Gun Free SA tells police to destroy firearms to keep them out of underworld's hands

Gun Free SA has called on the police to destroy seized and surrendered firearms to avoid a situation where these surrendered guns are diverted to illegal markets.
Gun Free SA has called on the police to destroy seized and surrendered firearms to avoid a situation where these surrendered guns are diverted to illegal markets.
Image: 123RF/Roger Lamkin

Gun Free SA on Tuesday urged the South African Police Service (SAPS) to destroy seized and surrendered firearms.

The last such destruction took place in April this year, when police minister Bheki Cele noted that there were still 60,000 firearms in SAPS stores that could be destroyed.

Gun Free SA made the call to mark #GunDestructionDay on Tuesday. The day has been declared by the United Nations as the official date for destruction of small arms worldwide.

Gun Free SA said 11 people were shot and killed in Philippi East on the Cape Flats at the weekend. It said the guns used were most likely once legal, before they were lost or stolen.

It said these murders could have been prevented if stockpiles of unwanted, confiscated and recovered guns had been destroyed.

Gun Free SA said that in the past decade, global gun stocks had increased, fueling crime, conflict, gender-based violence, forced migration and more.

Stockpiling weapons, it added, cost more than destroying surpluses. It also created a high risk of diversion into illegal markets.

The organisation cited the 2016 case of Christiaan Prinsloo, a police officer who sold about 2,000  firearms handed in to the police for destruction to gang leaders on the Cape Flats.

“It is globally recognised that destroying excess, unwanted and recovered firearms, ammunition and firearm parts is the only way to guarantee that these are not leaked into the illegal pool of weapons,” Gun Free SA’s director, Adèle Kirsten, said.

She said as gun availability increased, so did gun violence.

She said guns had again replaced knives as the leading cause of murder in South Africa. Currently, 23 people are shot dead every day, up from 18 a day in 2009. She said public trust in the police wad been eroded.

When gun owners handed their guns in to the police, she said, they trusted the police to destroy these guns.

Kirsten said by not destroying these guns, the police failed the public and South Africa as a whole.

She said the result of this loss of confidence was that members of the public with unwanted guns were less likely to hand them in to the police for destruction.

Instead, the guns remained in people’s homes, where they could be used in domestic violence and suicide or be stolen by house robbers.

In 2017/2018, members of the public reported the loss or theft of 24 guns on average every day.


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