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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 19:39 GMT
SA gun deaths rise




By Southern Africa correspondent Greg Barrow

The head of South Africa's crime prevention unit has told parliament that as many people are dying each year from gunshots as they are from traffic accidents.

The latest national figures say that about 12,000 people were killed by gunshot in South Africa in 1998, a figure that accounts for 25% of all unnatural deaths.

Guns in South Africa
5m legal
1m illegal
12,000 gun deaths in 1998
This year parliament is due to consider a new law calling for a tightening of restrictions on gun ownership, which is aimed at reducing the number of deaths.

The message from the crime prevention unit is that if you live by the rule of the gun then there's a greater chance that you'll die from gunshot wounds.

Millions of guns

There are an astonishing five million licensed firearms in South Africa.

The police say up to one million illegal weapons are also in circulation, many of them stolen from police and army barracks or the homes of individual gun owners.

Death by gunshot is on the increase and will soon overtake the number of people killed in traffic accidents every year.

Parliament is due to consider new legislation aimed at restricting gun ownership, but it is facing a tough battle from the pro-gun lobby.

Gun owners argue that crime is so high in South Africa that people have a right to defend themselves and they will resist attempts to limit gun ownership.

But the statistics show that guns are not the best form of self-defence and people who own them are more likely to be killed.

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See also:
11 Aug 99 |  Africa
Armed robbers terrorise South African hospital
28 May 99 |  South Africa elections
South Africa's crime crisis
05 May 99 |  Africa
Nation divided over police brutality
05 Mar 99 |  Africa
Silencing South Africa's gun culture
01 Sep 99 |  Africa
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