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Pistorius trial: key facts on guns in South Africa

23 February 2013

12:05 AM

23 February 2013

12:05 AM

Oscar Pistorius has now been granted bail ahead of his trial in June. His case has raised many basic questions abroad, such as: is it normal for South Africans to have loaded guns on hand? And is it a defence to say that you killed someone because you thought they were someone else? There’s a fair bit of soul-searching in South Africa about whether the Paralympian would have been granted bail had he not been so well-known and what this says about the justice system. But the case is also opening up a debate familiar to other countries too: on gun control. Here are some quick facts:

  • There are 2.9 million firearms licensed to 1.5 million individuals at the last count in August 2011, although some estimates place true ownership much higher at 6 million.
  • A law passed in 2000 – the Firearms Control Act – includes a fit and proper test for those applying for ownership. A gun holder must be over 21; a South African citizen or holder of a residence permit; mentally stable; not violent; free from firearms, sexual or violent abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or drug dealing convictions; and they must complete training and practical tests. Certain weapons, such as automatic firearms, are banned.
  • It is legal to shoot someone in self-defence if you believe your life is in danger, even if they are not carrying an equivalent weapon.
  • 2,000 licensed firearms are stolen every month in South Africa.
  • Homicide rates have decreased from over 60 per 100,000 in 1994 to under 40 per 100,000 in 2007, and the graph below shows that this included a decrease in homicides by firearm:

Source: UNODC Homicide Statistics (2011).

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