Gun Control Legislation

Published on - June 03, 2022

Source: The Hindu

Why in News?

The United States recently witnessed two episodes of mass shootings in a span of 11 days that killed more than 30 people including elementary school children.

US recorded a total of 24,576 homicides in 2020, of which approximately 79%, or 19,384 incidents, involved the use of a firearm.

Regulation of firearms in the US is convened through the shared authority between the federal, State and local governments.

The US Supreme Court previously held that the second amendment of the US Constitution protects the right to “keep and bear arms” for self-defence, whilst federal courts argue about a potential infringement if federal, state and local firearm regulations circumvent this right.

What is the Gun Control Legislation of India?

The Arms Act, 1959:

About: It aims to be as extensive as possible to cover all aspects relating to the acquisition, possession, manufacture, sale, import, export, and transport of arms and ammunition in India.

Requirements for Acquiring Gun License:

The minimum age requirement for acquiring a gun license in India is 21 years.

The applicant must not have been convicted of any offence involving violence or moral turpitude five years prior to commencing the application, not of an ‘unsound mind’ and not a threat to public safety and peace.

Property qualification is not a criterion for acquiring gun license.

Upon receiving an application, the licensing authority (i.e., the Home Ministry), asks the officer in-charge of the nearest police station to submit a report about the applicant after thorough vetting within a prescribed time.

Other Features of the Act:

It defines ‘prohibited arms’ as those that either discharge any noxious liquid or gas, or weapons that seek pressure to be applied on a trigger for discharge.

It allow the use of smooth bore gun with a barrel of not less than 20 inches for crop protection or sport.

No entity is permitted to sell or transfer any firearm which does not bear the name of the maker, manufacturer’s number or any other visible or stamped identification mark.

Amendment to the Arms Act:

The Arms Act amended in 2019 reduces the number of firearms that an individual can procure from 3 to 2.

The validity of the license has been increased from the present 3 years to 5 years.

It also enlists specific provisions on curtailing the use of licensed weapons to ensure social harmony.

Punishment: The punishment of imprisonment is increased between 7 and 14 years, along with a fine for the offense of acquisition, possession or carrying of prohibited ammunition without a license.

It prohibits the conversion of one category of firearms to another without a license.

Unlawful manufacture, sale and transfer are liable for an imprisonment term not less than seven years which could be extended to life, with a fine.

Way Forward:

One way is to impose severe gun controls and severely restrict who can buy or own a weapon. American laws are too loose and too lenient in this regard.

India too needs to review and tighten laws relating to the acquisition and possession of firearms.