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Firearms Laws In India

In India, citizens are not allowed to carry firearms unless they have justified reasons to convince authorities to grant licenses for the use of firearms. It is a privilege for citizens to have licensed firearms after going through constant police scrutiny and paperwork. Recently, we have witnessed several instances of gun violence around the world. A few counties allow their citizens to carry weapons under fundamental rights. The fundamental right to carry a weapon seems appealing but leads to aggression, gun violence, and homicide in the country. Today’s article is based on a comprehensive analysis of gun violence and the concept of gun license.

History

East India Company set up a gunpowder factory in India toward the end of the 18th century[1]. East India Company intended to establish the gun powder factory in a selected place where the Dutch Ostend Company had run a gun powder factory between 1712 and 1744. The selected land was under the rule of Maharaja Nobkissen Bahadur since 1969 and East India Company was required to make an exchange settlement for the acquisition of land. A deed was made on 28th April 1778 between Maharaja Nobkissen Bahadur and East India Company for the acquisition of land for the gunpowder factory. Brigadier Gurudayal Singh developed the first gun for the Indian Army. Firearms were used by Indians in several revolts against Britishers, one of the most aggressive revolts was the sepoy mutiny in 1857. The sepoy mutiny was triggered by the introduction of rifle cartridges containing cow and pig fat which hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims.

The Arms Act was introduced during British Raj to limit the manufacture, sale, purchase, and use of arms and ammunition in 1878. Some Indians are acquainted with the skill of metal extraction and making firearms out of them which are used against Britishers. The objective of the Arms Act is to suppress revolts by Indian rebels and prevent Indians from making firearms.

Firearms in India

In the 21st century, the major reason behind several instances of gun violence is easy accessibility to guns and ammunition. Gun licenses are approved by authorities without inquiries and ammunition is easily available in shops. In India, guns and ammunition are regulated by stringent laws under Arms Act, 1959, and Arms Rules, 1962. These provisions deal with the sale, manufacture, acquisition, import-export, and transport of arms and ammunition. It is not a cakewalk to get a gun license in India. Individuals are required to submit an application form to the concerned authority citing the reason such as threat or personal safety to the authority to approve and allow them to carry firearms. A gun license is written permission issued by government authorities that allow an individual to buy, own, import, export or possess a firearm after completing the legal process to approve the gun license.

Firearms licenses are divided into two categories namely, Prohibited Bore (PB) and Non-Prohibited Bore (NPB). Prohibited Bore (PB) firearms are allowed to a specified class of government personnel and prohibited for public use, issued only by the government which includes automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Arms Act, 1959 authorizes individuals to buy, own, carry, import, export, manufacture, transport, and possession of Non-Prohibited Bore (NPB) weapons permitted by federal and state governments for the general public. A Gun license is not absolute permission for an individual to use firearms and the government is not bound to permit firearm use on the grounds of safety. Section 14 of the Arms Act, 1959 provides that the government may refuse to give a license on the grounds of endangering public safety and against public policy.

Arms Act, 1959

Arms Act, 1959 deals with the sale, manufacture, import, export, possession, acquisition, and transportation of arms and ammunition in India. Gun licenses in India are regulated under Arms Act, 1959. It provides the minimum age of an individual who is applying for a gun license is 21 years of age. The applicant must be a citizen of India. There is an exception, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are eligible to get a gun license after proving their permanent address within the territory of India. The applicant must not have been convicted for any offense involving violence and immorality 5 years before the commencement of the license application.

Gun License

A gun license[2] is official written permission issued by the government for the authorized use of arms and ammunition by an individual. An individual got a gun license on the grounds of self-defense, crop protection, protection from wild animals, Sports training for full-time sportspersons, security agencies, or training in gun handling. The grounds of self-defense are widely accepted by the authorities while granting a gun license to an individual.

Firstly, an individual needs to apply for a gun license[3] to the concerned authorities along with designated fees for a particular gun. An individual can approach the district Superintendent of Police to get the application form. An individual required necessary documents to apply for a gun license, namely-

  1. Age proof
  2. Address proof
  3. Copy of Ration Card
  4. Election Card
  5. Income tax return for 3 consecutive years
  6. Certificate of physical fitness
  7. Character certificate from 2 responsible citizens.
  8. Qualification certificates
  9. Written application citing the reason for the need for a gun license

You can get the application form at this link- http://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/forms/Gun_form_Application_0.pdf

After applying, the police or concerned authority starts the scrutiny and verification process. The police ensure that the individual has no past criminal record and has not been involved in any conspiracy or fraudulent activities. Police invite objections by inviting the neighborhood and surrounding people and asking them whether they saw the individual is involved in any malicious activities or involved in any fight due to temper or sudden burst. The objective of stringent scrutiny is to ensure that the individual is mentally and physically stable to manage arms and ammunition.

Lastly, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) schedules an interview with the applicant. The interview is based on common questions such as why you need a gun or firearm, what kind of threat you intended to counter with a gun, and so on. After conducting a successful interview with the applicant, the report of the interview sends to the crime branch and National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). After completing the inquiry and reviewing the interview report, the competent authority either grants or reject the application on valid grounds.

After Approval of Gun License

The most common question that arises in the mind of readers is when and how we get a gun after getting a valid gun license. The applicant will now address as a customer because it is about time to purchase a gun from an authorized gun shop. The customer needs to contact the dealer and placed a pre-order for a gun from a licensed shop. The customer is required to submit the necessary documents to the authorized dealer pre-ordering a gun. A customer can order shotguns, handguns, and sporting rifles for civilian use under the Arms Act, 1959. A citizen can hold up to 3 firearm licenses at a time and all 3 firearms belong to the NPB category.

Recent Development in Arms Act[4]

The government introduces a safety training program for gun license holders. In other words, individuals whose applications are approved by the competent authority are required to go through the compulsory safety training course to handle arms. The course includes safe handling, firing techniques, safekeeping, and arms transportation. The government also includes the women’s safety in Arms Act, 1959 as a valid ground to grant a gun license. The competent authority will authorize citizens to use a taser gun to enhance their safety. Recently, the Arms Act, of 2019 introduced a new provision where an individual can procure up to 2 firearms instead of 3 firearms. The validity of gun licenses has been increased from 3 years to 5 years. The punishment for offenses related to unauthorized possession, acquisition, or use of prohibited firearms amounts to a fine or imprisonment, or both. The imprisonment for the offense is increased between 7 years and 14 years.

Conclusion

Gun violence is one of the most common crimes in foreign countries, especially in the United States of America (USA). We witnessed gun violence in public places i.e., school premises, streets, malls, and clubs around the world. It is interesting to note that a greater number of gun violence instances were recorded in countries where gun laws are not strictly regulated. The flexible approach was adopted for the welfare of the people and to ensure the protection of the citizens within the territory of the respective countries. But citizens are starting to exploit the laws to take their revenge or initiate terror among the people using weapons. We need to amend the laws and adopt a stringent approach[5] to regulate laws related to arms and ammunition. Citizens are not entitled to use arms and ammunition in the name of fundamental rights because people are not always mentally and physically sound to handle arms and ammunition. At the of the day, it is a matter of public safety and a major threat to the right to life and it should not get compromised in any given circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it the right approach to armed citizens with guns to protect their lives?

Threat to one’s life could be eliminated using other approaches but equipping citizens with arms and ammunition is an extreme approach taken by legislation that might threaten others’ lives.

Which authority issues gun licenses to qualified persons as per the provision of law?

Ministry of Home Affairs. 

[1] History of Gun in India (gunhistoryindia.blogspot.com)

[2] How to Obtain a Gun License in India | eStartIndia

[3] Application process for Gun License in India – Online, and Offline (allindianforms.com)

[4] Gun Control Legislation (drishtiias.com)

[5] Gun Violence – Amnesty International

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Prashant Sharma

Prashant Sharma is a law student at Government Law College, Mumbai. He secured AIR 46 in MHCET 2021. He used to write content based on legal issues, social issues, economic aspects, current issues, maritime industries, technology and other related topics.


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