Oscar Pistorius and Gun safety

Buried in amongst the tragedy of the Oscar Pistorius case and the alleged murder of his girlfriend was another issue – that of Gun control and gun violence.

Now I’m going to suspend debate about the “did he do it or not” variety. Suffice to say (even if we believe his side of the story, and of course the police would argue there are some serious holes in his version of events) shooting at someone through a door is a pretty reckless and stupid thing to do. Even if it was a burglar it would still count as excessive force (he gave no warning) and thus murder or manslaughter in some form or another.

Advocates of lax gun laws often argue that “guns make us all safer”. This is unfortunately a fact not borne out by statistics. The fact is that countries with lax gun control, either by design or because the authorities (as in South Africa) simply don’t enforce gun laws properly, all have much higher rates of gun related deaths than countries with stricter gun control laws.

And its not just a matter of drug lords doing drive by shootings on each other. No, in regions with lax gun control there are more murders in general (by gun or otherwise) and more suicides. Inevitably one must conclude that in the heat of the moment, people pick up a gun and do something stupid, be it turning the gun on themselves or on family and friends (or girlfriends who they’ve just had a row with!).

I met someone from Switzerland the other day and as she pointed out that while yes her country has some of the highest per capita gun ownership rates, that is not to suggest that gun regulations in Switzerland are lax. Most of these guns are actually government property handed out for national defense purposes (big government very much on people’s back!). In fact the regulations in Switzerland are very tight. There is a gun register (something the NRA have long opposed for the US), moving or carrying guns, while allowed, is subject to strict control. The Swiss even implement a form of bullet control, whereby certain types of ammo cannot be obtained legally (unless there’s a war on!) and you can’t just buy other types without a legitimate reason (with such purchases being recorded, excessive purchasing of ammunition earning you a visit from the local police).

But even despite these measures, Switzerland has a much higher suicide rate than neighbouring countries in Europe. And an unfortunate number of those are committed with guns, often with the government issued rifle.

Guns offer, not security, but a false sense of security. Like drivers in a 4×4, you might feel safer, but the reality is that 4×4 drivers are much more likely to have an accident than drivers of an ordinary cars (poorer brakes, larger mass, higher centre of gravity, no crumple zone or crash attenuator, etc.) and such vehicles simply aren’t designed for the same rigorous crash worthiness standards applied to conventional cars.

Similarly if you own a gun (legally or otherwise) it’s more likely that you or a family member will be killed by that gun (at your own hand or another’s) than you being killed by a burglar.


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