Outrage against the proposed amendments to gun ownership laws is growing with pro-gun ownership groups saying discouraging gun ownership for “self-defence” would place women at greater risk of gender-based violence (GBV), because they would be legally unable to protect themselves.
The proposal published last month by the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP), could see changes to the law that would remove self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm.
Action Society spokesperson Dr Rineé Pretorius, said they were concerned about the impact that the amendment to the Firearms Control Act (FCA) would have on the continued violence against innocent women and children.
She said people’s safety would be jeopardised if the right to self-protection is removed.
An organisation which helps women lawfully license firearms for self-defence, Girls On Fire, spokesperson Tshepi Mmekwa said she was utterly dismayed by the document published in the government gazette on the proposed amendments.
Mmekwa said she referred specifically to the clause that stated that the government aimed to remove their rights to receive a license for a firearm for self-defence.
“By taking away our rights to defend ourselves, our children, and our families, the government will be toxic paternalistic enablers and promoters of GBV against the most vulnerable members of society – us women,” said Mmekwa.
She said if those proposed changes are adopted, it would be a huge step back for women’s empowerment.
“It will take us back to before our political emancipation, where we had no rights at all, especially the right to our implicit means to protect the right to life,” she said.
Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has warned that the proposed changes to gun laws would place women at greater risk. The institute recently investigated arguments that law-abiding firearm owners were a major causal factor for serious and violent crime, that gun ownership places women at risk, and that households with guns were unlikely to use them.
Gun Free SA director Adele Kirsten said the reliance on evidence that reducing access to firearms reduces gun violence, has linked lives saved, including the lives of women and children, to stricter gun control.
Kirsten said GFSA recognised that everyone living in SA was grappling with ways to protect themselves, family, friends, colleagues and the wider community from violent crime.
She said the best way to do that was to use available evidence to make the most informed decision.
“The available evidence shows that reducing access to firearms helps make our homes, communities and country safer,” she said.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz’s spokesperson, Wade Seale, said since the beginning of May, 128 people have been killed by gunshot trauma in the metro over weekends.
“We need firearm regulation that will assist in bringing down these numbers, not legislation that will infringe the rights of legal gun owners to defend themselves,” said Seale.
Gun Owners of South Africa (Gosa) member Alan Marthezé said historically the police have conveniently laid the blame at the feet of civilian firearm owners as being the largest source of criminal firearms when clearly numbers have shown that approach has been nothing but a convenient scapegoat designed to deflect blame and condition the general public into misplacing their suspicions and anger onto the wrong perpetrators.
National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa (Naaccsa) chairperson advocate John Welch said the proposed amendments focused on legal and responsible firearm owners could make little contribution to crime-fighting and the reduction in crime.
Welch said, on the contrary, many more civilians who would be unable to protect themselves, would be maimed and killed because of criminal activity.