This is a general response to the calls by certain interest groups for greater gun control in the light of the tragic shooting incident in which Reeva Steenkamp was killed.
Nothing that can be said or written can take away the tragedy that both families have suffered and this letter is not intended to do so. It is an appeal for balanced reporting and balanced articles in the media.
Firearm owners have nothing to hide from or run away from and should not be vilified in the media. There is legislation that guides and directs us in what our legal obligations are, just as there is similar legislation for the operation of a motor vehicle or the running of a newspaper.
Civilian firearm ownership is legal and is recognized by our legislators. When calls are made (often to further specific agendas) to limit firearm ownership these calls are long on emotion and short on fact.
Firstly, any abuse of a firearm needs a perpetrator to use the firearm. It is a common tactic to paint all firearm owners with the same brush when there is a tragic incident such as the Pistorius incident. This ignores the simple logic that whenever a person chooses to use a firearm, that person and that person alone is legally responsible for the consequences of the use of that firearm. Group punishment is not part of our law.
It is sad that logic disappears and emotion takes over, particularly when fuelled by speculation in the media. We live in an evil and inherently violent society. To limit or ban firearm ownership will not eliminate violence. Violence vests in the heart of evil people and will be perpetrated by these people irrespective of whether they have a firearm at hand or not. There is absolutely no evidence that shows a firearm has the ability to influence when or whether a person perpetrates an act of violence. It is an inanimate object without any ability to operate independently of a human being.
Organizations and individuals are quick to call for limitations on firearm ownership, because of violence, but do not investigate, or if they do, only investigate superficially the root causes of violence in South Africa. We have a unique and tragic history. We had violence perpetrated by apartheid and liberation forces. We have a scarred nation of people, whether from the old defence forces or from the townships who were taught that violence was a means to an end and without legal consequence. This legacy has continued to this day. It exists within our police services (Marikana is a pertinent example) and it exists in violent service delivery protests (Sasolburg) and in strikes (the Western Cape Agricultural strikes).
Our violent past has not been healed in the past nineteen years and Government, due to its inability to confront and curb crime and violent protest through the police and through the courts, merely fuel the anger that exists in our population to accept and perpetrate violence. Many people in Government have violent pasts and serve as examples that one can perpetrate violence without consequence.
Our recent focus on the crisis of rape in this country is another example. Apart from a few extreme calls for castration, no one has seriously suggested that a cure for rape would be the surgical removal of penises. Why are firearms any different?
When we look at South Africa, our murder rate has gone down since 1994 and firearm ownership is again steadily on the increase. The logic of anti gunners dictates that with more firearms there should be more murders. This is not borne out by fact.
Another reality that the anti gunners cannot escape is that in all countries that have banned or placed limitations on firearm ownership, crime has not decreased; it is on the increase, particularly in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia where violent crime and gun related crime have not been affected by legislative curbs. This proves that controlling guns does not eliminate evil and violence in the hearts of people.
In South Africa we all know evil people and we all know that they perpetrate evil acts. We do not want to confront their evil and to have them disciplined through legally acceptable societal means, such as the police and courts. We would all rather blame the amorphous group of people known as gun owners for convenience sake, than having to confront the reality of dealing with the evil in our own backyards and bring them legally to book to eliminate evil people from our beloved country.
It is about time that we all as South Africans said no to evil and no to violence in our society. Can any of us honestly say that we have reached the point where we will bring evil people to account?
MARTIN HOOD ATTORNEY
SPOKESPERSON / LEGAL ADVISOR
SOUTH AFRICAN GUN OWNERS ASSOCIATION