Relation Indian Arms Act and Crimes by Unlicensed Weapons: Need for Change
The Indian Arms act was passed by the British during the days of the Raj in 1872. This was a restrictive act and the purpose was to deny Indians the right to own guns, as after the 1857 Mutiny the British thought it best to keep the bulk of the population un-armed. This act is still in force though cosmetic changes have been made to the act with amendments in 1959 and 2010. But the thrust of the act is to make owning a licensed weapon difficult.
This has its own problems and has bred a culture of bribes and underhand deals to get an arms licence in India. It is common knowledge that in Bombay to get an arms licence, one will have to pay over a lakh of rupees($2000) as a bribe to concerned clerks. The restrictive nature of the act makes these things possible as getting an arms licence in India is very difficult.
Another aspect of this act is that people who desperately need guns will go to any lengths to own one. Thus India has the largest number of unlicensed guns in the world. At a conservative estimate the figure could be anywhere between 40-50 million. This is a stupendous figure and the government has not been able to do anything about it. This figure includes rifles, revolvers, pistols and Self loading rifles as well.
A nation with such a large number of unlicensed guns is asking for trouble. Two facts have emerged out of this
a) Crimes of violence where guns and rifles are used have increased 100%. A study by Delhi University’s Anil Kohli for the Small Arms Survey, a global project on armed violence assessment, has concluded that most crimes and murders were executed with unlicensed firearms
b) Genuine people who need guns and are law abiding citizens cannot own a gun because of the restrictive nature of the arms act. There are only 6.3 million licenses for guns in India compared to over 40 million unlicensed guns Source ( India Armed Violence Assessment, a UN Information Centre and UNODC-supported study)
A corollary of the above is that an arms licence can only be issued to a fringe of society, namely the upper well healed Indian. One must remember that to stop a gunman or a man hell bent on rape and physical damage can only be with a gun. How nice it would have been in case the 23 year old girl raped and brutally hurt in Delhi had a small .22 pistol. She could have stopped this horrid crime with a bullet in the body of the rapist and the others would have fled.
The government needs to evaluate the Arms act again. The restrictive nature of the act must be changed. Arms licences should be available to all Indians who travel or live in a violent neighbourhood. It is a weapon of self defence and with crime and violence on the increase there is no justice in denying law abiding citizens the right to own weapons for self defense. As it is the act has failed as millions of guns are floating around in India. The arms act has no meaning for the owners of these millions of revolvers and rifles.
The government must get out of its colonial mindset and insure that it is responsive to the needs of the situation. The Arms Act of 1872 with its amendments need a drastic review.