Friday, March 5, 1999 Published at 18:08 GMT
Silencing South Africa's gun culture
By Africa Correspondent Jane Standley
At least 30 people are shot dead in South Africa every day and there are more than four million registered firearms in the country and millions more illegal guns.
These grim statistics have forced the government to try to tighten the laws on gun control. But with some of the highest levels of violent crime in the world, the government has been accused of doing too little, too late.
Teacher Mike Moses began his own crusade against guns when his pupils began bringing them into the classroom. At 16 all the students can legally own firearms.
Now he has support from the small campaigning group Gun Free South Africa, and Gelusksdal Secondary School is a gun-free zone.
Her father intervened in a drunken domestic dispute between her aunt and uncle. They died too. Other traumatised pupils tell tales of gun violence - making Mike Moses more determined to win support for a firearms free society.
Mike has now taken his campaign into the township's shebeens - the open-all-day drinking houses. He has had some success.
Since the owner of The Place - a whitewashed single room building, with plastic chairs and mirror tiles - banned guns, firearms incidents there have drastically dropped.
In Geluksdal township, the community campaign has succeeded in banning guns from the churches. The clinics and libraries though are still thinking it over. With high levels of crime and violence in South Africa it is difficult to separate people from the guns they believe will protect them.
"We cannot allow the huge number of guns, in excess of four million licensed weapons, plus others, to continue in our society. We're very serious and we will take action."
At one of Johannesburg's regular gun shows, an astonishing array of weapons is up for demonstration - parents nonchantlantly wheel their children's pushchairs between the stalls. Legal guns are easy to obtain from here - and from dealers and shops. Illegal ones are even easier.
"On one side you have got the attitiude of a frontiersman - going out there and taming a wild environment. And on the other side you've got a worried mentality - wanting to protect yourself. "
South Africa's sociologists have other explanations - a refusal to accept authority, a lack of belief in the state, the traumatic legacy of apartheid.
The latest research shows you are four times more likley to be hurt if you use a gun to try to defend yourself against crime.
The truth seems to be that the legacy of a violent past is proving hard to overcome.