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Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT

World: Africa

South Africa toy guns warning

Gun-related deaths already stand at more than 30 a day

By Greg Barrow in Johannesburg

An anti-gun lobby group in South Africa says that the sale of toy and replica guns has reached alarming proportions and is contributing to the high levels of gun-related deaths in the country.

The lobby group, Gun Free South Africa, says the availability of replica weapons is contributing to the dangerous gun culture in a country where statistics suggest that more than 13 million real fire arms are already in general use.

Replica guns and weapons are freely available in most toy shops across South Africa. In a country where the police are struggling to control gun-related crime, children are following in the footsteps of adults and growing up with weapons in their hands.

Only last week, an 11-year-old boy was shot dead by a security guard who mistook his toy gun for a genuine weapon.

Criminals also use replica guns to carry out car hijackings and bank raids. Gun Free South Africa is calling for a ban on the sale of all replica weapons and encouraging parents to buy their children sports equipment instead.

But this will only be seen as a small step in the right direction. The high level of crime in South Africa has led to a widespread belief that guns offer protection and security, and target shooting and hunting continue to be regarded as a popular family pastime.

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