Oscar Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide: Another trial spawned by South Africa's gun problem – that kills 18 people a day

If there wasn't a gun in the home, Reeva Steenkamp would likely still be alive today, says Adèle Kirsten from Gun Free South Africa

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The Independent Online

Our assessment of the situation right from the beginning has been that this is an example of intimate femicide – a man is responsible for killing his intimate female partner. The typical picture of this is when a licensed male gun owner kills his female partner in the home. There are just over 6,000 gun murders a year in South Africa.

That is 18 people shot and killed a day. Of those, 89 per cent are male – it’s young men who are most at risk of being killed with a gun – women are not primary victims of gun violence. They face particular risks at home in the hands of men with a gun in the home.  We need to understand these trends and patterns to see where we can intervene.

There are clear lessons to learn here around gun ownership and control. There were several incidents that indicated Oscar Pistorius was negligent and not fit to have a gun. There were several opportunities that presented themselves to several people to remove a gun from him. This was preventable at many different levels. We have to take this from the trial and raise awareness of the knowledge of the law. Ordinary citizens can use the law to protect themselves from gun violence in the home.

One of the impacts of the trial is that we have had an increase in people phoning up Gun Free South Africa, people saying they know people applying for a gun with a drinking problem, asking what they should do. Many people in South Africa say: "I am getting a gun to protect myself." They talk about 'stranger danger'. But the guns can, and will, be used against you.

The trial has made people think again, to become aware of the risks. We are never going to convince people to give up their guns, this is for people who have been a victim of crime and are thinking of getting a gun – we would say look at the evidence, it does not reduce the risk. Since the introduction of new gun laws in 2000 there has been a 50 per cent reduction in gun deaths – that’s huge.

Too many people are still being killed, but the number is down. The Oscar Pistorius trial has made people rethink guns, and realise how lethal they are. They now think about how easy it is to pull the trigger and regret the outcome. If we look at this case, if there wasn’t a gun in the home she [Reeva Steenkamp] would have stood a chance of surviving. That’s the difference between guns and other weapons.

Adèle Kirsten is a director at Guns Free South Africa

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