South Africans are rushing to buy guns and non-lethal self-defence weapons following the recent riots and after the government unveiled plans to stop licensing firearms for self-defence.
The spike in gun sales is no surprise, as many communities were left to fend for themselves during the violent riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
South Africans realised they could not rely on the police to protect them against criminals, and having access to firearms helped people to protect their businesses and communities.
Armed South Africans who helped stop looting and vandalism have brought government’s controversial plans to amend the country’s firearm laws back into the spotlight.
The draft Firearm Control Amendment Bill wants to remove self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm in South Africa.
The government argues that its proposal will help keep guns off the streets as many of these guns are stolen from legal owners.
Gun Owners of South Africa chairman Paul Oxley described the changes as “sheer madness” and “disturbing”. “The recent looting sprees destroyed any possible justification for the bill,” he said.
“The Constitution recognises our right to life, which is hollow and meaningless without access to the most effective means to protect that life, which is privately held firearms,” Oxley said.
He said the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng created the best large-scale experiment that proved firearms were key to protecting lives and livelihoods.
“The insurrection, as President Ramaphosa labelled it, was largely thwarted by thousands of armed South Africans who stood in the way of anarchy and defended themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Oxley.
“The damage would have been incalculably worse and loss of life astronomical if private citizens could not use their guns for self-defence.”
While the debate on gun ownership rages on, concerned South Africans have flocked to firearm stores to buy weapons.
Astoria’s financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2021 showed a strong performance in weapons sales from Outdoor Investment Holdings (OIH).
Astoria owns 33% of OIH, which owns hunting and outdoor wholesalers Inyathi Supplies which provides firearms to the South African market.
OIH had a very strong performance this year, which was partly driven by increased sales of firearms and self-defence weapons.
Astoria said the draft Firearm Control Amendment Bill, which was published in May, looks to remove the option of licensing firearms for self-defence. It could restrict citizens’ ability to buy firearms in future.
“The widely publicised potential changes have no doubt brought forward some sales of firearms for OIH in the period since the announcements,” Astoria said.
Sales of non-lethal self-defence mechanisms have also increased substantially in the past 18 months
The violent riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have dampened the prospects for any such amendments for a long time. “It might even have eliminated the prospects for these changes substantially,” Astoria said.