Photo: Dave Varabioff / Pixabay
Photo: Dave Varabioff / Pixabay
The claim by social activist group Gun Free South Africa that someone is four times more likely to be shot if they are using a firearm in self-defence may not be based on fact.
Guns Free SA recently suggested a person is four times more likely to be shot themselves if they are using a gun in self-defence.
“South African research undertaken in two Johannesburg police precincts shows you are four times more likely to be shot at if you use your gun in self-defence,” said Claire Taylor, researcher for Gun Free South Africa in a statement.
“International research from Philadelphia in the USA not only supports this finding but shows that you are four to five times more likely to be shot (not just shot at) if you have a gun in your possession when attacked, compared to someone who was not carrying a firearm at the time.”Claire Taylor, researcher for Gun Free South Africa
However, the ‘four times more likely’ line has been used on several occasions before. Back in 2014, the claim was that a person was four times more likely to be shot with their own gun than to actually use it in self-defence.
The claim appears to always refer back to research conducted by Antony Altbeker, author of A Country at War with Itself, in two studies published in 1999 and 2000.
Even back then the claim was based on fairly sketchy ground. Paratus, an online resource dedicated to the gun ownership debate in South Africa, contacted Mr. Altbeker to verify the claims being made based on his research.
While he wished to stay out of the debate on gun ownership directly, in relation to the 1999 study, he told Paratus:
“In the nature of things, the cases we are looking at here are self-evidently ones in which the victims have been unable to defend themselves. They tell us, therefore, only part of the story about the likelihood, or otherwise, of defending oneself with a firearm.
“The methodology of the study militates against drawing the conclusion that armed victims are much more likely to lose their weapons than to use them successfully.Antony Altbeker
And of the 2000 study, he claimed issues with the quality of data available made it almost impossible to draw any solid conclusions.
“In particular, the possibility that people who lost their weapons might have lied about the circumstances in which they did so in order to avoid a charge of negligence – mean that it is impossible to draw unambiguous conclusions.”Antony Altbeker
Additionally, when the claim that a person is four times more likely to have your gun used against you than be able to use it successfully in self-defence was made by Gun Safe Cities in July 2019, fact-checking website Africa Check found there was no recent, reliable data on the topic.
“There is not enough up-to-date data on firearm ownership and violence in South Africa to support or disprove the claim.”Africa Check
Gun Free SA has stood by its statement regarding the effectiveness of gun ownership in self defence.
“Our statement makes a different claim (based on local and global research) to that explored by the Africa Check. Africa Check rated the claim ‘You are four times more likely to have your gun used against you than be able to use it successfully in self-defence’ which was made by Gun Safe Cities, as unproven as, ‘No research backs widely shared statistic about gun ownership risk in South Africa.’,” the group wrote in response to a query from The South African.
“We agree with Africa Check’s finding.
“The 1999 Altbeker study, which Africa Check has confirmed ‘still stands’ (interview on Talk Radio 702 on 26 August), is clear: You are four times more likely to have your gun taken off you than to use it in self-defence; and you are four times more likely to be shot at.
“This is the SA data. We are not claiming that your gun will be taken off you and used against you. We do not make any claim that you will be shot at and thus possibly killed or injured with your own gun. We cannot make that claim as the research is silent on this. Your attacker might be using their own gun – we just do not know and therefore we do not make any claims on death or injury risk when attacked.
“In recognition that Altbeker’s study is limited (in that it was undertaken in two Johannesburg policing precincts), we locate his finding highlighting the risks of guns for self-defence by referencing global data which shows that you are four to five times more likely to be shot – this implies potential injury or death.
“This is the Branas study. We then go on to show several other risks regarding the possession of a firearm for self-defence, pointing back to SA data which shows the risk of women being killed by an intimate partner with a gun.”Gun Free South Africa