It was in 2007 when my bother first told me that there would be someone calling me regarding the confirmation of his gun licence. I knew he had a gun because my mother always grumbled saying she didn’t understand why he had it in the first place, but I had never had to deal with the gun issue. I picked up the call with utmost nervousness because I had been expecting deep questions about his character, perhaps some explicit “do you think he should have a gun or not” type questions. To the latter, I would have said no, but such a question was not asked. I was asked a set of simple questions, similar to those we ask for brand dipstick in market research. I must have made all the favourable selections because my brother, until this day, has his firearm.
I cannot, in all honesty, say for sure that at the time I had an opinion on guns. On whether people should be allowed to have them. By then neither I nor anyone I knew personally had been mugged at gunpoint, almost forcibly taken from a friend’s party at gunpoint or even experienced the brashness of a fellow taxi commuter whose confidence was fuelled by his possession of a firearm.
But then I did, all the above happed. In came my real exposure to guns, and the many questions started.
Too many gun-related stories go unattended and we should revisit our response and attitude to them. I believe the recent gun-pulling incident between Cassper Nyovest and AKA, two of South Africa’s influential hip-hop artists, should have gotten more attention. Perhaps not from a rivalry or hip-hop perspective but from the perspective that one side’s clique member pulled a gun on the other.
I think that guns (unless to be used by the police, even then with caution) should be banned in South Africa. Or rather the way that people attain these firearms needs to be stricter, maybe then they will not land in the wrong hands.
Fast forward to July this year, another brother of mine is found in a government mortuary with a bullet in his head after he had been missing for two days. He had dared to cross a “nyaope boy” infested veld instead of taking a taxi home on his way back from work as he didn’t have enough taxi fare. His shoes, jeans and R180-worth cellphone were taken from him. Sure, none of us know what really happened that night but it is known that those “nyaope boys” are trigger-happy and people “stay out of their way”. Why are known criminals who have illegal guns in their possession allowed to live among us and have marked territories in places that are daily routes to and from home?
Where do all these petty criminals get all these guns from? Are they acquired in the homes of the upright citizens they break into daily? And why is it that those upright citizens do not store their legally obtained firearms with more care?
Don’t get me wrong. I do not dismiss the need for people to put forward measures to protect themselves, families and their possessions. It is just concerning that these guns are working less to protect ordinary citizens from these criminals and more to take the lives of people such as Senzo Meyiwa and many other unarmed and unthreatening people. It is not enough for us to wait for people like Meyiwa, Reeva Steenkamp, Lucky Dube, Corrie Sanders and many others to die from these guns before we are aware of what is at stake.
It is not of obvious knowledge to me what the procedure of attaining guns in our country is but I do know that that licence renewal survey I did on my brother’s behalf was not, in retrospect, rigorous enough. If that is all it takes for gun licensing then the statistics of gun violence is likely to rise.
I have had my share of incidents with guns. In all of them there have fortunately been other people with me, that makes me the lucky one right, because none ended in death? Yes, my friends and I are lucky to have not been forcefully taken away by that small-time, ex-convict gunman, but it could have gone otherwise. If anyone in that taxi (especially the taxi driver) had contested the boastful “greatness” of that passenger we would not have lived to tell the tale.
It’s a catch-22 really, with the rise of violent firearm-related crimes more people are applying for a gun licence. We need to think carefully about the future of guns in our country and how we can contribute to their eradication.