Monday, August 05, 2019


An awareness campaign in South Africa about the dangers of owning a firearm relies on an often-used claim.
“From home invasions to hijackings and muggings, many South Africans own a gun out of fear for falling victim to violent crime,” reads the introduction of a press release by the organisation Gun Safe Cities. But living in a house with a gun increases your odds of harm, it claims. Research in South Africa confirmation that you are four times more likely to have your gun used against you than to be able to use it successfully in self-defence. The claim has also appeared in publications by the non-profit organisation Gun Free South Africa. It’s been published on South African sites News24, Brand South Africa, Safer Spaces and IOL in the last couple of years.
There’s little information online about Gun Safe Cities, but it was described as a “charity” by John Davenport. He is the chief creative officer of Havas South Africa, the ad agency that Gun Safe Cities partnered with for the awareness campaign. Davenport said that, “there is plenty of research freely available around the ‘four times’ statistic from a number of countries including South Africa”.
The Crime Hub is managed by Lizette Lancaster, a source for statistics on crime and safety in South Africa, at the Institute for Security Studies. Lizette stated that the, “frequently quoted” statistic comes from studies published by Antony Altbeker an author and crime expert in 1999 and 2000. Gun Free South Africa, also confirmed that Antony was their source. Anthony referred to a chapter he wrote in a 2003 book called Justice Gained? Crime and Crime Control in South Africa’s Transition. It sets out the “validity” of his studies and “what can and cannot be claimed about it”, he said.
In the first study, Altbeker reviewed 602 police dockets opened for gun-related crimes in the Johannesburg suburbs of Alexandra and Bramley that were reported during the first three months of 1997. In 8% of the cases, the victims were armed. And in those cases, nearly 80% of victims lost their guns to their attackers without being able to defend themselves. Even within one province, different areas can have very different experiences. Martin Hood of MJ Hood and Associates Attorneys is a firearm law specialist in Johannesburg stated that Altbeker’s study was based on police dockets before the cases had gone to trial, so the contents “were not necessarily tested to determine factual correctness”.

By: Ellouise Muller

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