On 22 June, the Democratic Alliance (DA) hosted an online Firearms Summit. The Firearms Summit was organised in light of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill (FCA Amendment Bill), which aims to functionally restrict firearm ownership almost to the point of prohibition.
The summit began with evocative footage and images from the media about not just the bill itself, but the violence in South Africa and the police’s inability to do anything about it. This set the scene quite starkly, and the DA made clear their position on the bill.
Stakeholders, partisans, and lobbyists from both the gun control and gun rights lobbies were invited to the summit, but no pro-FCA Amendment Bill persons attended. Police minister Bheki Cele and Gun Free South Africa, the biggest advocates for the FCA Amendment Bill, were conspicuously absent. As such, only gun rights supporters were present, suggesting a disparity in the passion that the two sides have for this issue. And perhaps that the scale of the gun control lobby may be overstated.
The Firearms Summit
While the Firearms Summit was marketed as non-partisan, it was definitely affiliated with the DA, bearing DA branding and dominated by DA leaders and members. But this is not necessarily a problem. FCA Amendment Bill and gun control supporters were given every opportunity to attend. They chose not to. Principles and policy are what matter, not who is speaking about them presently.
The DA made its position on the bill clear from the start, focusing on the importance of firearms for self-defence. A general theme of the summit was the dire state of violent crime in South Africa and the South African Police Service (SAPS)’s inability to do anything about it. It was established that banning firearms for self-defence is unconscionable in a country with so much violent crime.
Andrew Whitfield also expressed concerns about the hunter and firearm collectors community, highlighting the importance of hunting for the rural economy and firearm collecting for our national heritage.
The main thrust of the DA’s position was that the police have proven again and again that they are incapable of policing the country. They have violated their social contract with the people of South Africa, leaving us to fend for ourselves. But while they do this, they are increasingly trying to restrict our ability to defend ourselves. It’s ludicrous!
Hunting and Rural Economies
Rural South Africans were highlighted as a vulnerable group, as without any access to armed response or SAPS, firearms are their first and last line of defence. Stripping them of this right renders them helpless against mounting farm and rural attacks.
The rural community is also under threat by other parts of the bill. Dries van Coller highlighted how the restrictions on hunters will threaten the rural economy. Hunting provides approximately R3 billion to local economies, not including related industries. Game farmers can’t just use abattoirs to process their game; they require hunters to hunt wildlife for the sake of an income, food security, and the ecosystem.
Van Coller went on to say that the impact on the industry and rural economies would be dire if the FCA Amendment Bill is adopted.
Hunters have proven that they deserve guns through a stringent licensing process that already makes it very difficult for them to feed their families. With the bill, they will be debilitated.
Gun Control Arms Criminals
Helen Zille focused the discussion on the essential reasoning behind the bill: The idea that gun control can reduce firearms in circulation, and that a reduced number of firearms mean reduced violent crime. Putting the logic of that aside, as there may be no real correlation between firearms in circulation and violent crime, Zille established firmly that gun control does not reduce the number of firearms in circulation.
The fact of the matter is that SAPS is dominated by corruption and incompetence, and that weapons confiscated from legal and illegal gun owners alike disappear in transit and inevitably end up in the hands of criminals. With South Africa’s porous borders – a non-problem that cannot and ought not be “solved” – it will also always be easy for criminals to obtain firearms elsewhere in Africa and haul them in.
The process whereby SAPS is systematically arming violent criminals and gangsters to line their own pockets is described in vivid detail by Mark Shaw in his book Give us More Guns.
A policy of increased gun control will fall apart through corruption and poor implementation. This isn’t speculative; it’s already happening. The precedent is there. And since previous gun amnesties, SAPS has gotten worse. More confiscations will result in more armed violent criminals.
Reagen Allen echoed the fact that SAPS gun confiscations are being used to arm criminals. This is alongside the SAPS budget being cut by R3.8 billion. Crime, and the fear of it, is increasing. And the criminal justice system is just getting more corrupt and incompetent, as Western Cape conviction rate hit a record low of 25%. There are fewer boots on the ground, and the police are barely, if at all, relevant.
Our Rights are Under Attack
Paul Oxley of Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA) very rightly argued for our natural right to defend ourselves, and how firearm ownership extends from that.
From this rights argument, John Steenhuisen expanded on how the government is systematically assaulting our rights. Our right to quality healthcare is being threatened by the National Health Insurance. Nationalisation is a present threat to our property rights. Lockdown and regulations have stripped us of our ability to pursue an income. And now with the FCA Amendment Bill, our right to defend ourselves and all other rights are being threatened.
I posed a question to the panel in this vein:
“Is this move to functionally ban guns conveniently being used to enable other abhorrent legislation? Disarmament by regimes usually precedes something worse. With EWC on the horizon, this amendment becomes even direr.”
Helen Zille answered that years ago, she would have found such a notion dubious. But now, too many conspiracy theories have been proven true. She doesn’t think anything is too far-fetched. Anything is possible from the African National Congress. She recognises that the theory that disarmament may be a precursor for increased authoritarianism and nationalisation is possible, especially while President Ramaphosa is contradicted by his comrades and Julius Malema seems to be the actual one in charge, despite his party commanding a small minority.
Gun Control Has No Legs to Stand On
Above all the other concerns with gun control, Frans Cronje of the Institute of Race Relations carefully outlined the logic and arguments of the gun control lobby in a detailed segment, establishing that they are all built on faulty and incompetently handled statistics, and even downright deceit.
Most of all, the correlation between guns and violent crime was debunked. Again, and again, the facts show that legal firearm ownership is not a threat to our safety, but a necessary feature of a free society.
It was said during the Firearms Summit that it should have been expected that Gun Free South Africa wouldn’t show up, as they are unable to respond to the simplest argument against their position: their hypocrisy.
For do the members of Gun Free South Africa expect to disarm the populace, but still have their private security defend them from crime, using firearms?
The Firearms Summit was filled with insightful information, data, and arguments – far too much for a short report such as this. What I took from it overall was that the movement to defend our natural right to defend ourselves and our families is strong and growing. This summit, I feel, has brought us closer together, and one step towards fighting the tyrants at the gate.
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