Module 3

Men and Guns

how gun violence affects South African men

Module 3

Men and Guns

how gun violence affects South African men


Men and guns

While most men are not violent, men account for 80% of murder victims and perpetrators globally.

Statistically, the majority of gun owners in the world are male. Traditionally, a gun has long been a cultural symbol of power, strength, and masculinity.

Masculinity — also known as manliness or manhood — is a set of characteristics, behaviours, and roles generally associated with boys and men and is mostly about how society expects men to behave.

From a young age, boys learn that to ‘be a man’ means to be dominant, courageous, independent and assertive. Manliness is about having strength and power — and this can be demonstrated at work, in sport and in relationships with others, especially women. Men are expected to live up to these ideas of masculinity and are considered unmanly if they do not.

Men are also taught not to show their feelings with the exception of anger, as it is considered unmanly to show emotions and vulnerability, such as being sad, frustrated, fearful or stressed.

Society also reinforces the belief that a firearm is essential in order to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm, rather than taking preventative measures.
What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is when the norms of masculinity have a harmful impact on society and the individual. It doesn't mean that men or boys are toxic or bad. It is society’s unfair expectations of men and boys that can lead them to express themselves negatively. It also gets worse when men hide their feelings like grief, hurt, sadness, and loneliness, causing them to behave violently.

For example, it supports the belief that:

  • Rage is an acceptable response to frustration.
  • Vengeful violence is justified.
  • Men are entitled to what they want and can use violence to get what they want.
Violence against women
Owning a gun can make you a victim
Who is at risk of gun violence?
Factors that can protect young men against guns:
Solutions to stopping gun violence
Are guns effective for self-defence? Examining the evidence


For protection
- Men often take on the role of protector and provider for their families. Some men will, therefore, feel justified to buy a gun to protect their family.

For power - Guns enhance a person's feelings of masculinity as they are seen as a way to achieve prestige, power, authority and respect. However, this feeling is false, as gun ownership by one person mostly makes others around them feel scared, threatened and intimidated instead of safe and protected.


Facts and figures highlighting the impact of guns and gun violence in South Africa.


Don’t believe everything you hear about guns. Here are some common myths you should be aware of.

Guns are effective for self-defence.

Fact: While a gun may make you feel safer, it doesn't make you safer. A gun is hardly ever used in self-defence, instead it increases the risk to you and your family and helps arm criminals.

Men will always turn to verbal aggression or physical violence in order to protect their loved ones.

Fact: Physical violence is a choice, regardless of gender. Not all men deal with conflict through verbal and physical aggression.

Men should protect women.

Fact: This kind of thinking reinforces the stereotype that women are weak and need physical projection from men who are considered stronger.

Vulnerability in men shows weakness.

Fact: Vulnerability often requires courage. Societies must create space for young boys and men to be vulnerable and see strength in gentleness. There are many ways to be a man that are not violent.

Take Action

Together, we can make a difference to reduce gun violence and help create safer communities for us all.

Break down steroetypes

Challenge male stereotypes by celebrating men who express their feelings, respect women and deal with conflict in a non-aggressive way.

Highlight the risks

Challenge the myth that guns are effective for self-defence by highlighting the risks of gun ownership.

Create mens groups

Create men’s groups that allow men to speak openly about their feelings and frustrations and discuss what it means to be a man in South Africa today.

Explore alternative safety methods

Explore alternative ways to keep you and your family safe from violence. Organise community policing forums and motivate for interventions to make your neighbourhood safer e.g. more lighting or community patrols.

Support anti gun campaigns

Support campaigns aimed at reducing gun violence, in particular gun amnesty and public gun-destruction campaigns. Encourage anyone in your life who owns a gun to hand it in to the police.

Our Donors

This publication was made possible with the support of the DG Murray Trust and the Raith Foundation.


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