Why Do Citizens Need Multiple Firearms (More Than 3)?
The British era Arms Act of 1878 placed no restriction on the total number of firearms an individual could own against a valid arms license in India, this despite the fact that they were an alien power ruling over us! Also, the Arms Act 1959 as initially enacted, placed no such limits on Indian citizens. The limit of 3 firearms, was introduced into the Arms Act 1959 as late as 1983, via an amendment to Section 3 of the Arms Act citing unsubstantiated reasons, by the then Congress government under the leadership on Smt. Indira Gandhi.
Before proceeding further, let us explore why an individual would want to own multiple firearms?
Reasons for Ownership of Multiple Firearms
1. Different firearms have different utility:
Just like other tools, even with firearms, one size does not fit all. Those of us who play golf would be able to immediately relate to this, as they have first hand experience of why a golf bag simply MUST contain several different kinds of golf clubs. Amongst firearms there are THREE major classes, with very different utility:-
- Handguns – includes both revolvers and semi-auto pistols, and are usually the most preferred firearm for close range self-defence situations. Please note, even within this category revolvers and semi-auto pistols have different advantages/ disadvantages and utility based on situation, etc..
- Revolvers - Easier to learn to use safely and can be deployed fast. However, bulkier than semi-auto pistols and limited in ammunition capacity. Also, are usually not as accurate as pistols
- Semi-auto Pistols - Easier to conceal due to flatter shape, usually have larger ammunition capacity than revolvers and more accurate. However, take more practice to learn how to use safely and effectively. Also, are slower to deploy as they are usually carried with an empty chamber.
- Shotguns – these are also essentially close range firearms, with an effective range of no more than 50 yards. They are preferred for protection of home premises or any other premises which may be located within an urban area where a longer range firearm (like a centrefire rifle) may pose a risk of causing unintended injury.
- Sporting Rifles – these are longer range firearms, which are preferred in case of protecting a premises far away from habitation (like on a farm or factory) as well as for protecting crops from problem animals and of course for target practice.
Even within the above FOUR major classes of firearms, there is a wide variety, each with different applications. Just a few examples to illustrate the point:-
- A person may choose to carry on their person a smaller handgun, when wearing western style summer clothing, as a full size handgun may be impossible to conceal while wearing such clothing. Conversely while wearing looser fitting winter clothing or Indian wear, a person would prefer to carry a full size handgun, as the smaller one may be difficult to reach and manipulate under several layers of clothing.
- A person may own one/ more family heirlooms, which they choose to retain for sentimental reasons, but because of the age/ vintage of these old firearms, they may not be reliable, so a person may choose to own a more modern firearm for self protection or sport.
- A person may own a double barrel or semi-auto shotgun for sport, but may choose to keep a lighter weight pump action shotgun at home for self protection.
- A person may own a .22 rimfire for target practice, and also a centrefire rifle for self protection or long range target practice.
- In addition, within each class of firearms, there are several hundreds of calibres (bores) available, each with its own set of pluses and minuses. A person may choose to use different calibres for different purposes.
Self explanatory, just like other tools/ machines a firearm can fail to function, any reasonable person would like to keep a back-up for such situations.
Just as people collect other items, enthusiasts also collect different types/ makes of firearms. These collections are also part of our shared heritage as a nation.
Why is limiting the number of firearms a bad idea?
1. Domestic Industry – wealth creation, jobs & a strong defence production base within India
When the limit of 3 firearms was introduced in 1983, amongst other things, a key driver was saving of foreign exchange, as most people who owned more than 3 firearms, mostly owned foreign made firearms. This is no longer the case, since the ban on import of firearms (which came in 1986), most people have been purchasing Indian made firearms.
Furthermore, our government has allowed private manufacture of firearms under Arms Rules 2016, and many such licenses have been issued. While this private industry is still in its nascent stage, destroying the domestic market for legal licensed firearms via placing limits on the total number of licensed firearms will severely restrict the economic viability of this industry.
It is unreasonable and short-sighted to expect this industry to survive merely on government orders. One may look at how Brazil has created a thriving domestic industry producing small arms and ammunition, initially based largely on domestic civilian demand, but which is now competing on equal footing in international markets against products made in economically developed nations.
2. The kind of people who own more than one firearm are the least likely to pose any kind of threat to law & order
Lets not forget that firearms are costly and there is a finite limit on resources a person has to spend on discretionary items. People who have such resources are well established individuals and never a threat to law and order or national security. By far most people who own more than one firearm are either serving or retired Government officials, policemen, former military officers, current or former members of Parliament or state legislatures, professionals, businessmen, sportspersons etc. These type of persons are never any threat to public order or national security, in fact they are our core nation builders who must not be penalised based on incorrect interpretation of national security requirements.
3. Such limits serve no demonstrable public good.
Placing limits on ownership of multiple firearms serves no demonstrable public good, as a person bent on misuse can misuse even one firearm and hardened criminals anyway procure illegal arms, which cannot be traced and are cheaper than legal arms (by many times).
4. Placing limits on total number of firearms is a throwback to Socialism
A firearm is self acquired property, not a gift from the government. Unless it can be demonstrably proven than such limits lead to a public benefit, they serve no propose other than to target law abiding citizens, who have made every effort to remain within the preview of the law, while doing absolutely nothing to target those who obtain and use illegal arms.
5. Violent Crime in India has increased ever since the limit of 3 guns was introduced in 1983
Empirical evidence points to the fact, that after the 3 gun limit was placed in 1983, the law and order situation has only deteriorated in India. In fact after this limit was placed, there has been a manifold increase in violent crime and especially firearm related crime using illegal guns!
An objective observer would, rightly conclude, that such limits are counter productive or at the very least, they serve no useful purpose in limiting violent crime or other such nefarious activities.
6. In most nations where civilian gun ownership is permitted, usually no more than 5% to 7% citizens own multiple firearms
A similar situation exists in India. However, just because most people cannot afford to own more than one firearm or choose not to. Even in those nations, no hard limits are imposed on total number of firearms. One can choose to review the situation in most free Democratic nations of the world, whether they are European, North American, or even Asian nations like Thailand & Philippines. Once an individual's antecedents have been properly verified, there is no public benefit to be served by limiting his/ her choice to own more than one firearm. Those who are well established individuals, with a passion for this hobby and sport should not be penalised for exercising their rights as free citizens to pursue their interests, especially because they are neither a threat to public order or national security. One the other hand, those individuals who do pose any such threat should be barred from owning even one firearm!
Focus Should be on Eliminating Illegal Guns
It may be pertinent to point out that India is the only nation in the world where illegal firearms are cheaper than legal licensed firearms (of same/ similar type)!
No government in the world can completely prevent smuggling and / or illegal trade, this is amply demonstrated by worldwide experience with liquor prohibition and drug trade.
However, focussed efforts can ensure that illegal items are much more expensive than legal, licensed and traceable firearms. This puts pressure on criminals and anti social elements as well as ensures that those following the law don't feel unfairly victimized by their own government.
We request that the Hon'able Minister consider either not amending Section 3 of the Arms Act 1959, or if indeed this Section is to be Amended, then it should be a positive amendment which increases the total number of firearms a verified and licensed individual can own from the current figure of three to a more reasonable number like five - which would allow an individual to own at least one firearm of each category (as described above).