In­no­cent

A key con­trib­u­tor to the risks to com­mu­nity safety is easy ac­cess to weapons, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

Of­ten the link be­tween cor­rup­tion and death is hard to trace. How do you link a car ac­ci­dent to a cor­rupt traf­fic cop so­lic­it­ing a bribe from a drunk driver, or the death of a mal­nour­ished child to a cor­rupt school of­fi­cial si­phon­ing funds from a school’s feed­ing scheme? In con­trast, the death of Le­shay Arnold is clearly linked to cor­rup­tion. In Fe­bru­ary 2010, three-year-old Le­shay was killed by a stray bul­let in Delft on the Cape Flats. Le­shay’s mur­der made head­lines be­cause it was the first death to be linked to a na­tion­wide gun smug­gling syndicate in which a cor­rupt po­lice of­fi­cer, al­legedly work­ing with a gun dealer and a busi­ness­man, sold guns handed in to the po­lice by the pub­lic for de­struc­tion, to gang­sters in the area.

As part of his plea bar­gain with the state, the po­lice of­fi­cer, Chris­ti­aan Prinsloo, ad­mit­ted he stole 2 400 guns from po­lice stores. Court pa­pers filed as part of the state’s case against two of Prinsloo’s al­leged ac­com­plices – Alan Raves (a firearms dealer) and Ir­shaad La­her (a busi­ness­man) – re­veal that:

At least 888 of the guns stolen by Prinsloo were foren­si­cally linked to 1 066 mur­ders in the Western Cape be­tween 2010 and mid-2016;

At least 261 chil­dren be­tween the ages of one and 18 years were shot be­tween 2010 and 2015 with “Prinsloo guns”, 89 of whom were killed, in­clud­ing Le­shay; and

Of the 2 400 guns that Prinsloo ad­mit­ted to steal­ing, more than 1 100 are still miss­ing.

That so many chil­dren were shot and killed or in­jured by cor­rup­tion is tragic. Youth Month is an op­por­tune time to ask: Why are the laws meant to pro­tect our chil­dren not be­ing en­forced?

While there are a range of fac­tors that risk over­all com­mu­nity safety, a key con­trib­u­tor is easy ac­cess to guns, which in­creases chil­dren’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to armed vi­o­lence. Re­search shows that guns are a lead­ing cause of death for older chil­dren across South Africa, with chil­dren from 15 years most of­ten killed in in­ter­per­sonal con­flicts. As of 2014, the lead­ing cause of death for chil­dren is gun wounds (49.2%), fol­lowed by stab (44.3%) and blunt force (6.6%) wounds.

More­over, re­search reveals that chil­dren are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing shot by stray bul­lets; the largest pro­por­tion (36%) of chil­dren aged 13 or younger who were shot and ad­mit­ted to the Red Cross Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal be­tween 1991 and 2010 were in­jured in cross­fire. They are vul­ner­a­ble to this type of shoot­ing for var­i­ous rea­sons, in­clud­ing the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween gun avail­abil­ity, the il­le­gal trade in guns and un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion. As high­lighted in Le­shay’s case, two fac­tors in par­tic­u­lar con­trib­ute. First, the sys­tem of gun con­trol in place: when gun laws are weak or poorly en­forced, the le­gal trade in guns fu­els the il­le­gal trade be­cause legally bought guns can more eas­ily leak into the hands of unau­tho­rised users. Sec­ond, the na­ture of guns: be­ing durable, guns can be used for many crimes, mak­ing them highly prized by crim­i­nals.

While there are ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tions to pro­tect chil­dren from armed vi­o­lence, key among them are re­duc­ing the avail­abil­ity of guns and op­por­tu­ni­ties for cor­rup­tion. These in­clude:

A com­pre­hen­sive na­tional le­gal frame­work con­trol­ling the pos­ses­sion, use and trans­fer of guns: The Firearms Con­trol Act (2000) is recog­nised as be­ing a world­class gun law. Where we have failed is in en­forc­ing it, as #Prinsloo trag­i­cally il­lus­trates; while gun laws save lives, poor en­force­ment and as­so­ci­ated cor­rup­tion kills.

In­ter­na­tional small arms con­trol: South Africa is a sig­na­tory to three legally bind­ing arms con­trol in­stru­ments (the Firearms Pro­to­col, the Arms Trade Treaty and SADC Firearms Pro­to­col), re­quir­ing en­forced leg­is­la­tion aimed at ef­fec­tive weapon con­trol.

Gun re­moval: Amnesties are recog­nised glob­ally as highly ef­fec­tive at re­mov­ing guns from com­mu­ni­ties. How­ever, if guns handed in or re­cov­ered by the state are not de­stroyed they find their way back into com­mu­ni­ties, caus­ing fear, in­jury, suf­fer­ing and death.

Aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paigns: Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial mo­bil­i­sa­tion both im­prove com­pli­ance with the law and change peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes to gun pos­ses­sion and use.

Be­tween 2000 and 2010 the act saved thou­sands of lives, but then the law stopped be­ing prop­erly en­forced, al­low­ing cor­rup­tion to spread. While we may never know the true ex­tent and im­pact of cor­rup­tion within the gun con­trol regime, as the SA Po­lice Ser­vice’s le­gal ser­vices depart­ment notes, “The SA Po­lice Ser­vice is duty-bound to en­sure that any loop­holes which al­lowed the theft of … firearms in its cus­tody (are) plugged as soon and as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.”

Cor­rup­tion kills and, as the SA Po­lice Ser­vice it­self warns, if re­me­dial ac­tion is not taken to re­verse its im­pact and “pre­vent a re­cur­rence of the cor­rup­tion and crimes that were com­mit­ted”, “(t)he scope of ... pos­si­ble lit­i­ga­tion is enor­mous”. Me­noe is deputy di­rec­tor at Cor­rup­tion Watch and

a board mem­ber at Gun Free SA

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