The association was formed in 1985 as a direct response to the then National Party government’s restrictive firearm policies. These policies were embodied in the Arms and Ammunition Act as introduced in 1969 and were a means of limiting and restricting private ownership of firearms locally.
The Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969 was not the first effort of a South African government to restrict private ownership of firearms. When the National Party came in to power in 1948, it inherited a system of governance from the ousted British Colonial government. Restrictive legislation was already in place after the South African war during the early 1900’s. It was introduced in an effort to keep the local population under British colonial control.
Restrictive firearm policies inevitably lead to prohibition. In modern democracies, disarming the law-abiding citizen has had an immediate impact upon crime. As soon as prohibition is in place, crime and especially violent crime, surges out of control. For the simple reason that prohibitive legislation only affects the law abiding. This has been amply demonstrated in the last two years by examples of escalating crime in the wake of firearm prohibition in Australia and the United Kingdom.
What the anti-firearm establishment fails to understand is that criminals cannot be disarmed. This is plainly evident in our local context when one considers that prior to 1994, South Africa was virtually a police state. Law enforcement was well funded, well trained and very effective. Despite almost limitless power, backed by efficient judiciary and correctional services systems, the government of the day was unable to eradicate illegally held firearms from criminals and others, in spite of bringing all its considerable resources to bear.
More worrying though is the effect of firearm prohibition on the stability of a nation. World history abounds with examples of governments, who even in modern times abolish firearms as soon as they feel threatened by their own citizens. History also shows that in most cases prohibition is followed in rapid succession by genocide or ethnic cleansing. In the modern post-World War II era, several such tragedies occurred and it is significant to note that in most cases, certainly those documented in Africa, genocide was achieved by a rather "low-tech" approach.
The government backed Hutu minority in Rwanda, for instance, slaughtered more than 500 000 people in little more than six weeks. This was achieved with panga’s and assegaai’s and stands in stark contrast to the effects of the atomic "hi-tech" approach that decimated more or less the same number of people in Hiroshima. This human tragedy was the result of the application of modern weapons of mass destruction that resulted in worldwide treaties, embargoes and international co-operation between nations. Yet the single thing that has killed the most human beings in the history of mankind, was and is undemocratic governments.
It is interesting to note that the Rwandan State, as several governments worldwide before and since, first disarmed the population of that country. Once disarmament had been achieved, government issued its supporters the necessary means of perpetrating their objectives. Observers after the Rwandan genocide were united in the opinion that had the populace resisted disarmament from the outset, this tragedy could have been prevented.
Examples of prohibition resulting in genocide are not limited to Africa alone. One only has to remember how modern practitioners of the art, like Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot and a few select others, first embarked on a program of disarmament, ostensibly to effect social change, but ultimately leading to genocide. The old aphorism that a government that does not trust its citizens with firearms is not to be trusted, is now more true than ever before.
Seen against this background it is vital for organisations like SAGA to guard against measures, that when introduced could lead to restrictions, prohibition and complete disarmament of the populace.