I write in response to the City Press editorial on Sunday It’s time to disarm everyone, regarding the disarming of all and sundry, leaving only the police and military with any firearms.
First, allow me to place on record that the South African press has been vehemently opposed to civilian firearm ownership for years.
A simple Google search will provide a myriad articles published in this regard.
Additionally, instead of publishing both sides of the story, newspapers are seemingly intent on only running stories in support of disarming the populace.
What is abundantly clear in this particular instance, is that the piece is merely someone’s opinion, and not backed by verified facts and research.
What has been lost during last few days since the Constitutional Court ruling (that gun owners with expired licences must hand them in or face arrest), and the tragic shooting of a son by his father, is the reason why many people carry firearms.
For the sake of brevity, I am excluding hunting and sports shooting from this discussion.
Both are very firmly entrenched in our society, and worth many hundreds of millions of rands every year.
So, why are there so many handguns in South Africa? I think that it is largely due to the nature of the society we live in.
This paper daily runs articles on crime, which tends to be very violent.
I do not need to be a master of persuasion to convince the average person that violence is a very real plague in our country. And people respond to this reality differently.
Let us have a look at the average gun owner for a moment, and use a Mr Mkhize as an example.
Mr Mkhize is an average South African male: employed, married, works hard at his stable job, and makes do as best he can.
For him to be able to own a handgun, he first needs to attend an accredited training institution, and demonstrate his competence in theoretical and practical modules.
Upon completion of these unit standards, he then has to convince the South African Police Service that he is a fit and proper person to possess a firearm by applying for a competency certificate.
This process requires character references, his proficiency results, proof of residence and a whole host of other criteria. If all goes well, he will get his competency certificate after three months.
Then, and only then, can he even consider applying for a firearm licence. So, after much consideration, Mr Mkhize decides on the firearm, pays for it and begins the application process.
This is a separate process with its own library of required of documentation. Why? Because Mr Mkhize must prove that he needs this particular firearm. Hence he waits for another three months for his licence to be granted.
The entire exercise in order to legally licence a firearm takes a minimum of six months. Usually longer. Thus the argument that firearms can be legally obtained on a whim is very far from the truth.
It is an expensive and time-consuming process at best. And not one undertaken lightly.
But why does Mr Mkhize need a firearm at all? We live in the eighth most homicidal nation in earth.
A country where crime is a rampant problem, as we can easily judge from a mere glance at the annual SAPS statistics.
These same statistics also tell us that we cannot rely on the police to protect us. Their average response times in cities vary anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. In rural areas it is even worse.
So, Mr Mkhize finds himself at a crossroads: he can either accept whatever violent crime is directed his way, or he can become his own “first responder”.
Should he choose the latter, he must mitigate violent threats as far as possible, and protect both himself and his family as best he can.
And in the 21st century a firearm is by far the best tool for such a vitally important job. No other object allows the weak, old, and frail a more effective manner with which to defend themselves.
Disarming Mr Mkhize deprives him of the only means with which he can protect his constitutionally entrenched right to life.
All human interaction falls into two categories, reason or force. You either have to convince me to do something by reason, or force me to do something by threat of violence.
Ideally we would like to live in Utopia, where there is no violence, but there is no place in the world where this is an attainable reality. Human nature prevents such fantasies coming true. Criminals are a global phenomenon.
The very definition of a criminal is a “law breaker, offender, villain, wrongdoer”. These are people who disregard the law.
Violent crime especially flourishes where victims cannot fight back. Jamaica. El Salvador. Honduras. Venezuela. Among countless other places.
Many proponents of a gun-free society believe that guns are the root cause of crime.
Apart from there being no correlation between rates of private firearm ownership and rates of violence, such reasoning also attaches attributes to an inanimate object it cannot possibly possess.
Regulating objects in order to regulate behaviour has always ended in failure. The two most prominent examples are the War on Drugs and the outlawing of prostitution.
The United Kingdom banned handguns in the mid-1990s. Ceaseless upsurges in violence, already overstraining their police resources, has led to all sorts of knife bans. Despite all these measures, the UK is becoming more violent every passing year.
Earlier in 2018 London’s murder rate surpassed that of New York for the first time in history. Clearly banning guns and knives have not made any difference.
In fact, these laws only serve to inconvenience the law-abiding and leave them defenceless.
The average South African gun owner is law-abiding and very aware of their responsibilities.
We are the people who stand next to you at the taxi rank, sit next to you in restaurants, live in the house next door, and interact with you every day.
In most cases you are not even aware that we are armed. While we respect your rights to choose whether or not to carry a firearm, this by the same token does not give you the right to disarm us.
We choose not to be victims, for we are all Mr Mkhize.
• Kim Lee is a gun owner and law-abiding citizen, who writes in his personal capacity