About 40% of the 6 424 murders between April and June this year were gun-related, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced when he released crime statistics.
Cele said it was shown that firearms were three times more likely than other weapons to be the weapon of choice in the reported murders, as 2 766 people were shot to death.
"The expansion of illegal firearms and the damage and destruction they can cause, is well documented. These crime statistics should be used as a management tool to guide the operational plans to deal with, amongst other crimes, the proliferation of firearms. "Police operational responses nationwide should continue to remove guns that are in the wrong hands," Cele said.
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation executive director Annah Moyo-Kupeta said the increased gun violence highlighted the need to address poor policing.
"Murder crime statistics are the most accurate in the country compared to other crimes; this should be alarming to us. So when we locate it within the larger violence architecture, South Africa is a violent society and this is shown in the violent crimes that are increasing, and we should be looking at multiple strategies to address this issue," she said.
Moyo-Kupeta said one of the strategies that should be taken is to look at the normalisation of violence in the country, which can be largely attributed to the increase in violent crimes.
"We need to tap into why we are so violent, address some of the root causes for violence in the country. We see violence manifesting in various forms such as GBV and mass killings. Just over the weekend we saw the murder of one of the Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders – being gunned down at his own home. This is a killing that is worrying in the country.
"We need to go back to the drawing board to really (address) the root causes of this violence, if we are to really start from the bottom in addressing violence and the murders," she said.
Moyo-Kupeta said there was a need to tighten gun control and improve police visibility.
She said there was a high number of illicit firearms in communities and it was easy to get them on the streets or via the back door.
"Our gun laws are not really the problem because there is still accessibility of unlicensed firearms and these are used in most criminality activities and the crimes that are recorded in the country," said Moyo-Kupeta.
She used as an example the murders seen in the past few weeks, and the tavern killings in Gauteng and KZN, and said the firearms used in these crimes were unlicensed.
"Tightening gun laws alone will not help us in solving the proliferation of unlicensed firearms in communities. There is a need to start doing some form of seizure of these unlicensed firearms and even what has been done previously; providing amnesty for members of the public to surrender some of the illegal firearms that they have in their possession. This as a strategy will contribute to starting to control and decrease the numbers of firearms in society," said Moyo-Kupeta.
She further said this alone could not work as a strategy, saying there is a need to leverage police visibility in communities towards ensuring that illegal firearms are taken away when found in people's possession.
Moyo-Kupeta said those found with illegal firearms must face the might of the law.
Statistics had shown that some crimes are committed with AK47s, and that many of the guns used to commit crime had gone missing from the SAPS and SANDF depots.
"We must make sure that every firearm is accounted for; (their) maintenance, uses and records are being kept for use …
"We really need better accountability in ensuring that they (firearms) do not end up in the wrong hands. The (levels) of violence in South Africa are quite high and we really need to probe that. What makes violence so high in society? What compels people to be so bold to use AK47s to commit crime, to even kill another person? We really need a multidisciplinary approach in addressing this issue," Moyo-Kupeta said.
Gun Free South Africa spokesperson Adel Kirsten said the statistics were shocking and terrifying, and the current stats did not include the tavern killings of July.
"I think we can expect that this figure will continue to be a norm over the next reporting quarter, which is unacceptable. This is a crisis and a gun epidemic, what is the strategy of the police?" asked Kirsten.
She said the good news is that this is the first time since 2019/2020 that the SAPS are reporting the weapons used in murders.
"This is good news because understanding what weapon is used in a murder is important, and understanding what interventions need to happen," said Kirsten.
She said they believed that there were a number of solutions and interventions that could help to begin to reduce the numbers of weapons in society.
"SAPS has to reduce gun availability and there are two ways to do that – to mop up the existing pool of illegal weapons via targeted intelligence-driven operations aimed at recovering and destroying illegal firearms in circulation. That might require a firearm unit.
"The other way is to reduce access at the legal point; ensuring that (for) private security companies, civilians … there are stronger regulations on who can own what kinds and how many weapons. This means strengthening our current laws and there is an amendment bill on the table sitting with the minister. We urge the minister to bring this bill to Parliament as soon as possible," said Kirsten.
By: Ntomibi Nkosi, Multimedia Journalist.
This article was originally published by IOL.