The XX Factor

What We Can Learn About Gun Control From the Oscar Pistorius Shooting

South Africa’s Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaves the Boshkop police station after allegedly killing his girlfriend

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Terrible news to wake up to this morning: Oscar Pistorius, who was heavily covered during the Olympics for being the first double amputee to participate as a track athlete, was arrested this morning for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius claims her death was an accident, and he mistook her for a burglar. Burglary is a common problem in South Africa, but the police aren’t buying his story: 

But speaking to reporters in Pretoria, another police spokeswoman, Brig. Denise Beukes said those reports had taken her by surprise.

She also said that the police had responded previously to complaints of a “domestic nature” at the runner’s home but declined to give further details.

Fox Sports had further details:

There have ”previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius,” said police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and ”there is no other suspect involved.”

”Yes there are witnesses and there have also been interviews this morning,” Beukes told reporters outside the gated complex where Pistorius lived. ”We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.”

Steenkamp’s Twitter feed in the day before her murder is a depressing read. She not only retweeted a call for people to unite against violence against women, but she also seemed to be very excited about Valentine’s Day: 

While Steenkamp died in South Africa, her murder should serve as an important reminder as to why it’s so critical to push for stricter regulations on gun sales here in the U.S. As Lucy Berrington for Women’s eNews points out, the ease with which abusive men can get their hands on a gun leads to dramatically more domestic homicides than we would otherwise have. 

Domestic abuse is not more prevalent in the United States than in other developed countries. But in the United States, the availability of firearms makes it far more lethal. When a gun is involved, the risk of a fatal outcome is 12 times greater than in domestic assaults involving other weapons or bodily force, research shows.

South Africa passed a major gun control act in 2000, and the result has been a dramatic reduction in murders of women. The rate of murder by gun was cut in half, but contrary to the claims of pro-gun advocates, murderers did not simply switch to other methods to kill, as the rate of murders by other means stayed stable. Steenkamp’s death demonstrates that gun control will not stop all gun murders, but the data suggests that it can at least dramatically reduce their number.