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South Africa, Denmark, and Sweden have been combating a wave of gun violence and mass shootings despite strict gun control laws in all three countries.
South Africa was the latest to see a mass shooting, with at least 19 people being killed in two separate shootings last week in Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. In Johannesburg, 15 people were killed and many more injured when a gunman opened fire on patrons in a bar. A similar scene played out the same night in Pietermaritzburg, where two men entered an area bar and opened fire on patrons there, killing four people an injuring eight.
The two shootings happened despite tight gun regulations in the country, with GunPolicy.org rating South Africa’s firearms regulations as “restrictive.” Civilians in the country are not allowed to possess semi-automatic weapons without a special endorsement, while handgun ownership is permitted but only after obtaining a license under specific circumstances.
South Africa’s strict restrictions have led to a large black market for guns in the country, with almost 13,000 people being arrested in the country for illegal possession of firearms in 2020/2021, according to the Associated Press.
“The most effective way to reduce gun deaths is to reduce gun availability. Right now we have guns flooding into the legal market, and then they move into the illegal market,” Gun Free South Africa director Adele Kirsten told AP.
Denmark has similarly restrictive gun regulations, with GunPolicy.org also classifying the country’s laws as restrictive. But the strict laws were unable to prevent last week’s mass shooting at a mall in Copenhagen, where a lone gunman opened fire on shoppers, killing three people and injuring seven more.
Danish citizens hoping to obtain a license to own a firearm have to prove there is a genuine reason to own a gun and pass a background check including criminal and mental health, while the government keeps a record of citizens that are currently allowed to buy, own, or sell guns.
In neighboring Sweden, authorities have been grappling with an increase in gun crime over the last several years despite similar laws. According to a report by ITV News London, Sweden recorded 342 shootings and 46 gun murders in 2021, an increase from only 25 shootings as recently as 2015. Like Denmark and South Africa, Sweden’s gun regulations have been classified as restrictive by GunPolicy.org.
“Our kids are actually dying – and it’s weekly. Mother after mother, after mother is burying their kids,” a mother who lost a son to the wave of violence told ITV News London.
Like in Denmark, Swedish residents must prove a genuine reason to own a gun before applying for a firearm license. The application process is strict, including and criminal and mental health background check, a firearm safety course, and limits on the number of guns an individual can possess.
The sudden wave of violence comes at the same time as multiple high-profile mass shootings have also rocked the U.S., with many calling for an increase in firearm regulations in the aftermath.
President Biden and Congress responded, passing the most sweeping gun control legislation in the U.S. in decades. The new law, which passed with bipartisan support, provides funding to states aimed at helping them create red flag laws that would keep guns out of the hands of individuals who could be a danger to themselves or others. The legislation also expanded background checks for gun buyers under 21, imposed harsher penalties on gun criminals, provided funding for mental health-related programs, and included the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
“Tonight, the United States Senate is doing something many believed was impossible even a few weeks ago: we are passing the first significant gun safety bill in nearly 30 years,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the bill. “The gun safety bill we are passing tonight can be described with three adjectives: bipartisan, commonsense, lifesaving.”
Critics of the legislation argued it went too far to restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“Looking at the recent criminal past of anyone is a good idea before assessing gun ownership,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. said of the bill on Twitter last month. “However, that idea was paired with many questionable or bad ones in this legislation.”
But while many progressive groups supported the legislation, some argued that it did not go far enough to restrict access to firearms in the U.S., whose gun regulations are classified as “permissive” by GunPolicy.org.
“This package is not perfect. It doesn’t go as far as we would like. But it is an incredibly meaningful step forward,” Christian Heyne, Brady United vice president for policy, said in an interview with Fox News Digital. “A month ago, I would have said that a package like this would have been impossible.”
However, Republican critics have noted the recent mass shootings in Denmark and South Africa and argued such events are evidence that restrictions on gun rights are unhelpful.
“Praying for the people of Copenhagen, Denmark,” Dr. Willie Montague, a GOP candidate running in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, said on social media after the shooting in Denmark. “Also praying the Left wakes up and realizes that mass shootings are not prevented by gun laws. Denmark makes it nearly impossible to get a gun, yet a mass shooting just happened there.”