Violence against women is never funny. And for some reason it never seems to go away. Paralympic champion and Olympic semi-finalist sprinter Oscar Pistorius will be charged this morning for the shooting murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, yesterday. Although many news outlets used the word shocking somewhere in their pieces about the story, the sad thing is acts like this aren't shocking. They're all too common. And for some reason they seem even more common in the world of sports, with Kansas City Chief's linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder of his wife and subsequent suicide last December being only the latest example.
Pistorius is being described as a gun enthusiast who lived in a state of paranoia, being his fame would attract those who wanted to kidnap him, rob him, or break into his home. What I learned from the story is that this a common theme in South Africa. Many of the wealthy there live in guarded, gated complexes, and hire personal security forces to keep out those who want to rob or kidnap them. The gun culture in South Africa is rampant. And violence against women is extremely common.
So common was the gun violence, and specifically the gun violence against women, that South Africa passed the Firearms Control Act of 2004. It restricts South Africans to one gun, either a handgun or a shotgun, for self-defense. Exceptions exist for regular hunters, but all weapons must be licensed, and gun owners are required to demonstrate that they are trained in gun safety and are free from mental instability and substance abuse.
The overall murder rate has dropped 50% since then, and cases of women being killed by someone they were intimate with have dropped from 31% to 17%. None of this will help Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but it doesn't take a lot of imagination to draw parallels between the culture of paranoia and gun violence we are learning about in South Africa and the current debate about gun violence in America.
Would even tighter gun control laws have saved the life of Reeva Steenkamp? It's impossible to say. But it has saved the lives of many women in South Africa. In the coming days and maybe weeks before this story fades from memory most of what we will here are jokes and sports' related references. But what I think this story has opened a debate about how one country is dealing with gun violence, and how what they have done either has or hasn't worked, and how our country might want to learn something.
This is what Oscar Pistorius looked like in one of his finer moments.
And this was Oscar Pistorius yesterday. A reminder we don't really know anyone just because we see them on a television screen. Oscar Pistorius, welcome to The Hall of Bad Dudes.