OLYMPIAN and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius became an avid collector of firearms over the past year, joining a gun-collecting club and purchasing weapons including a pistol dubbed “the most powerful production revolver in the world”, it emerged yesterday.
At the end of 2012, in the first phase of his romance with Reeva Steenkamp – the model Pistorius later shot and killed – his interest in his hobby intensified.
The track star not only applied for licences to own more guns but bought them too, according to John Beare, vice chairman of the Lowveld Firearm Collectors Association, which accepted Pistorius as a paid-up member last April.
He and Pistorius were introduced at a Johannesburg hotel in January 2012, and it was there that Beare explained to the athlete and some of his friends how to become certified collectors.
Had he not become a collector, Pistorius would under South African law have been limited to a maximum of four firearms for self-defence, of which only two could have been handguns, according to Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood.
Carvel Webb, chairman of the National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa, an umbrella group for the country’s 2,000 approved private collectors, said that, in the wake of Steenkamp’s death, his group will now verify that Pistorius fulfilled the necessary requirements to be accepted as a collector, and allowing him to begin collecting semi-automatic rifles.
“We will review all of those just to see if we are happy with it,” Webb said.
Pistorius made no secret of his passion for firearms. Journalists who visited him at home in Pretoria saw the pistol he kept by his bed and was licensed to own. He practised at firing ranges both in South Africa and in Europe, where he trained for the London Games.
But apparently less well known was his involvement with gun collectors to build a firearms collection.
Beare said he twice observed Pistorius shoot at firing ranges and also at a clay pigeon shoot, but saw nothing to suggest he could be a menace with a gun.
“His safety was good,” Beare said. “He wouldn’t do anything irrational with a firearm, because then I would have nailed him immediately.”
Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend Steenkamp for a home intruder and shot her while she was in his bathroom toilet, firing through the closed door.
Pistorius’s licence for the 9mm pistol was registered for “self-defence”.