Umm Muhammed Umar
The issue of gun control has once again surfaced, with yet another classroom shooting in the US State of Texas on Tuesday. 19 children, and at least two adults were killed. The world remains in shock after an 18-year-old went on a shooting rampage killing 19 children, aged between 7 and 10 years old. This is the second worst school massacre in the history of America. Further, it followed just days after another 18-year-old killed 10 people at a shopping centre in California. Radio Islam spoke to the Regional Coordinator for Gun Free South Africa, Mary Ann Nobele.
Nobele said that in a country like the US, civilians have easy access to firearms., and when people have easy access to firearms, there is an increase in gun deaths. She said that, in South Africa, 23 people a day are lost to gun violence, because South Africans have easy access to guns.
Regarding such violence being seen perpetrated by young people, Nobele said that being young is an experimental phase. She said, “when we can make this observation that young people are known to be violent, we need to take caution – we need to be aware of it and do something about it.” Nobele added, “And the one thing that can be done is taking the weapon away from the people, because you can’t guarantee people’s behaviour……what you can do is make sure that there are limits on what they can do with that behaviour.” She believes that imposing limits on guns – on types of guns, and who can have guns, can make a huge difference.
Nobele said that Gun Free South Africa would love to see a society where even the police don’t carry guns. She said, “(A) draft bill did come out last year, we’re trying to slowly move into a space where we are getting rid of guns to create an overall safer society.” She claimed, “it has been proven, not only in South Africa, but around the world, that when you have less access to guns, then there is less death.”
In South Africa, it seems that it is easier to acquire a firearm illicitly, than through legal means. Nobele said that 24 guns are lost or stolen daily, in South Africa. She said that those guns are the ones being used illegally, as these guns are easy to acquire and difficult to trace. She said, “looking at trying to put limits on civilians having guns will help us reduce criminal access to firearms.”
On the issue of whether people would become ‘sitting ducks’, unable to defend themselves, were gun laws to fall into place, Nobele said that the opportunity to use one’s firearm when under attack was very unlikely to present itself. She added that even if one did get a chance to retrieve one’s firearm, the chances of being shot become higher. Nobele said that rather than arming oneself, we need to focus more on holding the people who should be taking responsibility for crime, like the police, accountable. She said, “saying, ‘oh no, they’re not doing their job, so I need to be able to defend myself!” leaves the door open to South Africa becoming like America, where our teenage children would have access to guns that were in the home.