Mhlaba Memela

More than 3500 illegal and voluntarily surrendered firearms were destroyed at Prospecton outside Durban.

The consignment consisted of shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers and AK-47 rifles that were seized during police operations as well as voluntarily handed in by owners.

Police said the firearms destroyed yesterday brought the total to 8 533 guns destroyed in KwaZulu-Natal this year.

In July 5033 firearms were destroyed in a bid to ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of violent criminals.

Among those confiscated were guns used against the police by criminals.

The destruction yesterday is in line with South Africa's Firearms Control Act, which is aimed at making the country a safer place.

Police spokesman Jay Naicker said the police in the province had embarked on several operations with the aim of recovering unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

He said many specialised operations were being conducted throughout the province on a daily basis with the aim of removing firearms and ammunition from the community to reduce the incidence of violent crimes.

"Destroyed firearms have gone through the entire judicial processes and have been ballistically tested,"Naicker said.

"This method of destruction ensures that the firearms will never return to our streets.

"More than half of the firearms being destroyed were voluntarily surrendered by their owners.

"This clearly indicates that members of the public have heeded our call to move towards responsible gun ownership and limiting the opportunity for firearms to fall into the hands of criminals."

But the event was not as joyful.

"When we witness the destruction of firearms we are reminded of our fallen colleagues," Naicker said.

"A number of them became casualties of the war on crime and met their fate through firearms such as these.

"Over the past few months we have noticed an unprecedented increase in the number of police officials being attacked and killed in the line of duty."

Naicker again appealed to the public to notify police when they notice firearms being manufactured or distributed. They might land in the hands of criminals, who do not hesitate to gun down policemen when they are confronted.