By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | PRETORIA (IDN) — An outbreak of shootings at three different bars over one weekend has rocked the nation. Illegally obtained weapons were blamed for the violence in which 22 people died.
According to police, the gunmen in the Soweto shooting used high-calibre rifles, including AK-47s, leaving 137 empty cartridges on the scene. This has raised concerns about how criminals can access such high-powered weapons. The country’s abundance of guns held illegally is partially to blame for the shootings, community activists said.
An advisory body to the Minister of Police is calling for tightening gun control laws to restrict the number of newly licensed firearms in circulation.
South Africa already has strict firearms control legislation. The current Act requires gun license applicants to undergo detailed background checks and pass a firearm competency test. In addition, only those 21 years or older can apply for a license. And applications generally have to be accompanied by compelling motivations.
Director of Gun Free South Africa, Adele Kirsten, said the shootings are shocking but not new because almost 23 people are murdered with guns daily in the country.
“We have a gun violence epidemic in South Africa … We know the most effective way to reduce the risks for gun deaths is to reduce gun availability. We have guns flooding the legal market, and then they move into the illegal market.”
Proposed changes to the law have stirred public debate, particularly about whether tighter laws do reduce firearm violence. Public comment was invited on the proposed amendments and reportedly brought more than 100,000 submissions.
Gun Free South Africa maintains that the current Firearms Act has been a game-changer for reducing firearm violence in South Africa since the firearm murder rate declined by 40% between 1998 and 2007.
Pro-gun groups claim that the firearm law has a negligible impact on crime in South Africa.
Public health studies suggest that reductions in murders in urban areas, femicides and gunshot injuries in children can be attributed to the Firearms Control Act.
Around 20,000 people are murdered in South Africa yearly, out of a population of about 60 million. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 July 2022]
Photo credit: Shaun Swingler
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