Oscar Pistorius' dad triggers controversy with gun defense

Story highlights

  • Henke Pistorius cites "white crime levels" as the reason for weapons arsenals
  • ANC calls Henke Pistorius quotes "devoid of truth ... racist"
  • The Pistorius family issues a statement distancing itself from the quotes
  • Oscar Pistorius told a judge he kept a gun in fear of violent crime

The dozens of weapons a newspaper says the family of Oscar Pistorius owns are only for "sport and hunting," the family says.

The family, in a statement released Tuesday, sought to distance itself from Henke Pistorius, Oscar's father, who said that some of the guns are for protection from crime -- protection he said the African National Congress government is not providing.

The family's statement also was at odds with one by Oscar Pistorius, who told the magistrate who granted him bond that he kept the handgun that killed his girlfriend at his bed because he's "been a victim of violence and of burglaries."

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The "Pistorius family own weapons purely for sport and hunting purposes," the Olympic icon's family said in the statement provided by a spokesman.

Pistorius cell phone holds vital clue
Pistorius cell phone holds vital clue


    Pistorius cell phone holds vital clue


Pistorius cell phone holds vital clue 02:25
TIME: S. Africa's 'culture of violence'
TIME: S. Africa's 'culture of violence'


    TIME: S. Africa's 'culture of violence'


TIME: S. Africa's 'culture of violence' 01:23

Beeld, an Afrikaans language newspaper, has reported the Pistorius family owns 55 weapons -- between his father, grandfather and two uncles -- not counting Oscar's six guns.

The family's statement came in response to a controversy triggered when Henke Pistorius defended the arsenal by telling a UK newspaper that white South Africans need guns for self-defense because the ANC, which gained control in 1994 with the collapse of South Africa's apartheid system, does a poor job of protecting them.

"Some of the guns are for hunting and some are for protection, the hand guns," Henke Pistorius is quoted as telling a Telegraph reporter. "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."

While he said he's never used any of his four firearms -- two rifles and two handguns -- for self-defense, "that doesn't mean I haven't been hijacked, attacked."

"As a family, we value life much too much to produce guns at every opportunity we can use them," Henke Pistorius told the Telegraph. "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 ANC immediately attacked Henke Pistorius, saying his statement was not only "devoid of truth, it is also racist."

"It is sad that he has chosen to politicize a tragic incident that is still fresh in the minds of those affected and the public," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said. "This tragic incident has affected two families that are still trying to come to terms with what happened and this latest racist slur is not assisting these families. We think it is ill-advisable for anyone to start apportioning undue blame."

Oscar Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors say the Olympian killed Steenkamp, 29, after a heated argument in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day.

The double-amputee sprinter, known as the "Blade Runner," submitted a sworn affidavit to the judge considering his bail request last month saying he kept a 9 mm pistol "underneath my bed when I went to bed at night" because he was "acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime."

"I have received death threats before," the affidavit said. "I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before."

The magistrate granted bail, allowing Pistorius to go free eight days after the shooting.

The Pistorius family, which hired a "reputation management" firm to help with media relations, issued a statement Monday saying, "Oscar and the rest of the Pistorius family distances itself" from Henke Pistorius' comments.

"Henke's interview with the newspaper was unapproved by our media liaison team," family spokesman Arnold Pistorius, Henke's brother, said. "The comment doesn't represent the views of Oscar or the rest of the Pistorius family."

Another political party -- the Young Communist League of South Africa -- weighed in on what it called "reckless remarks."

"It is actually believed by most South Africans that the wealthy, mostly white people receive preferential treatment and it is for this reason that the Young Communist League cannot take seriously the claims made by Henke Pistorius," the party said.