For many it could be just a hobby. For many it could be a desire to perfect their practise or honing their skills in weaponry. Social and physical insecurity, paranoia, social and cultural demands are major triggering points that prompt human psyche to possess firearms. Ever since, the subject of having firearms/guns was linked with fundamental rights in terms of self-defence in our country, India has seen escalating demand in manufacturing (by Indian Ordnance Factory), sale and possession of firearms (via Authorised Dealers). Though, Indians are not so paranoid of the gun culture and therefore dramatic shoot-out cases like Westerners are quite non-existential in our country. However, the fast-changing societal hierarchy has certainly ignited the desire to be in the club of firearm owners. Even as the tendency of possessing firearms was picking up during the Independent era, its legalised form in India could be fairly visible only after it got independence and transformed into a sovereign nation.

Though never found in books, but often quoted by Independence era chroniclers, the right to own arms was promised to all Indian citizens as a “Fundamental Right”, throughout the freedom struggle and post-independence era. Thereafter, it was finally enshrined as a Legal Right as per the Arms Act, 1959. However, beginning from its advent and continuing to date, only a few meagre and negligible amendments were made to the original Arms Act, 1959 and in Arms Rules, 1962. The prime objective of this Act of the Indian Parliament was to consolidate and amend the laws relating to arms and ammunitions in order to curb illegal weapons and violence. In the light of this Act, it has been made essential to obtain an arms licence by a person/ company/ dealer. In case of a dealer, there will be Dealer License to engage in purchase and sale of arms and ammunitions. For people or a company obtaining arms license will be for acquisition, possession or carrying of firearms or ammunitions from a competent Licensing Authority for a requisite usage.

Better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.

Even in the current scenario, the right to own a gun is not guaranteed by the law, but acquiring a firearm licence in the country is not that tough from the authorities, except the hard part is to convince the license issuing establishments.

Switzerland-based Small Arms did a worldwide survey in 2017 of all countries with the most guns per capita and it expectedly found the USA, securing the top position in the list. The survey revealed that the world’s biggest arms manufacturer U.S. had 121 guns/firearms for every 100 residents. Yemen secured second position with 53 guns, followed by Switzerland (46 guns), Finland (45 guns), Serbia (38 guns), Cyprus (37 guns) and Saudi (35 guns) behind every 100 compatriots. India came at 120th place by having 5.3 guns behind 100 residents. According to its finding, out of 134 crore population in India, there were 70 million estimated firearms in civilians’ possession, out of which only 97,00,000 were registered while a whopping 60 million arms were unregistered.

To have effective control over the arms and ammunitions, the union government barely brought changes in the six-decade-old Act, until the present government did this in December last year. In order to control the use and possession of arms, to reduce their rash and illegal usage, which can endanger another human being, the Arms (Amendment) Bill 2019, was introduced in the Parliament in December 2019 and was also passed. Now, under the revised Arms Act, 1959, one person is allowed to have only one firearm, instead of three as earlier. But simultaneously, the duration of the validity of a firearm license has been extended from three years to five years. Those who own more than two firearms will have to deposit the third one with the police station concerned or authorised gun dealers.

Besides, the Arms Act bans the use, transfer, conversion, testing, proofing, manufacture or sale of firearms without a licence and prohibits the shortening of firearm barrels or conversion of imitation firearms into firearms without a license. The Arms Bill additionally bans the procurement of unlicensed firearms and the conversion of one category of firearms to another without a license. The new legislation has a provision for life imprisonment for those who snatch or loot arms and ammunitions from police or other security forces.

The amended act, however, accords special status to a sportsperson who needs firearms and ammunitions for practice and participating in tournaments, a move that has won accolades from the movers and shakers of the country.