Campaign launched to remove guns from violent domestic partners

The ‘Removing the Trigger’ Campaign was launched at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children on Wednesday.

By Jabulile Mbatha

15 February 2024

Panel speakers Claudia Lopes from the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Foundation (far left) with Adele Kirsten from Gun Free SA, Kerryn Rehse of MOSAIC and Mariam Mangera of the National Shelter Movement SA. Photos: Jabulile Mbatha

Valentine’s Day is traditionally filled with celebrations of love. But for many victims of domestic abuse it will be like any other day filled with fear and violence.

On 14 February, Gun Free South Africa launched the “Removing the Trigger” Campaign with the Mosaic training service and health centre, National Shelter Movement South Africa and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Foundation.

The campaign will raise awareness about guns in domestic violence cases. It also aims to strengthen the rights and safety of victims of gun-related domestic violence.

The idea for the campaign came after a mother approached Gun Free South Africa in 2023 to assist her to get justice for her daughter who was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend in 2022. The police failed to remove his gun, despite a protection order directing them to do so.

“We know some examples where women did not know that they could ask for their partner’s gun to be removed,” said Gun Free South Africa director Adele Kirsten at the campaign launch at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Manenberg on Wednesday.

Kirsten said that the first step of their work is identifying the gaps in the justice system. “For example, magistrates don’t know that they have an obligation and duty to see whether the woman has asked for the gun to be removed,” she said.

If an application for a protection order does not include a request for a gun to be removed, the magistrate should ask if there is a gun in the home, said Kirsten.

Launch attendees received roses with the message: “Every eight hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner in South Africa.”

Some of the framed T-shirts lining the walls at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.

The story of Reeva Steenkamp who was shot dead 11 years ago by Oscar Pistorius highlighted the prevalence of gun crime experienced by so many women across South Africa.

Referencing Steenkamp’s story, Claudia Lopes of the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation said: “Valentine’s Day ought to be about celebrating love, it shouldn’t be a day about talking about guns.”

Mosaic’s Advocacy and Policy Specialist, Kerryn Rehse, said: “Mosaic has been working for more than 30 years, assisting women and families experiencing domestic violence. We have also contributed significantly in shaping the law and policies that respond to domestic violence in the country.”

Kirsten said the campaign will collect data on the number of domestic violence cases involving guns.