The tragic accidental shooting of a 2-year old young toddler by her 11-year-old brother in Empangeni, Kwa-Zulu Natal has brought into sharp focus the importance of keeping firearms away from children.
Last year a report by the South African Medical Journal revealed that as many as 20 people are killed in gun-related incidents every single day.
Commenting on the most recent tragedy, Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele urged all licensed firearm owners to ensure that they do not violate the Firearms Control Act by failing to safeguard their firearms as this amounts to a criminal act.
Stuart Clarkson, Fidelity ADT Managing Executive, says it would be beneficial to see more public campaigns focusing on the importance of safe and responsible firearm handling and storage. He cites a campaign the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) ran in the United States recently entitled S.A.F.E. Summer.
The “SAFE” in “S.A.F.E. Summer” serves as an acronym for:
· Secure your firearms when not in use
· Be Aware of those around you who should not have unauthorised access to guns
· Focus on your responsibility as a firearm owner; and
· Educate yourself and others about safe firearm handling and storage.
Clarkson says the campaign was so successful as it focused on equipping gun owners to take responsible action to help keep their families and communities safer, particularly while children are home from school and are more likely to be left unattended.
“Nearly all firearm accidents in the home can be prevented when gun owners take simple precautions. Proper storage is the number one way to help prevent accidents. Anyone who is going to own a firearm should respect it and secure it when not in use to help prevent firearm accidents and misuse,” says Clarkson.
“In South Africa there are very clear regulations (Section 83 (Storage of firearms) and Regulation 86 (Safe custody of firearms) of the Firearms Control Act, Act 60 of 2000) about owning and storing a firearm. If you are a gun owner it is essential you familiarise yourself with these and ensure everyone in the family home, including domestic staff, are educated on firearms safety,” concludes Clarkson.