Last week’s fatal shooting in the exclusive home of one of SA’s most revered athletes, in the midst of cruel media speculation, and the absence of conclusive evidence, emphasised the importance of gun safety in homes. Chilling facts related to the presence of guns on private property are proven by statistical evidence, based on local and global research.
South Africa’s ranking at 17th in a world league of gun ownership comes despite government’s efforts to curb high levels of private gun ownership, and discrepancies in official and unofficial statistics. Gun ownership in SA is estimated at approximately 6 million, equating to 12 guns for every 100 SA citizens. Gun Free SA (GFSA) says official records of the Central Firearms Registry reported approximately 2.9 million firearms registered to just over 1.5 million civilians. Property agents say although safes in homes form part of content lists to prospective buyers, specific requests relating to gun safes are a rare occurrence.
The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 specifies that as the owner of a registered gun and legitimate licence holder, when it comes to the safekeeping of a gun, the buck stops with you. Gun Free SA says preventable domestic shootings remain an inevitable outcome of allowing gun ownership. "For many South Africans having a gun in the home is about protecting themselves against the stranger intruder, but data both locally and elsewhere shows that you are four times more likely to have a gun used against you than to be able to use it successfully in self-defence," said Adèle Kirsten, spokeswoman for GFSA.
The safekeeping of guns in homes as specified in the FCA Firearms Control Regulations states when your gun is not kept on your body, it has to be stored out of sight, in a bolted, SABS approved safe. Whether you reside in an exclusive private estate protected by 24 hour armed response, or in less secure living quarters, a freestanding family home, or shared accommodation.
Kirsten says that gun related killings are not indiscriminate acts of chance that randomly affect people. “There is a simple cause and effect - the presence of a gun puts everyone at risk for injury and death – whether it is used for self-injury such as in suicide, unintentionally (i.e. an accident), or in cases of family violence.”
Statistical evidence state the reasons for responsible safekeeping of guns in homes:
To protect children and occupants from accidents and preventable incidents caused by loaded, unsecured handguns
That regardless of storage practice, the type or quantity, guns in homes, poses increased exposure to risks relating to homicide and suicide
Guns in homes are more likely to be involved in fatal as well as non –fatal, unintentional shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempts
It is also associated with increased risk of homicide by a family member, or intimate acquaintance
The likely hood of death from an unintentional gunshot injury is 3.7 times higher for adults, living in homes with guns
The FCA competency test restricts gun ownership by way of a two tier licensing system. It requires a would-be gun owner applicant to be declared fit, after receiving a competency certificate issued by an accredited SAPS trainer. An application for a firearm licence is followed by an SAPS inspection to assure appropriate storage. When proven negligent, licence holders are declared incompetent, resulting in the removal of guns for five years or longer, as determined by a court of law.
The cost of installing a Category B, SABS approved hand gun safe, with secure bolting, starts at R1300. The advice from the SAPS to would-be licence holders, is to include the purchase of a safe when purchasing a gun, and when not worn physically, to store it securely.