Sport
Pistorius 'knew rules' about gun usePublish Date: Mar 18, 2014
Pistorius 'knew rules' about gun use
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South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius takes notes in the dock on day eleven of his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. AFP Photo
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OSCAR Pistorius tried to buy seven guns at a cost of thousands of pounds and was aware of laws that ban homeowners from using lethal force unless their life is in danger, his trial heard on Monday.

A gun licenser testified that the athlete, accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, told him how he had once heard a suspicious noise in his home and entered "code red" combat mode, moving from room to room in search of intruders, only to discover it was the sound of his tumble dryer.

The trial entered its third week at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday. The 27-year-old Olympian and Paralympian claims he shot Steenkamp because he thought she was an intruder.

Sean Rens, manager of a firearms training academy south of Johannesburg, told the court that Pistorius "had a great love and enthusiasm" for firearms and they had visited a shooting range 10 times. He said the sprinter initially wanted to buy a Smith & Wesson 500, described by its manufacturer as the "most powerful production revolver in the world".

An invoice showed he then ordered six more firearms including pump-action shotguns, a semi-automatic rifle and a .38 special revolver worth a total of around £5,000.

South African law allows non-collectors to possess only four firearms.

Pistorius never took possession of the guns because the order was still being processed in February last year, when Steenkamp was killed. "The transaction was cancelled a month post-incident," Rens said.

Licensing examination records reveal that Pistorius knew the country's gun laws well, the court heard. Rens read out a competency questionnaire and exam that he had completed before he could be issued with a firearm.

He achieved top marks in the tests, which included questions about the rules on when a home owner is legally allowed to shoot intruders. Asked if he could fire at burglars stealing a television from his house, Pistorius wrote: "No. Life is not in danger."

Another scenario in the test asked: "There is no security gate between you and the burglars. They are armed and they advance towards you. Can you discharge your firearm because you fear for your life?" Pistorius answered yes.

The next question in the test was: "Explain the legal requirements when using a firearm for private use," to which Pistorius answered: "Attack must be against you, it must be unlawful, it must be against persons."

The final question on the importance of target identification prompted Pistorius to reply: "Always know your target and what lies beyond."

Rens also recalled an incident when Pistorius told him thought there was an intruder in his home. "He went into what we call 'code red', or combat mode, in other words to draw his gun and go and clear his house," Rens testified. "When he came to the source of the noise, it was the laundry or something."

The sporting celebrity had tweeted about the incident in November 2012:

"Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!"

Prosecutors have drawn on previous gun incidents to depict the athlete as out of control and trigger-happy, in support of the allegation of premeditated murder.

Following Rens's testimony, police photographer Bennie van Staden walked the court through pictures he took at Pistorius's home, carefully giving the time of each one. Several showed blood spatter, including above the bed in the main bedroom.

Steenkamp's mother June, 67, attended the trial for the first time since its opening day on 3 March. She was greeted by Pistorius and acknowledged him with a nod; Pistorius's sister Aimee also walked over to speak to her. She left as the court was shown photos of Pistorius's bloodstained prosthetic limbs.

The trial continues.

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