MRC: allowing younger people to own more guns is disastrous

‘ Firearms are mainly used to murder women, to intimidate them and force them into submission…’

FIREARMS CONTROL ACT SA SHOULD NOT GRANT MORE GUNS TO YOUNGER PEOPLE CAPE TOWN — The proposed amendments to the Firearms Control Act should be opposed at all costs. While the exact changes to the Act are still being drawn up, all the indications are that there are plans for the amended law expected to be passed in parliament next year to lower the age at which a firearm licence may be obtained and  to also increase the number of firearms allowed per person. link And allowing younger people to own more guns is a recipe for disaster which will cause even greater suffering for South African women and children, warns Dr Naeemah Abrahams, a researcher with the Medical Research Council. 

She pointed out the dangers of the proposed amendments during a discussion in Cape Town. Dr Abrahams said the perception that firearms are being kept in homes for ‘security’ is false: “If firearms are not used to murder women, they are used to intimidate them and force them into submission. “There are women who go to sleep knowing that there is a firearm under the pillow or in the drawer. These firearms are often not used against criminals, but against loved ones.”

Warning that firearms featured in up to 40% of all sworn statements by women about violence against them in the Western Cape, she pointed out the dangers of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Control Act during a discussion on the issue.

Supporters for the new changes say more control will be exercised over all existing firearms if more are registered:

Supporters for the new proposal say however that ‘data on firearm violence in South Africa identifies firearms as one of the leading means of non-natural deaths in the country, with handguns being the preferred weapon of choice. The misuse of firearms claims thousands of lives every year, and gravely affects the social harmony and security of individuals in South Africa. The perceived ease with which they can be obtained by individuals in the illegal pool, through loss or theft from the South African Police Services, private individuals, the South African National Defence Force ,and the private security industry, h”ave only served to increase the fear of violence and crime,” supporters for the amended law argue.

The SA government has not identified the use of firearms in crime statistics since 2000…

The main problem is the lack of accurate official information: the available disaggregated SAPS data on the use of firearms in incidents of crime and violence, such as cases of murder, attempted murder, rape and indecent assault, have not been made publically available by the South African government since 2000. Trends in firearms crime and violence can therefore only be analysed by means of gathering data from media reports, the aggregated statistics provided by the SAPS on violence and crime, and various other data collection systems, such as Statistics South Africa and the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System.

‘ A girl born in South Africa is more likely to be raped than to learn to read…’

Changes to the act being presented to parliament next year include lowering the age at which a firearm licences may be obtained and increasing the number of firearms allowed per person.  Abrahams said the perception that firearms are kept in homes for security is false. If firearms are not used to murder women, they are used to intimidate them and force them into submission.  “There are women who go to sleep knowing that there is a firearm under the pillow or in the drawer. These firearms are often not used against criminals, but against loved ones.” She said firearms feature in up to 40% of sworn statements by women about violence in the Western Cape. 

During the discussion reference was also made to statistics showing that a girl born in South Africa is more likely to be raped than to learn to read.
Synnov Skorje, director of the centre opposing violence against women and children, said they see women literally running for their lives.  Democratic Alliance MP Helen Lamoela said a policy on the compensation of victims is also necessary because they are frequently left to fend for themselves. Community worker Darlina Tyawana also pointed out that offenders who go to jail “get hot food, receive training and are better off than their victims…” link

‘Men in Cape Town who witness abuse of females as children are three times as likely to be arrested for gun-possession..’

Speaking in Cape Town yesterday at a public meeting campaigning against violence targetting women and children, Dr Abrahams was clearly also using her own findings through the MRC’s gender and health group, showing that men in Cape Town who had witnessed abuse of their mothers when they were children are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for possession of a weapon (gun) and nearly twice as likely to be involved in fights at work or in the community as other men.

Such men also  also two and a half times as likely to beat one of their own partners. “These findings show that the problems of gender-based violence and violent crime are intimately linked in our society” says Dr. Naeemah Abrahams. She said this was the first major study of men’s use of violence against intimate partners in South Africa. Nearly a quarter of the 1,368 men interviewed (23.5%) reported that they witnessed their mother being abused by their father or her boyfriend when they were a child. “It seems likely that by witnessing the behaviour of their parents, boys take messages about the acceptability of violence in solving conflict and achieving goals. This sets up a cycle of violence,” she said.

“It is critically important that we develop ways to interrupt the cycle by decreasing intimate partner violence, and thus children’s chances of witnessing it, and by early identification of boys that require help in developing non-violent conflict skills. Equally important are interventions at places of work,” Dr. Abrahams said. She further stated that a recent study showed that workplace violence cost South Africa about R40 billion per year. “The workplace thus provides excellent opportunities to identify men at risk for using violent means of conflict against partners and other and provides chances for work place interventions,” said Dr. Abrahams.  For more information contact: Dr Naeemah Abrahams:  Medical Research Council of South Africa, 2001 PO Box 19070, 7505 Tygerberg, South Africa HO Tel  +27 (0)21 9380911  Fax +27 (0)21 9380200;   People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) Tel: +27 11 642 4345/6 Fax:+ 27 11 484 3195 Mobile No:  +27 83 540 2289       Email: info@powa.co.za http://www.powa.co.za  or  info@mrc.ac.za 

http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global%5B_id%5D=73095

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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