Peter Storey’s opinion on firearms is just that: an opinion. It therefore does not need to be right or wrong to be valid, since opinions can be made in vacuums or event contradiction to fact, and still be relevant.
It is amusing that he raises the question of “do gun owners have a case?”, on the back of arguing that gun owners only make up three percent of the population, seemingly oblivious of his very own instance of the pot calling the kettle black. He makes a logical leap that would make an Olympic long jumper envious, namely that if you do not own your own firearm, you are automatically anti-firearm, and posits that firearm owners are in the minority and that we should therefore just ignore them and their concerns.
Oh contraire Mr Storey, there are 1.8 million of us that could be argued as de facto pro-firearm and associated with firearm entities, which immediately engulfs those that actually care enough about firearm control enough to be directly associated with Gun Free South Africa.
Why oh why does Gun Owners SA have over 100,000 members on Facebook, various sport and hunting clubs their own direct tens of thousands that pay annual membership fees, but Gun Free SA barely has 2,500 followers on Twitter, the majority of whom are firearm owners who follow just for the amusement, followed by media and some journalists.
GFSA ran a Twitter poll a short while back on whether respondents would feel more or less safe if their partner had a firearm, which ended with 46,000 answers in the affirmative, and a few hundred in the negative (if it was even that favourable as they appear to have finally deleted that poll).
Whenever this poll is raised, GFSA will retort that “gun owners did a posse call” to achieve those numbers. This is a fair criticism. However, an equally fair criticism would be “where was your posse then GFSA?”. They quite simply do not have one, or at least none that they can point to or prove as even existing.
The point of all this is while Mr Storey and GFSA might point to a ‘vocal minority’ as Storey clearly tries to allude to, there is an even smaller minority that has a voice far beyond what they should be entitled to. Firearm representative bodies are funded in the upper 90% range by individual members, I highly doubt whether GFSA can claim the same and dispute being majority reliant on grants by foreign entities.
GFSA finally had a chance to redeem themselves in this regard when Dear South Africa published the Firearms Controls Amendment Bill on their website for comment. There is quite simply not a more convenient or effective way to meaningfully comment on government legislation, and Dear SA well deserves the awards they have won for driving civic engagement.
Despite this, the Dear SA portal has over 120,000 comments. I would be willing to wager my non-existent savings that the overwhelming majority oppose the proposal, with a very small minority supporting it. We will find out when the comment period closes if Dear SA issues a submission summary as they sometimes do, and make no mistake, we shall ask for one. If there is a lacking presence of supportive comments, GFSA needs to ask why since they have been given adequate opportunity to bring their voice down to the level that firearm owners enjoy.
By this I do not mean that firearm owners are bottom feeders, so much as that they are deliberately excluded and prejudiced by government. A prime example would be the ‘Wits Report’, which is now infamous in firearm owner circles. This report was issued by the Wits School of Governance to aid the government in formulating public safety policy. This report was prohibited from being publicly released, and even after multiple PAIA requests, the Civilian Secretariat for Police (‘CSP’) refused to hand it over until it became clear that a court would not allow this continued secrecy.
What does this have to do with GFSA? Quite simply the fact that GFSA had access to this report very early on and openly made mention of this in footnotes for its media releases to substantiate its claims. When served with a PAIA request, GFSA replied by stating that they need permission from the CSP to share it. Clearly GFSA was either not allowed to have it and got it any way, or there is an improper relationship with a state entity to the exclusion of firearm entities. A PAIA app was served on the CSP in this regard so that we can know the how and why.
If one reads the Parliamentary hansard of National Assembly debates for the Firearms Control Act of 2000, it becomes very apparent that GFSA has enjoyed a long history with the government through the ruling party, which earned a stern rebuke by opposition parties who expressed severe concerns about the extent of GFSA’s involvement in the passage and final version of the Bill, as it then was.
In peddling their narrative, GFSA and their advocates misrepresent the nature of rights and how they work. Constitutions do not grant rights per se so much as they enshrine them (they already pre-exist the text of any constitution). An obvious example would be the right to dignity and safety and security. Socio-economic rights (such as housing) are quite recent developments and probably better referred to as entitlements.
The right to safety and security is a completely meaningless and irrelevant right if there is no way to realise that right, especially in the most homicidal nation in Africa (and one of the worst in the world). A right to a firearm as a tool is a reasonably implicit aspect in that right as one seeks to ward off those who have no regard for common decency.
Nor did the Constitutional Court emphasise anything as Mr Storey asserts. It made the comment obiter, that is a mere opinion (albeit a persuasive opinion, even if devoid of reasoning). Further, it was a completely irrelevant political statement and should not have been made because the issue before the court had absolutely nothing to do with such a right, nor was it argued as such by any of the parties present.
Mr Storey openly acknowledges the crime problem, yet posits no meaningful solutions whatsoever besides throwing money at an already failed concept (if it succeeded, why is there no evidence of this in the last ten years of our homicide rate?). Demanding an overhaul of SAPS is not meaningful. It is just another statement. Merely saying it as a statement does not make things better for anyone anywhere. Purchasing a firearm can and does, and while Mr Storey would and does argue otherwise, the many people who owe their lives to being armed at the right time would strongly disagree.
These people are mere exceptions and anecdotes to the general rule according to Mr Storey. Of course, it is impossible for him or anyone else to quantify this ‘rule’ without cataloguing and analysing every act of self-defence ever. As a result of this impossibility, Mr Storey just tosses his onus aside and puts it upon firearm owners, which he does right before using his own anecdote.
The ‘reasonable premise’ of ‘less guns equal less dead people’ does not add up, yet remains a constant mantra by GFSA et al. The UK ‘banned firearms’ in 1996 (not really, but certainly the case in a number of respects) and the homicide rate went up, a lot, until 2003 where it marked a 74.4% increase since the change in firearm laws. This after nearly every single registered firearm of the now prohibited categories had been collected and accounted for by 2000.
Which is it Mr Storey? Do less guns equal less homicides, or more (as was the case in the UK)? Further, the number of firearms in private possession in South Africa has declined significantly (over a third) since 2008, yet our homicide rate has steadily climbed without interruption since 2011. Which one is it Mr Storey? Our own home grown stats contradict you, and not only the often turned to example of the UK. Or could it just be that you and GFSA only care about a subset of homicide methods?