Gun Policy Briefs

Tuesday, 10 March 2020 14:13

Briefing 1 of 2020: How South Africa can help silence the guns in Africa

When South Africa assumed chairing the African Union (AU) for 2020 last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa prioritised the AU’s Silencing the Guns agenda as a strategy to creating conducive environments for Africa’s development.

Our president’s championing of the Silencing the Guns agenda contrasts sharply with our national context as was tragically illustrated this past weekend when seven people were killed, and another seven injured in a shooting in Khayelitsha.

Being a mass shooting (generally defined as involving four or more people, excluding the shooter) it made the headlines. In contrast, the vast majority of daily gun violence is unreported in the media.

While we do not know the names and the stories of most individual gun violence victims, a range of data show that the number of people that are shot and killed in South Africa has been steadily increasing from 2010.

As of February 2019, our murder rate is three times higher than Africa’s average rate. South Africa also has one of the biggest gun stockpile levels on the continent and is the largest exporter and importer of small arms and light weapons in Africa.

Using these indicators, this Briefing tracks how South Africa is impeding the Silencing the Guns agenda and identifies concrete actions we can take to lead the AU with sincerity and materially contribute to achieving Africa’s ambition of Silencing the Guns on the continent.

Wednesday, 06 November 2019 16:16

Briefing 6 of 2019: Firearms amnesties - Four key factors for success

Yesterday’s announcement by the Gauteng Department of Health that gunshots have overtaken motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of non natural death in the province underscores how urgently action is needed to reduce the availability of guns in South Africa.

The chance of being shot is not random. For someone to be shot, there must be a gun. When guns are controlled and less available, fewer shootings happen and lives are saved.

As such we commend recent efforts by government to reduce the availability of guns, such as yesterday’s destruction of 23,000 firearms.

Depending on how they are undertaken, firearms amnesties also have significant potential to recover guns and save lives.

On 23 October the Portfolio Committee on Police (PCOP) approved an application from the Ministry of Police to hold a six month firearms amnesty starting on 1 December.

Briefing 6 of 2019 answers three questions asked at the PCOP meeting of 23 October:
1. Are amnesties an effective strategy to reduce illegally-held guns?
2. Can the police be trusted to oversee the 2019/20 amnesty?
3. Is there enough time to prepare?

Drawing on lessons learned from South Africa’s own experience of holding amnesties as well as other countries’ experience, Briefing 6 identifies four key factors that will contribute to the success of the 2019/20 amnesty.

In sum, it shows that: 1) a no-questions-asked amnesty, 2) that coincides with the full implementation of sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act (which require gun owners to regularly renew their firearm licences or forfeit guns for which licences have expired), 3) overseen by independent monitors, and 4) underpinned by a comprehensive communication campaign will help put in place conditions to recover and destroy as many guns as possible.

Thursday, 24 October 2019 10:51

Briefing 5 of 2019: Gun control and violence - South Africa’s story over 25 years

Yesterday’s news that parliament’s police portfolio committee has approved a firearms amnesty – the fourth in South Africa’s history – is warmly welcomed.

It’s also perfectly timed, as today marks the first day of global disarmament week (24-30 October), which has been observed annually around the world since 1978.

To commemorate disarmament week, Gun Free South Africa has published a comprehensive report on the history and impact of gun control in South Africa over 25 years.

Policy brief 5 of 2019 summarises the report Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story, showing how gun control - including firearm amnesties - saves lives.

In the 10 years that firearms were strictly controlled and less available in South Africa (2000-2010), guns stopped being the leading cause of murder and gun-related deaths almost halved, from 34 people shot and killed a day to 18.

However, from 2011 gun violence began increasing due to various breakdowns in South Africa’s firearms control management system. This included fraud and corruption, deliberate leakage of guns from secure stores into the illegal market, inappropriate target-setting, under-resourcing and poor planning.

As a result guns have become increasingly available. As gun availability increased so has gun violence.

The latest national crime statistics (2019) show that guns are again the leading cause of murder (47% of murders in 2018-19 were from gunshots and 31% were knife-related).

In sum, Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story is a map to reducing gun violence in South Africa and halving crime in the country in the next 10 years. It identifies tried and tested gun control interventions, including firearm amnesties, that saved lives in the past. These same interventions can again save lives.

Copies of Gun control and violence: South Africa’s story, are available online:


Tuesday, 03 September 2019 12:12

Briefing 4 of 2019: Women under the gun - Actions to protect women from gun violence

This past August – which is women’s month – 93 women were shot and killed, an average of three women a day.

To give a face, a name, a story to this number, to this horror, Gun Free South Africa collected information on just 21 women who were shot and killed this year to symbolise the number of women shot and killed in one week in South Africa.

While these 21 women’s stories were being profiled, the killing continued. Also published on 1 September were the following three shootings:
‒ Six year old Nathlia Pienaar died in hospital after she was shot while playing outside in Lavender Hill. She was caught in the crossfire and was still holding onto her skipping rope when her family found her in the street just minutes later.
‒ South African female boxing champion Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels was shot dead on Friday by her police officer boyfriend against whom she had a protection order.
‒ A 39 year-old woman was shot in the head by her estranged husband as she tried to pick up some of her belongings at his house in Summerstrand on Saturday. The couple’s three children, aged two, seven and ten, were present during the incident.

Briefing 4 looks at women under the gun; it locates the murder of women and girls within a global context and identifies clear and proven actions to protect women from gun violence.

While South Africa’s Firearms Control Act (2000) has provisions that allow the police and courts to remove a gun from a violent individual and which prohibit violent individuals from accessing guns, these are not being uniformly implemented.

Below is a summary of five urgent actions to protect women from gun violence:

Reactive: Remove guns from individuals with a history of violent behaviour
1. Immediately remove firearms in incidents of IPV
2. A gun owner who is declared unfit surrenders all licences, firearms and ammunition.

Proactive: Ensure systems are in place to prevent individuals with a history of violent behaviour accessing guns
3. All gun owners comply with “fit and proper” provisions in the law.
4. Electronic criminal record and firearms databases and registers be established and linked.
5. Police officers dealing with firearm-related issues are empowered with knowledge, skills and resources.

These interventions will not stop what the United Nations has described as the “widespread, at a high level and normalised” violence against women and girls in South Africa. But, because guns are 12 times more deadly than other weapons when used in intimate partner violence, they will help save women’s lives.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019 09:04

Briefing 3 of 2019: Halving crime in SA needs effective gun control

Briefing 3 of 2019 was issued on 9 July, which has been declared by the UN as #GunDestructionDay, making it the official date for the destruction of small arms worldwide.

On 9 July, as on every other day, 23 people will be shot and killed across South Africa. The vast majority of these deaths will not be reported on as they are not newsworthy.

It takes a mass shooting, as happened on the 6-7 july weekend in Philippi East on the Cape Flats – when 11 people were shot dead, including 6 women in a single incident – for a shooting to make the news.

Guns are now the leading cause of murder in South Africa, replacing knives.

But this wasn’t the case: Violent crime, particularly murder but also attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, decreased between 2000 and 2009 as various gun control initiatives were undertaken nationally.

In his State of the Nation address on 20 June this year, President Ramaphosa identified five “fundamental goals” to be achieved in the next 10 years. One of these is that “violent crime will be halved, if not eliminated.”

Firearms Control Briefing 3 of 2019, which uses a public health model to identify risk and protective factors for violence. We believe it is a useful and practical guide to break the chain of violence and help halve crime in South Africa.

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