South Africa has some of the highest rates for violent crime in the world, with an average of nearly 50 people murdered each day.
There are also high levels of assault, rape, robbery and carjackings.
Some home-owners carry weapons to defend themselves against intruders.
Oscar Pistorius was understood to have shot his girlfriend in the head and arm, although the circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. He may have mistaken her for a burglar, according to Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702.
According to United Nations research, South Africa has one of the highest firearm-related homicide rates in the world, second only to Colombia at the time.
The rate, which was measured per 100,000 people, put the country's score four times higher than the US.
According to statistics 12.7 in every 100 people in South Africa own a gun and it is estimated there are almost six million civilian firearms.
In 2008/09 it was reported that there were 662 murders in the UK, but in South Africa there were 18,148.
There are also an alleged 18,000 attempted murders each year.
As a result of these high levels of violent crime, many people choose to live in gated communities and employ private security guards.
These are especially common for middle class residents and often involve high perimeter fencing and alarm systems linked to security teams.
Both blacks and white people live in guarded compounds and are protected by firms that often promise to respond within three minutes.
The South African Police Service also often employs security companies to protect their own police stations, with the private security industry estimated to be worth 14 billion South African rand (£1 billion).
Fear of crime is high, with the Institute for Security Studies estimating that 50% of people in Pretoria feel "very unsafe" walking in their area at night.
A study by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, based in Johannesburg, said there are a number of causes for the high levels of violence in South Africa.
These include the normalisation of violence in society, so it has become a legitimate means of resolving conflict, and a subculture of criminality ranging from individuals to gangs.
The report also highlighted the vulnerability of young people and the high levels of unemployment and poverty.