South African MPs on Wednesday called for gun control measures to be prioritized so as to stem the proliferation of illegal firearms that are used by criminals in violent crimes.

Recent incidents of cash-in transit heists and brazen robberies where high-calibre automatic firearms were used is a great cause of concern, said Francois Beukman, Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police.

Cash-in-transit heists are common in South Africa which is among countries that have the highest crime rate in the world. In most of the heists, automatic firearms are used.

In the most recent incident on Tuesday, two security guards were shot and wounded following a cash-in-transit heist in Wilro Park near Johannesburg. An undisclosed amount of money has been stolen after suspects attacked a cash-in-transit vehicle with automatic firearms.

In addition to cash-in-transit heists, gangs also use illegal firearms in fighting against each other. In Cape Town alone, 1,066 people, of whom 261 were children, were killed in violent crimes linked to the circulation of illegal guns between 2010 and 2016, according to a study recently published in the South African Medical Journal.

The high incidents of gun deaths, especially of young children, should be tackled head-on by the relevant law-enforcement agencies, Beukman said.

“The high rate of gun-related deaths warrants an increase in efforts to deal with the proliferation of illegal firearms by South African law-enforcement agencies,” he emphasized.

The following steps should be prioritized if police are to be effective in dealing with the proliferation of guns, he said.

These include channeling more resources to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’s specialized unit focussing on illegal fire-arms; implementing more projects and network operations initiated by crime intelligence to deal with gun smuggling by criminal syndicates, and enforcing stricter control measures in police stations as well as in the arms supply of the South African National Defence Force.

Beukman called for closer cooperation with other South African Development Community (SADC) countries to deal with the proliferation and inflow of high calibre automatic firearms in the region.

Beukman also stressed the necessity to conduct a full-scale review of the Firearms Registry turn-around strategy and a forensic audit of high-risk areas in the licensing of firearms, as well as permits and authorizations.

He said his committee is of the view that the long-awaited Firearms Amendment Bill should be tabled as soon as possible.

“There is also a huge responsibly on citizens to report any information about the ownership of illegal guns to the SAPS (South African Police Service),” Beukman added. Enditem


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