Thinking of buying a firearm? Researcher says owning a gun not an effective way of self-defence

Researcher at GunFree South Africa, Claire Taylor during an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika. Picture: Screengrab

Researcher at GunFree South Africa, Claire Taylor during an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika. Picture: Screengrab

Published Apr 3, 2024


As millions of South Africans increasingly worry over their safety — be it inside their homes or on the streets — amid an ever-increasing murder rate, a researcher has advised that purchasing a firearm is not an effective way for protection.

In February, IOL reported that Police Minister Bheki Cele had expressed concern about the spike in the murder rate in the country, with 7,710 people murdered between October and December last year.

Cele said this was an increase of 2.1% compared to the same period last year.

He said authorities were concerned about the rise in the murder rate in the country. There were 7,710 people killed in the third quarter of last year, which is 155 more people compared to the same period the previous year.

A file picture of a march in Mamelodi East organised by the Mamelodi Technical College for a pro gun-free society. File Picture

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, researcher at Gunfree South Africa, Claire Taylor however warned that purchasing firearms for private defence and protection is not the panacea.

“My advice to anyone thinking of buying a firearm for self protection is to do your homework and to really research the risks associated with a gun. The evidence, overwhelmingly in South Africa and globally shows that a gun is not effective for self-defence. This is because criminals choose the time and place for the attack to ensured that their victim is outnumbered and vulnerable,” she said.

“In that situation, the risk is that if you try and use your firearm, you will get shot. Evidence in South Africa shows that you are four to five times more likely to be fired at, if you pull your gun out during a crime situation,”Taylor said.

“Evidence overseas shows that it is not only (being) fired at, but actually being shot. You are four to five times more likely to be shot.”

She added that apart from the high chances of being shot when armed, there are are risks which are inherent on owning a firearm.

“We mention domestic violence, the risk of a domestic violence dispute turning into a murder when there is a firearm involved. There is also the high risk of a child finding the firearm if it is not safely stored and there is the tension between having a firearm to protect family but the Firearms Control Act says the gun needs to be put in a safe. How then am I going to access my gun?

“If it is not in a safe, what if my child finds it? Or what if it gets stolen and then used to commit crime against other people?” said Taylor.

Four stolen vehicles, rifles, guns and ammunition as well as a police cap were found during the execution of a search warrant at a house in Westville in Durban. File Picture: SAPS

In January, IOL reported that a 67-year-old man was arrested and appeared before the Chief Albert Luthuli Magistrate's Court in Mpumalanga after he was found in possession of unlicenced firearms, with ammunition.

The pensioner was arrested for contravention of the Firearms Control Act, according to Mpumalanga provincial police spokesperson, Colonel Donald Mdhluli.

“According to a (police) report, information was received by the law enforcement agencies regarding a lot of firearms which were somehow stored by an old man inside a certain house at Elukwatini,” said Mdhluli at the time.

“Further details indicated that the man was in some way part of a certain security company but was suspected to be non-compliant (with the Firearms Control Act),” he said.

Police had obtained a search warrant, and upon arrival at the premises, the law enforcement agencies found the sexagenarian and they began to comb the place.

“It was during this period when they conducted a search and then discovered a total of about 106 firearms as well as 1,704 ammunition.”