Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Gun comments split Pistorius family

Oscar Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend

The family of Oscar Pistorius has been caught up in a public row over whether guns are a necessary protection against crime in South Africa.

Pistorius' father, Henke Pistorius, told a newspaper the family owns handguns for self-defence and suggested that South Africa's government shares blame for "white crime levels" in the country where police register more than 15,000 murders per year.

But the runner's uncle, Arnold Pistorius, issued a statement in which the family distanced itself from the father's comments. It said they were "deeply concerned about the comments" and that they do not "represent the views of Oscar or the rest of the Pistorius family."

The double amputee track star is now on bail after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 with his 9 mm pistol. Prosecutors charged him with premeditated murder, saying the shooting followed an argument between the two. Pistorius said he mistook Ms Steenkamp for a burglar, fired shots at the door of his toilet and then discovered that she was inside.

His uncle, who has acted as the family spokesman following the killing, said in the statement that "the Pistorius family own weapons purely for sport and hunting purposes." That contradicts Oscar Pistorius' evidence to the magistrate who freed him on bail. In an affidavit, the athlete known as "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre prosthetic running legs said he owned the 9 mm handgun and slept with it under his bed because "I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before."

The South African Police Service's National Firearms Centre said Pistorius registered the 9 mm for self-defence. Police issued him with his gun licence on September 10, 2010.

Henke Pistorius earlier told the Daily Telegraph that some of the family's guns "are for hunting and some are for protection, the hand guns. It speaks to the ANC government, look at white crime levels, why protection is so poor in this country, it's an aspect of our society."

"You can't rely on the police, not because they are inefficient always but because crime is so rife," he said. "I have been in positions where I can use a gun but we have been brought up in a way that we value the lives of others very highly."

The family's response to those comments was issued by Vuma, a reputation management firm it has hired to deal with media questions following Ms Steenkamp's killing.

"Oscar Pistorius's family is deeply concerned about the comments made by Oscar's father, Henke Pistorius, to UK newspaper the Telegraph about the family using its weapons to defend themselves against crime in South Africa, and especially about his comments that the ANC government is not willing to protect white South Africans," the statement said. "Henke's interview with the newspaper was unapproved by our media liaison team," it added.

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