By Gideon Daniel Joubert
Gun ownership in South Africa has again been thrust into the spotlight, in no small part thanks to the high-profile criminal case against Oscar Pistorius gracing our television screens and the front pages of almost every newspaper. It is mindboggling that the allegedly negligent actions of but one famous public figure can reflect so badly on an entire population of lawful and responsible gun owners, the vast majority of which will likely never discharge their firearms at another human being during the course of their lives. Unfair but not unexpected: there is a deluge of misinformation about the nature of firearms and firearm ownership propagated through the media and organisations like Gun Free South Africa, and the public readily believe this due to ignorance regarding the issue.
I carry my legally owned handgun with me every day as prescribed by law, and I do so for a very simple reason: If there is a criminal who wishes to do me or my family harm, I now possess the capacity to fight off his attack and protect my life and the lives of my loved ones. Our criminal element are not renowned for their courtesy to dispatch written notice to their intended victims as to the where, when and how they plan to perpetrate their vile deeds. They strike when they believe their target least expects it, using the element of surprise and extreme violence to achieve their objective. It is crucial to be prepared for that eventuality: a gun owned for self-defence is utterly useless locked away in a safe when you need it most. I am far from the only person in my social circle that carries his gun concealed on him every day, most of my friends do exactly the same. We are all firmly aware that a great responsibility is thrust upon our individual shoulders when one owns and carries a firearm, and it is not something we as a community take lightly. We are not “Rambos” or “cowboys” or self-appointed guardians of our fellow man: we are just normal everyday people going about our business and staying out of trouble. We avoid confrontations. We avoid doing things or going to places that we consider too risky or too unsafe. In essence we avoid as far as is humanly possible getting ourselves into situations where we would be forced to use deadly force to defend our lives. There is the argument that citizens do not possess sufficient training or proficiency to use their guns to protect themselves, which is I disagree with. There are frequent reports in the media of successful defensive gun use by ordinary citizens, in many cases without fatalities.
South African firearms legislation, the Firearms Control Act of 2000 (FCA), is among the most restrictive and onerous gun laws in the world. It has failed to stem the out of control violence in our country perpetrated by criminals: the horrendous amount of people killed monthly in Manenberg, Mitchell’s Plain and Lavender Hill attest to that. Not surprisingly, none of the guns used in the numerous daily criminal acts are legally owned firearms. Criminals do not tend to bother licensing their weapons. There is the argument that if no civilians could legally own guns the criminals would be devoid of their source, which is naïve and ignorant: the SAPS and SANDF lose hundreds, if not thousands, of their firearms yearly. There are no prizes for guessing where these lost firearms turn up. Our criminal element has a virtually limitless source of guns with which to ply their violent trade, and the only thing a prohibition on legal civilian firearm ownership will achieve is to make law-abiding citizens completely defenceless. There are frequent media reports on the inefficiency of the South African Police in responding to violent crimes in progress. Would any citizen want to gamble their and their family’s lives on the response time of our SAPS? I truly hope not. What we desperately need in this country is more legal civilian firearm ownership, not less of it.
If there is any doubt in your mind regarding the conduct or nature of gun owners in South Africa, I invite you to find visit your nearest active shooting range. You may be surprised at the warm welcome you will receive and how much you may learn from experiencing what it really is all about.
Gideon Daniel Joubert is an airline pilot by profession, a devoted husband, and dedicated sport shooter. Residing in Strand, Western Cape.