South Africa hails from and exists in a continuum of political extremes. When governments hold extreme views and exercise extreme measures the losers are the citizens who elected them and there is no room in South Africa for additional extremes.
Gun Free South Africa and its newest champion, Jeremy Vearey, hold an extreme position. In their view, South Africa should be completely gun free. As desirable as this may be to persons who daily lose family and friends to violence in South Africa, we can all agree that it is completely out of touch with reality in our community. Imagine if Safe Citizen propagated the extreme view that everyone should be armed?
In fact, we believe that there are persons in South Africa who should never be entrusted with the lawful possession of a firearm. What we do believe – and this is supported by the fact that more than a million South Africans lawfully possess a firearm for self-defence – is that law-abiding and competent citizens have the right to choose to apply for a licence to possess a firearm for any lawful purpose.
It is facile to imagine that violence can be legislated out of human beings. From before 10 000 years ago when 27 members of a tribe were brutally bludgeoned and hacked to death in Kenya, to France, where on Bastille Day 2016, 31-year-old Tunisian Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, denied access to a gun, simply rented a 19-ton refrigeration lorry and drove it into crowds of holidaymakers on the Nice beachfront in France, killing 86 people and injuring 458 others, humans have proven that they will kill each other.
Statistically, the actual murder weapon of choice for South Africans is a knife (Data from the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) latest national survey of injury-related deaths, published in September 2021, shows that weapons like knives (‘sharp force’) account for 41% of murders in South Africa. Firearms account for 32%).
In a story liberally peppered with irrelevant information about his political activism, incarceration at Robben Island, police experience and his current unemployment woes, Mr. Vearey adds little to the hackneyed refrain of Gun Free South Africa, for whom he now ‘lobbies as an activist.’ He appears to have forgotten that it was the possession of a firearm, or at the very least the threat of the application of a firearm that underpinned his authority within the public as a high-ranking police officer and that enabled the tens-of-thousands of police officers under him to do their jobs with a measure of protection – for themselves and the public that they were expected to protect.
Vearey asserts that a firearm is the ‘first resort of defence for middle class people who can afford to buy firearms.’ Sounds much the same to me as claiming that armed response, initiated with a button but backed up by a gun is the first resort of spoiled middle class who can afford to live safely behind electric fences and high walls. Millions of South Africans will never afford to live in a gated community behind electric fences, with armed (yes armed) response. And those people have no choice but to see to their own defence as they wait for a police van that may arrive in thirty minutes, or never arrive.
Even prior to the events of July 2021, South Africans were in no mood to hear about being disarmed. And if there was ever a demonstration of how the police are unable to protect the public, it was the riots in KZN and Gauteng. It was the public, the lawfully armed public that saved the day for the police while that agency floundered without leadership, organisation, and ammunition.
In contrast to Mr. Vearey’s view, I advance the notion that a firearm is a necessary and intrinsic part of a civilized nation. We protect our ministers, assets, celebrities and visiting dignitaries with guns, we lawfully use guns for hunting and competitive sport shooting and we rely on them for self-defence against a life-threatening attack. Whether we like it or not, guns are intrinsic to civilisation.
A firearm removes the disparity in physical strength, size or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender and is realistically the only personal weapon that puts a 60kg woman on an equal footing with a 120kg attacker. Why should private persons at the mercy of unchecked crime face criminals with empty hands while the political elite live in state-sponsored safety?
In closing, perhaps it is time for Gun Free South Africa to move away from an extreme that makes them irrelevant in our country? Could they re-brand as Crime Free South Africa and work with civic-minded persons to make South Africa an uncomfortable place for criminals? It beats punishing law abiding firearm owners while criminals roam free.
Murder and violence in South Africa will not be solved by disarming law abiding private citizens.