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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 January, 2005, 16:55 GMT
South Africa begins gun amnesty
Replica weapon
Gun ownership levels are high in South Africa, researchers say
South Africa has begun a nationwide amnesty for gun owners in an attempt to reduce the country's high crime levels.

For the next three months, people who own illegal weapons will be able to hand them in to police stations without fear of prosecution.

Almost 20,000 people were murdered in South Africa last year, according to official figures.

Possession of an illegal weapon is normally punished by a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.


The amnesty had been due to start in October but got delayed until now to allow for more organisation.

"When you think about the fact that if you are discovered in possession of an illegal firearm or ammunition, you risk being sentenced for a maximum of 15 years, I'm sure that it's a good idea to hand in your arms," safety and security ministry spokesman Trevor Bloem told AFP news agency.

Every weapon will be sent for forensic testing to try to determine whether or not it has been used in a crime.

No amnesty will be given if the gun is shown to have been used in criminal activity.

Gun Free South Africa and Cape Town University in a report published in October estimated 8.4% of the population own a gun, which amounts to 3.7 million firearms.

However, some groups promoting the right of citizens to own guns, said these figures are too high.

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21 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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