawn up by the ministry of safety and security, seeks to restrict an individual legal gun-owner to two guns.
Parties opposed to the proposed law, including the Democratic Party and the Freedom Front, claimed the process of applying for any single gun would become a strenuous activity.
At a meeting in Durban on Tuesday, NNP local and national officials said the bill was flawed in that it would effectively disarm law-abiding citizens, leaving criminals armed to the teeth as they were.
Piet Matthee, the party's spokesperson on safety and security who is based in parliament, said several aspects of the bill required urgent improvement.
Raj Morar, the party's vice-chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal, unveiled a poster campaign to be conducted soon, in which public opposition against the bill would be sought from around the country.
"There are many illegal firearms being used in violent crimes every day. Yet, the government intends clamping down on legal firearms owned by law-abiding citizens with no record of criminal activity or conviction. This is ridiculous," said Matthee, who also represents the party on the national council of provinces.
"Should the bill be allowed to go through in its present form, all criminals would rejoice because then they would know that the danger to them is much smaller than ever," he said.
In addition to limiting gun-owners to possessing only one handgun and a shotgun, the law would compel applicants to prove their need for any single gun for self-defence.
"How can you prove that you need a firearm until you have been hijacked or your wife has been raped in front of you in your own house? Does anybody who has never been robbed look like they will be robbed in the next hour?
"Being resident in South Africa is just the reason why any law-abiding citizen would require a gun."
He said the bill, which resulted in Freedom Front leader Constand Viljoen announcing publicly last week that he would rather emigrate than hand over his guns, would have a negative impact on the safety of people who were unable to afford security by private firms.
Although opposed to it, Matthee described General Viljoen's statement as overboard and said the public needed to improve the bill rather than be totally negative about it.