Published February 26, 2013
JOHANNESBURG – In South Africa, where Oscar Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the Feb. 14 shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, gun owners can only use lethal force in stringently regulated circumstances. Here is a brief look at gun laws in selected countries:
RUSSIA: For self-defense, Russians can only use hunting rifles and non-lethal weapons, such as devices that spray irritants or pistols that fire rubber bullets. Russian law is extremely vague on when such weapons can be used. The law doesn't, for example, spell out when people can shoot at intruders. Courts have handed prison sentences to people for "exceeding the limits of admissible self-defense," even when they used weapons in response to a clear threat to life.
COLOMBIA: Citizens have the right to defend themselves with a deadly weapon against "unjust aggression." The response must be proportional to the aggression, the criminal code says. This sanctions deadly force during home invasions. Attorney Jaime Granados said the issue of proportionality is crucial. One cannot, for example, shoot someone simply for petty theft.
FRANCE: Firearms can be used for "legitimate defense," said national police spokesman Laurent Ricard. This is only when people face "immediate attack." An armed response must be proportional to the attack. For example, a person cannot use a gun against an attacker who comes at them with a chair.
SOUTH AFRICA: Licensed gun owners are allowed to use lethal force only if they believe they are facing an immediate, serious and direct attack or threat of attack that could either be deadly or cause grievous injury, said Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood, who specializes in firearm law.