GUN Free South Africa (GFSA) called on Tuesday for all imitation or replica firearms to be banned, and for toy guns to be painted in bright colours, in its submission before Parliament’s police committee.
At issue in the public hearings on the Dangerous Weapons Bill is the brandishing of imitation or replica firearms that cannot be distinguished from genuine firearms in public. The bill makes the open use of such weapons with the intention to commit a crime an offence.
Broadly, in its present form, the bill seeks to prohibit the carrying of dangerous weapons at protests and gatherings. It has resonance with the tragedy at the Marikana mine where attempts by police to disarm heavily armed striking miners resulted in 34 people being shot dead. Ten others were also killed as a result of the weapons carried by the miners.
Alan Storey of GFSA suggested to the committee that: "all imitation or replica firearms be banned in an effort to end the needless injuries and deaths related to these firearms".
He proposed that all toy or imitation firearms be clearly marked, and not be painted the colours of real firearms — black, blue, silver or aluminium.
Mr Storey said the entire surface area of such a toy or imitation firearm should be white, bright red, bright orange or other bright colours so it could be identified from a distance as being a toy.
"That children cannot tell the difference between real and toy guns puts them at huge risk of getting injured with a real gun believing it to be a toy," he said, adding that often adults could not tell the difference either. He cited a recent incident where Westville police shot dead a man who threatened them with an imitation firearm.
He said this incident showed "the police cannot tell the difference between imitation and real guns from a distance, which makes their job so much more difficult.
"If all imitation guns were banned, and only toy guns that look like toys were allowed, the police’s work would be made much easier as the police would know whether a gun was real or not and be able to act appropriately."