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The tragedy of gun crimes


Besides the mystery of the disappearing Malaysian airlines plane, the gripping stories internationally have been the trial of the South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius and the repeat tragedy at the US military base at Fort Hood, Texas. Both involve the use of guns to kill innocent victims. In a sense, there is a connecting thread between both events, namely the insistence of the “right” to bear arms and the resultant use of those arms in shooting deaths.{{more}}

The Pistorius incident has its roots in the legacy of the repugnant apartheid system, which has left a violent mark in South African society. The minority whites, who introduced the gun as a means of conquest, today rely on it in their claim of “self-defence” to protect their ill-gotten gains. Guns proliferate in South African society, with an estimated 12 million guns overall, legal and illegal. The law itself allows citizens, mostly white of course, but more affluent blacks too, to legally own up to four guns per person. Just one month before Pistorius shot his girlfriend, he had applied for licences for firearms shotguns, revolvers and a rifle.

With the glaring inequality in South African society, many young blacks see ownership of guns as a power symbol and use them with deadly impact. South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an average of 18 murders a day. Shootings are the leading cause of non-natural deaths and the leading cause of deaths overall among males between the ages of 15 and 19.

That is the society which has produced Oscar Pistorius and the violent gangs of black youths in the neglected “townships” of the major cities. Guns can be obtained legally, through the illegal gun trade, (it is reported that one can purchase an AK 47 on the black market for about US$150 as against about US$500 on the streets of New York), through corruption via police and military officers and by many guns being lost or stolen, a reported 66 per day between 1995 and 2003.

It is truly a SIGN OF THE TIMES in which we live today.

Renwick Rose