Lobbying for better firearm regulations in South Africa

by Lynnet Onyango
Wednesday, 24 May 2023 11:47 GMT

Gun Free South Africa is a South African NGO working to reduce gun violence in through public policy advocacy, education, awareness and community mobilisation. They estimate that around 30 people are murdered by guns in South Africa every day, a devastating statistic which has affected countless lives. There are around 4,500,000 licensed guns in the country, and almost 10,000 are reported lost or stolen per year. This has created a situation which can realistically only be managed by improving regulation around guns; the current Firearms Control Act, enacted in 2000, has proved outdated and inadequate.

We sat down with Gun Free  South Africa’s Claire Taylor, where she currently works as a researcher focusing on gun violence protection, to understand how legal pro bono is supporting the organisation’s fight against rampant gun crime.

How is Gun Free South Africa working to reduce gun crime?

As gun violence in South Africa reaches levels last seen in the first few years of its democracy, the country’s national gun law is being reviewed. Within this context, the primary objectives of the project are first to assess whether proposed amendments to South Africa’s Firearms Control Act (2000) bring our national firearms law in line with gun laws around the world. Secondly, equipped with comparative examples from jurisdictions around the world, we aim to develop guidelines on how the state can strengthen its management of weapon and ammunition stocks to reduce diversion through loss, theft, fraud, and corruption.

Why was free legal support necessary to help you lobby for better gun laws?

Some country comparative work has been done to show that strengthening South Africa’s Firearms Control Act (2000) will align our domestic gun control legislation with global laws. However, this research is over 10 years old; it also does not include many countries in the global south, which are aligned more to SA’s reality. Without in-country legal support in these jurisdictions, GFSA would be unable to properly research their gun control regimes due to a range of obstacles, including lack of capacity and language barriers.

What impact has this legal support had for Gun Free South Africa?

Through TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, we were connected to Norton Rose Fulbright, Africa Legal Network, Mweshi Banda & Associates, TASLAF Advocates, Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, Philippi Prietocarrioza Ferrero DU & Uria, Machado Meyer and F5 Networks, Inc. to help us gather information on gun control regimes in seven countries (Brazil, Colombia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia) as part of a bigger project involving an assessment of 15 countries gun control legislation and implementation systems. As the awards ceremony is being held, we are concluding a final round of consultations with partner law firms to address questions and gaps. Once all the information is collected and verified, the final report will be published, for use both in South Africa, as well as in the 14 other jurisdictions included in the project. The report will be a valuable tool, informing our policy suggestions when advocating for tighter gun controls.

What advice would you pass on to other NGOs and social enterprises receiving pro bono support?

I would give one piece of advice and make one observation. My advice would be to keep a light but regular touch on the work being done; this can be difficult as daily demands get in the way, but it means that you’re able to address any questions or problems that arise sooner rather than later, which smooths the process along. My observation is that the TrustLaw team are professional, helpful and are available to give advice and follow up on issues, and it’s been a pleasure working with everyone there.

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