Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Would stricter gun control have saved Reeva?

So Lulu Xingwana thinks we need better gun control. “Domestic violence is exacerbated by easy access to guns. We are making a call for stricter gun control,” she said at a media briefing last week. “As a country we need to wage a sustained and effective campaign against the availability of guns in our homes and streets.” Reeva would still be alive if there were no gun, she said, and she’s probably right. But would stricter gun control have saved her? I am not so sure.

For one thing, South Africa’s rules around private gun ownership are already very strict. You can’t walk into your local Makro and buy a gun. A background check isn’t sufficient, as it is in the US; you have to demonstrate that you can handle the weapon and are familiar with the rules regarding its safe and legal use.

Oscar obtained the 9mm pistol that killed Reeva Steenkamp legally. At the time he obtained it, there were no grounds to deny him a gun licence. Apparently, he was denied a licence in 2008 for reasons that aren’t clear, but received one in 2010. Perhaps if he’d had to complete a psychological assessment, there might have been a clue to the possibility that he’d shoot someone four times through a bathroom door, but there’s no way to know — not unless we engage the services of psychics as in The Minority Report, the 1956 Philip K Dick short story turned into a movie starring Tom Cruise.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people goes the tired cliché beloved of the pro-gun crowd, but there is no doubt that guns increase the risk of fatalities significantly, even when the gun involved is legal and there is no immediate external threat. Guns are the leading cause of suicide in the US; there, gun-related suicides outnumber homicides.

Just last week it was reported that a Limpopo game farm manager succeeded in killing himself accidentally when the gun he’d left on top of a washing machine he was moving fell on the floor and fired a bullet into his stomach. The safety catch wasn’t on. Family members who’d flown out from the UK for his wedding will attend his funeral instead.

But here’s the awful, simple truth: the law, and the state, can’t be everywhere. Human beings are complex and flawed, and human relationships exponentially so. You can legislate against bad decisions, stupidity or just plain irrationality but you can’t prevent them from happening — we don’t always think of the consequences, we just act, and the law can only act with hindsight. Maybe Oscar was incubating the kind of paranoia or blind rage (depending on which version of events turns out to be what we accept as truth) that resulted in Reeva’s death, but there was no way to prove that, and no way to deny him a licence in 2010. As for the contention that his gun should have been taken away after he threatened to break someone’s legs — that is surely an entire legal process, one which can’t be based on hearsay. Magistrate Nair didn’t think any of these incidents made Oscar a danger to society. Would they have been enough to justify taking away his gun?

If the Oscars of this world can’t own guns, then neither can all of the responsible gun owners who don’t go around shooting innocent people. Let’s face it: the reasons for wanting to own a gun in South Africa are pretty compelling — perhaps not for someone like me, who lived with guns in the bedroom for years and hated them, for certainly those who do. So while the gun control debate seems like an easy target for government ministers looking for a convenient bandwagon to hitch a ride, the solution we’re looking for is far, far more complicated.

As it always is.

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    • Gary Koekemoer

      Guns have a single purpose, they are designed to severely injure/ kill another being. The issue is not with persons who think about murdering someone, or plan their suicide, the issue is with persons who in the heat of emotion reach for the gun and pull the trigger, the issue is with children gaining access to parent’s guns and injuring or killing themselves. I think that most gun enthusiasts would agree that it requires substantial and repeated training to know when to fire, and to be able to fire a gun accurately when under stress. So the self defense argument only applies to persons with ready access to a gun and well trained in it’s use. that does not apply do the majority of gun owners. That said, I see no need to apply further gun control measures than those currently in place, where our focus should be is making sure the current measures function properly. Oscar was denied a license previously, what changed to allow him a license?

    • Bianca

      No. Never has and never will. In 200 years of gun control lunacy with hundreds of thousand more strict gun control laws the list of successes should be long and illustrious. Let the gun control propagandists and liars produce this list that shows even one proven success.

    • Marie

      We all live in a world of choices. Just because I own a gun doesn’t mean I’m a potential killer. What scares me most is what happened in Oscar’s head the night he picked up the gun and ran after Reeva. Could that happen to me maybe?

    • Truth be known

      Bianca – “Let the gun control propagandists and liars produce this list that shows even one proven success [of gun control saving lives].”

      Scroll up, there is plenty of referenced research on this thread. Read the comments and go into the links.

    • Truth be known

      Momma Cyndi – “Not only does Lulu not know the difference between English and Afrikaans but she is clueless about the difference between Calvinism and Catholicism.”

      Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) did a spot survey and found that 60% of their listeners agreed with Lulu Xingwana on Calvinist males. And the Afrikaners don’t mince their words.

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      Yes, I can fault her on her gun ‘research’ and I have already done so. Here’s the link again in case you’ve missed it:

      In case I need to spell it out for you, the minister was quoted as paraphrasing the old myth that in homes with guns, the homicide of a household member is almost 3 times more likely to occur than in homes without guns. The research on which this is based has been called into question for various reasons, some of which you can find here:

      Can you call the following into question?

      “A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:
      • 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim
      • 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun
      • 69% personally knew other criminals who had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim””

      Of course the reliability of surveys/questionnaires is shoddy at best, it’s still rather telling that most criminals do perceived a gun as a real threat and that guns are effective for self-defence.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Truth be known,

      Oscar is neither Afrikaans speaking nor Calvinist. My father’s family are the very epitome of both. They don’t have those attitudes. If anything, they are brow beaten by their women

    • Steve

      @Gary Koekemoer, some answers for you: I point of fact, firearms are designed to propel projectiles with some degree of reliability, in the same way as knives are designed to cut. Whether I gut carrots or throats is entirely my choice as is shooting paper or people. Yes its true they make killing more efficient at distance which is precisely why they are useful for self defense. While training is obviously important and I believe people should do some, I dont believe in telling people how to run their lives. If they mess up, they must be responsible for what they did. Just because training is desireable and improves outcomes, there are many many documented cases of untrained people effectively using firearms under massive stress. Some people who hitherto had never fired one…ever. As for Oscar, well millions of licences were inexplicably denied without good reason, or with spurious reasons. Most of these were approved when sent into appeal. Many, especially the poorer people who lacked understanding of the process were essentially denied the right to self defense by bueracratic fiat. Those that denied them have the blood of many victims on their hands as does gfsa who campaigned to only allow the elite the rights given in the constitution.

    • Enough Said


      “I dont believe in telling people how to run their lives. If they mess up, they must be responsible for what they did.”

      So you believe its just the victims bad luck they got in the way of some gun nut case that killed say between one or over twenty people? Its also tough luck on the parents siblings friends and loved ones of those who get in the way of that gun nutter.

      Whether you like it or not, the research shows again and again that gun control works in reducing gun deaths. Why is this research impossible for you to understand?

    • Marc

      “A background check isn’t sufficient, as it is in the US; you have to demonstrate that you can handle the weapon and are familiar with the rules regarding its safe and legal use.”

      Not a true statment about US gun laws. You should probably restrict you comments to South African laws. This is just California:

      “Handgun Safety Certificate Program

      Effective January 1, 2003, the Basic Firearms Safety Certificate Program was replaced with the Handgun Safety Certificate Program. These new statutes affect the general public in two principal ways. First, unless exempt, individuals must possess a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) prior to purchasing or acquiring a handgun. Second, unless exempt, individuals must perform a safe handling demonstration prior to taking delivery of a handgun from a licensed dealer.

    • Marc

      BTW, in the US, a person is more likely to be murdered by someone wielding a hammer than using a firearm.

      Should hammers be licensed? Background checks required?

    • Marc

      WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Annual FBI crime statistics show that more people are killed with clubs and hammers each year than by rifles or shotguns.

    • http://http// Paul Whelan

      It is curious how people quote stats as if they can settle the argument. People won’t change their beliefs just because the stats don’t match up – they will deny the accuracy of the stats.

    • Truth be known


      Rifles and shotguns vs hammers and clubs – And what about handguns so widely used in America? Why not include handgun deaths in those statistics?

      Firearms were used in 67.8 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults, so those statistics you gave are misleading regarding a comparison of guns vs clubs and hammers.

      Those figures also exclude accidents and suicides from firearms.

      In addition, not too many people club themselves to death in a suicide, or die as a result an accident while cleaning their hammer or club.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Truth be known

      Which part of America do you come from or live in?

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      Now you want to make suicide illegal too? I’m sure that would solve the problem. At least, it did in Japan, which has virtually no guns. Oh, wait..


      Fact remains that gun deaths are negligible when compared to most other things that can kill you, like hammers and self-harm. Nobody says guns aren’t effective in what they were designed to do, nor is anyone suggesting that gun control isn’t effective when one only looks at gun-related deaths (although they had no significant effect in the UK except for increasing knife crime). It is a bit of an eye opener to learn how effective hammers are at killing people though.

      The question is would stricter gun control have saved Reeva? The answer is a qualified no, since Oscar had illegal ammunition anyway and since Oscar should not have had a gun by our current standards. Making the standards more strict would not affect illegal ammunition and guys who got by the system somehow. It just raises the asking price.

    • Marc

      The 2011 and 2006 FBI crime reports show that firearm murders have declined each year since 2006. There were 10,177 such murders in 2006 and 8,583 in 2011 — a drop of 1,594 or nearly 16 percent in five years, even as the nation’s population and rate of gun ownership continued to rise.

    • Truth be known

      @Momma Cyndi

      Facts remain the same no matter what part of America or any other part of the globe you live in.

      USA – “In 2010 there were 358 murders involving rifles. Murders involving the use of handguns in the US that same year totaled 6,009, with another 1,939 murders with the firearm type unreported.”

      Even if you live in the North Pole, those facts remain unaltered for the USA.

      The article Steve above posted only reports the 358 murders by rifles, so his claim that hammers and clubs kill more Americans that guns is nonsense because he is using misleading statistics.

    • Truth be known

      Correction; “The article Marc (not Steve) above posted only reports the 358 murders by rifles, so his claim that hammers and clubs kill more Americans than (not that) guns is nonsense because he is using misleading statistics.”

    • Truth be known


      You misrepresent what I said about suicide. You are obviously desperate to try and prove a point.

      So if Oscar had no gun (stricter gun control) and only illegal ammunition, what was he going to do, throw the illegal ammunition at the bathroom door?

      If Oscar had no gun there is a strong possibility Reeva would still be alive today.

    • Truth be known


      “The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world. There were 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, compared to the 3.0 in the United States (over 40 times higher)..”

      Strict gun control works. In the UK crime rates have come down between 26% and 41% since the early 2000’s depending on whose data you look at.

    • Truth be known

      Marc’s misleading and flawed analysis posted on March 4th.

      “BTW, in the US, a person is more likely to be murdered by someone wielding a hammer than using a firearm.”

      The truth is “Firearms were used in 67.8 percent of the nation’s murders…”

    • Marc

      Guns are deeply rooted within Swiss culture – but the gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept.

      The country has a population of six million, but there are estimated to be at least two million publicly-owned firearms, including about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols.

      In addition to the government-provided arms, there are few restrictions on buying weapons. Some cantons restrict the carrying of firearms – others do not.
      The government even sells off surplus weaponry to the general public when new equipment is introduced.

      But despite the wide ownership and availability of guns, violent crime is extremely rare. There are only minimal controls at public buildings and politicians rarely have police protection.

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      You assume the initial point that stricter gun control would have prevented Oscar from owning a gun. The point you keep missing is that Oscar already obtained his ammunition illegally. Oscar already found a way to dodge our current system, as by our current legal standards, he should not have been in possession of a firearm.

      If our current gun laws were enforced more strictly, perhaps Reeva would have been alive today. Strict gun control however makes no difference whatsoever to someone who can dodge the system already and who can procure illegal ammunition one way or another.

      Perhaps if Oscar had no gun, Reeve would’ve been alive today. But by our current laws, he should not have had a gun. What’s stricter gun control going to help if the current laws aren’t even enforced?

    • Truth be known


      You are obviously very new to this gun debate. You should read the comments further up the thread as well.

      Several people have noted some countries have a responsible gun culture and some don’t.

      Those countries with disfunctional gun cultures that cannot behave themselves like the USA, South Africa, Australia etc. need strict gun control.

      Those countries where citizens can behave themselves with guns like Switzerland, Yemen etc. don’t need as much gun control.

      You would not give a lunatic a gun license would you?

      A women dies every eight hours in South Africa from gun shot wounds. Reeva Steenkamp was one of them. South Africa as a country should not quality for gun licences until we develop a responsible gun culture.

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      Where are the angels who decide who is responsible enough to own a gun? It’s certainly not our police:

      America actually has a very responsible gun culture on the whole. School shootings and the like are usually lunatics with (illegal) guns. Imagine how many lives could have been saved had more citizens in Norway owned guns and someone was around to stop the 2011 Norway attacks.

      Disarming the responsible gun owners in order to protect them from the few fringe lunatics who manage to get guns by hook or by crook seems to me like defeating the purpose.

    • Truth be known

      @Garg, Research shows gun control worked well in South Africa, United Kingdom, Australia and some states in the USA. As we still have unacceptably high numbers of gun murders, we need stricter control and to implement it better.

      The UK is a very excellent success story.

    • Truth be known

      PS. Other states in the USA still have very lax gun laws, but I am sure President Obama will sort that out.

    • Marc

      Truth be Known: Obama’s home state, Illinois, has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. It also has among the worst rate of gun violence .

      Studies show, and common sense dictates, that stricter gun laws do not result in lower homicide rates.

      I have tried to lead you to the water, but I cannot make you drink.

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      “Research has shown” is a phrase of charlatans like Malcolm Gladwell when they’re out of their depth and grasping at straws. Where is this research?

      For example, post 1994 South Africa had a large increase in the number of guns due to fears of integration. We don’t have ‘gun control’ similar to that of the UK or Australia in any way whatsoever, so that’s a flawed analogy.

      Additionally, what research has shown is that Australia’s gun ban had no measurable effect whatsoever, except for alleviating suicide committed with guns.

      You don’t like guns? You want guns banned or controlled more strictly? That much is fine, but your view is not bolstered by data. To get an overall picture, we’d have to look at all the data and not just cherry pick the convenient factoids. Yes, guns are used in suicides and domestic disputes for abuse and murders, but they’re also extremely effective for self-defence and are used by citizens to prevent crime – often crimes perpetuated by police or other authorities.

      Is gun crime a big enough problem to merit the removal of guns from society entirely? As the research I’ve linked you to has shown, it’s not. You’re more likely to die from self-harm than from guns, at least in America. Should we outlaw razors?

      This is perhaps the most lucid piece on the gun debate I’ve read:

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      By the way, this is what research shows about the UK’s ‘success story’. For the record, the UK gun ban was in 1997 (enacted in 1998). Coincidentally, the year with the lowest gun crime that the research shows is in fact 1998

    • Truth be known

      The USA with its generally lax gun laws has 40 times more gun homicides per 100 000 population than the UK with some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

      Gun control works. :-)

    • Truth be known

      Australia: The law enacted after a 1996 mass killing has led to a 59% drop in firearm homicide. You see gun control works. I told you so. :-)

      Researcher: U.S. could learn from Aussie gun buyback

    • Garg Unzola

      @Truth be known:
      A 59% or for argument’s sake, a 60 % reduction in a problem that is so rare is hardly a big deal. In fact, it could be prescribed to pure randomness. Then there’s also the issue of causality. Australia and the UK both have similar results from their gun control programs: They had no measurable effect when all the factors have been accounted, except for making gun-related crime more widespread and increasing other crimes (knife crimes, for example). Why is this? Because gun homicide still remains a rare phenomenon and it wasn’t a big problem in their society to begin with.

      You’re still cherry picking factoids. You can’t just focus on homicide and ignore the rest, as this is not the only gun related problem. You’d also have to consider the increase in other crimes as a result of citizens being unable to protect themselves effectively.

      Please consider the links I have shown you as they are more comprehensive. This one in particular:


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