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Pistorius trial: key facts on guns in South Africa

23 February 2013

Oscar Pistorius has now been granted bail ahead of his trial in June. His case has raised many basic questions abroad, such as: is it normal for South Africans to have loaded guns on hand? And is it a defence to say that you killed someone because you thought they were someone else? There’s a fair bit of soul-searching in South Africa about whether the Paralympian would have been granted bail had he not been so well-known and what this says about the justice system. But the case is also opening up a debate familiar to other countries too: on gun control. Here are some quick facts:

  • There are 2.9 million firearms licensed to 1.5 million individuals at the last count in August 2011, although some estimates place true ownership much higher at 6 million.
  • A law passed in 2000 – the Firearms Control Act – includes a fit and proper test for those applying for ownership. A gun holder must be over 21; a South African citizen or holder of a residence permit; mentally stable; not violent; free from firearms, sexual or violent abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or drug dealing convictions; and they must complete training and practical tests. Certain weapons, such as automatic firearms, are banned.
  • It is legal to shoot someone in self-defence if you believe your life is in danger, even if they are not carrying an equivalent weapon.
  • 2,000 licensed firearms are stolen every month in South Africa.
  • Homicide rates have decreased from over 60 per 100,000 in 1994 to under 40 per 100,000 in 2007, and the graph below shows that this included a decrease in homicides by firearm:

Source: UNODC Homicide Statistics (2011).

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  • Claudiah

    Pistorius version of “burglars” is really far-fetched,it simply defies logic ,it doesn’t square up:
    he did hear “noises” in the night,the first thing one would do
    reactively is to check if it is your partner who is walking about.Why
    didn’t he instantly whisper to her to make sure she was there,even for
    the sake of her safeness!What an amazingly absurd story of Oscar’s
    “burglars” .
    Whichever way, even assuming he was
    slow-reactive(undoubtedly though for a professional runner) ,within the
    time it takes him to find the gun in the dark, he should have come to
    think even in a fraction of a second that it could be Reeva got up and
    check then if it wasn’t her,but no.
    2.He gets straight to the
    bathroom and simply shoots into a closed door without any warnings at
    all but knowing there is a person behind and not only
    once”accidentally” but several times making sure whoever was behind
    was dead!Cold blooded murder I call it.
    How unrealistic his version,unbelievable..
    on earth would a burglar be doing in the bathroom anyway and locked
    behind it.If so ,then why did Oscar not warn that he had a gun and the
    police is on its way,why shoot blindly not even being absolutely sure
    it wasn’t Reeva on the toilet .

  • Wilhelm

    I don’t think there is a gun problem in South Africa, there is a black crime problem.


    Could we have chart showing SA compared with other countries – my recollection is that it is ‘FIRST’ even with the reduction.

    Campaign of murder & rape v white farmers and some horrendous tales of rape. ‘Jack-rolling’ usually against black women is commonplace. A quite famous S A cricketer was at least charged – can’t remember outcome.
    And you can’t blame apartheid :-

    1)Free will

    2) Sexual violence against black women clearly can’t be ascribed to it by anyone intellectually hpnest

  • Remittance Man

    I’ve been through the training required to get a Certificate of Competency to Own a Firearm and, even ignoring basic firearm safety issues, the law is pretty clear – someone behind a locked door does not present a clear and immediate danger to anyone on the other side. This is reinforced by the fact that with the suspected robber on the far side of the bathroom door, Pistorius had at least one clear way of getting the chuff out of his home and to a place of safety.

    There are a couple of other concerns too.

    If, as has been alleged, the police were called to Pistorius’s home to deal with domestic violence issues, he should not have been given a Certificate of Competency. Secondly, the collection of weapons he has applied to own as a collector* shows no consistency. In terms of the firearms control act a collection must show a consistent theme – ie classic hunting rifles or historic military weapons from a specific period. Indeed the only common “theme” in this case would appear to be their macho rambo appeal.

    *Unless one is a collector, or a dedicated hunter or sportsman, one cannot own more than four weapons including a single handgun.
    **Several shotguns (not of the double barrelled sporting type) and a couple of large calibre handguns.

  • LancasterL

    If the dysfunctional, corrupt and inept South African Police had done what they should have done this poor woman may have been alive today, Pistorius had numerous “domestic issues” that required police involvement. He was also arrested for assault. This should have required the police to confiscate his weapon/s. It was their duty to act and were were negligent not to do so. Since the ANC came to power the standard of policing has dropped dramatically with their racist agenda to place black people in government employ regardless of their ability.. Many new recruits cannot read or write. Many do not have driver’s licences and few have any real understanding of the law. A visit to the local police station to report a crime is a nightmare. The Steenkamp family have a strong case for negligence against the SAPS. The only protection against brutal rape and violent assault many people have left in this collapsing country is the 9mm under the pillow.

    • Tom Tom

      Having spoken with people connected to the Police Investigations Branch in SA I can second your comment. The corruption is now widespread and decay absolute.

    • Koakona

      It is not just government employ, through BBBEE legislation they enforce anti white hiring policies at every level of the private as well as public sectors. What occurs now in RSA is a 21st century apartheid as if revenge is a legitimate social and economic policy. When Mandella dies it will go into overdrive and we can prepare to watch the slaughter of the white south african live on our tv, since I assume no Western government will lift a finger to help.

      • LancasterL

        The ANC’s legalised racist policy of BEE just cannot be justified. If one compares
        what happened after the Holocaust in Germany and the mass slaughter of
        westerners by the Japanese, Jews were not given preference for jobs in Germany
        and neither were westerners in Japan. In fact forgive and forget was in place
        by the Allies for Germans and Japanese just a few short years after WWII. Yet
        18 years after the end of apartheid, which can hardly be compared to the genocide of the Holocaust, young
        whites are still being victimised; suffering crippling career prospects despite being just tiny minority, under
        these ANCs racist BEE policies. Is it really morally right to punish children for something their parents MAY have done thirty years ago?? Imagine the outcry if Jews in Germany were suddenly forced by law to sell large portions of their companies to Germans!!! Or the Japanese
        were forced to implement a Westerner’s Empowerment Policy!! It really seems
        like South Africa has swopped a white racist government for a black racist
        government! BEE is completely wrong and may well be considered a crime against
        humanity by international standards and the precedents set by the benign treatment of the Germans and
        Japanese. It is time for those with a moral conscience to speak up against this legalised racism.

        • Koakona

          You are absolutely correct. If this were the white man doing it to the black then the left would be howling and their would be international condemnation.

        • Tom Tom

          “forgive and forget was in place by the Allies for Germans”…………….Rubbish. Totally false. …………….

          • LancasterL

            So Tom Tom – according to you the Japanese implemented a system of affirmative action that forced private businesses to sell shares to those race groups they had abused?? And were private German businesses forced to implement affirmative action policies for Jews??? What history books are you reading???

  • Jupiter

    He hasn’t got a leg to stand on.

  • JabbaTheCat

    “…is it normal for South Africans to have loaded guns on hand?”

    Blimey, you really are clueless as to the reality of daily life in the flip flop’s post apartheid ZA…

  • Tom Tom

    I guess White Farmers don’t need guns since not many of them are being murdered. Best to disarm Whites altogether in South Africa and sell them prepaid funeral plans.

  • Mycroft

    I imagine that we can be pretty sure that Pistorius would not have got bail if he had been an ordinary citizen, and he will have expensive lawyers working away to get him off (perhaps rightly); equality under the law is no more than a theoretical concept in any country, even if there is no direct corruption or external control over the judiciary.

    • HooksLaw

      I see no evidence to justify anything you say. He is clearly guilty of something the question is what. There is no evidence for any motive for murder. If people want to simply leave their girlfriend there are easier ways to do it than putting 4 bullets into her.

      • Mycroft

        I didn’t say that he is necessarily a murderer, but was merely suggesting that an unknown man who was facing a murder charge of that kind would have been held in custody.

      • ButcombeMan

        Anyone who puts four bullets through a locked lavatory door without knowing who is on the other side of it or establishing that it is not the other person known to be in the living space with him, needs to be locked up to protect himself and the public.

        It is the action of someone, temporarily or permanently, insane.

        Of COURSE a “nobody” in such circumstances would NOT get bail.

        Temporary insanity can be the result of drug taking, cocaine & crack especially.

        I hope they tested Pretorius.

        • Isaac Phiri

          I’d suggest that if it was a ‘nobody’ in place of Oscar, then then the prosecution wouldn’t have gone for the premeditated murder. I think that given his status and resources, the prosecution wanted the maximum charge to prevent bail. A nobody would have been granted bail as it would have been a lesser charge.

          Additionally, the man is an international athelete who would be tested to within an inch if his life. I’d suggest that class A’s and performance enhancing drugs are highly unlikely to have played any part given his rather full schedule of appearances throughout this year.

          • ButcombeMan

            Are you serious?

            The deliberate firing of a gun, four times, through a door, into a tiny room known to be occupied by a human being is premeditated killing.

            Without challenging whoever was in the room or checking that it was the other person sharing the accomodation, it is not an act of sanity.

            Indeed OP apparently admits that he did do that.

            It is very difficult indeed to see what other charge SAP could reasonably have brought.

            Not up to them to accept his “accident” story & completely proper that it goes to a Court to decide what caused him to do it..

            As for the possible and rather obvious drugs issue, you are rebutted by only two words.

            They are Lance and Armstrong.

          • Tom Tom

            I do not know SA Indictment Criteria. England has a strange dichotomy between Murder and Manslaughter not used in other jurisdictions where Murder has several categories making it the appropriate Charge as in the US

        • Tom Tom

          Drugs are usually omitted from reports by journalists for fear of self-incrimination

        • Tom Tom

          It would be no defence in most jurisdictions as there was no defined threat….

      • Tom Tom

        You have reviewed the Case File or are you Amicus Curiae ?

  • Daniel Maris

    Well it’s good to see there is a positive trend in South Africa. Sometimes one gets the impression it’s been going in the other direction.

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