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S.Africa minister calls for tougher gun controls

Published on 26/02/2013

South Africa's women's minister called Tuesday for stricter gun controls, saying Oscar Pistorius's girlfriend would not have been killed if the sprinter did not keep a firearm.

“If there was no gun in the Pistorius home, Reeva Steenkamp would be alive today,” said Minister Lulu Xingwana.

Xingwana said she was disappointed that Pistorius was granted bail on Friday after more than a week in custody for gunning down Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day.

“But I respect the decision of the court and I also acknowledge that strict measures have been put (in place) to ensure that he is not a flight risk,” she told a media briefing.

The case has reignited debate over South Africa’s high levels of violence, particularly against women, with prosecutors charging that Pistorius intended to kill the 29-year-old model and law graduate.

The paraplegic sprinter claims the shooting was an accident after he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. He returns to court in June.

South Africa has tough gun ownership legislation which is credited with bringing down the firearm homicide rate. But better oversight was needed, said Xingwana.

“We are not calling for a law on gun control, we are calling for stricter monitoring of the law and monitoring of (the) distribution of guns in our society,” she said.

Research showed a woman was three times more likely to die violently if firearms were kept in a house, she said, without giving details.

“We need to stand up and say we don’t want so many guns in our society,” she added.

Estimates of the number of privately owned firearms vary, but lobby group Gun Free South Africa put the figure at 2.9 million registered guns in 2011 for a population of nearly 52 million.