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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

India's gun control laws enable terrorists and criminals

One of the many tragedies of the Mumbai terrorist attacks is that none of the victims had the means to defend themselves or any of their families, colleagues, wards, patients, guests etc.

Dr. John Lott, an economist at the University of Maryland, College Park and author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws writes:

In India, victims watched as armed police cowered and didn’t fire back at the terrorists.  A photographer at the scene described his frustration: “There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything. At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, ‘Shoot them, they’re sitting ducks!’ but they just didn’t shoot back.”

Meanwhile, according to the hotel company’s chairman, P.R.S. Oberoi, security at “the hotel had metal detectors, but none of its security personnel carried weapons because of the difficulties in obtaining gun permits from the Indian government.”

India has extremely strict gun control laws, but who did it succeed in disarming?

The terrorist attack showed how difficult it is to disarm serious terrorists. Strict licensing rules meant that it was the victims who obeyed the regulations, not the terrorists.

Why all these restrictions, regulations and bans?

India, writes Abhijeet Singh, retains heavy anti-gun legislation from colonial days. Ghandi wrote in his autobiography that "among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."

Singh recounts the long history of India's gun control measures:

I live in India and I am a proud firearm owner -- but I am the exception not the norm, an odd situation in a country with a proud martial heritage and a long history of firearm innovation. This is not because the people of India are averse to gun ownership, but instead due to Draconian anti-gun legislation going back to colonial times.

(h/t Butler Shafer at LRC)

More after the break:

To trace the roots of India's anti-gun legislation we need to step back to the latter half of the 19th century. The British had recently fought off a major Indian rebellion (the mutiny of 1857) and were busy putting in place measures to ensure that the events of 1857 were never repeated. These measures included a major restructuring of administration and the colonial British Indian Army along with improvements in communications and transportation. Meanwhile the Indian masses were systematically being disarmed and the means of local firearm production destroyed, to ensure that they (the Indian masses) would never again have the means to rise in rebellion against their colonial masters. Towards this end the colonial government, under Lord Lytton as Viceroy (1874 -1880), brought into existence the Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878); an act which, exempted Europeans and ensured that no Indian could possess a weapon of any description unless the British masters considered him a "loyal" subject of the British Empire. [...]

India became independent in 1947, but it still took 12 years before this act was finally repealed. In 1959 the British era Indian Arms Act, 1878 (11 of 1878.) was finally consigned to history and a new act, the Arms Act, 1959 was enacted. This was later supplemented by the Arms Rules, 1962. Unfortunately this new legislation was also formulated based on the Indian Government's innate distrust its own citizens. Though somewhat better than the British act, this legislation gave vast arbitrary powers to the "Licensing Authorities", in effect ensuring that it is often difficult and sometimes impossible for an ordinary law abiding Indian citizen to procure an arms license.

Also the policy of throttling private arms manufacturing was continued even after independence. Limits on the quantity and type of arms that could be produced by private manufacturers were placed -- ensuring that the industry could never hope to be globally competitive and was instead consigned to producing cheap shotguns, of mostly indifferent quality, in small quantities. A citizen wishing to purchase a decent firearm depended solely on imports, which were a bit more expensive but vastly superior in quality.

This changed towards the mid to late 1980s, when the Government, citing domestic insurgency as the reason, put a complete stop to all small arms imports. The fact that there is no documented evidence of any terrorists ever having used licensed weapons to commit an act of terror on Indian soil seems to be of no consequence to our Government. The prices of (legal & licensed) imported weapons have been on an upward spiral ever since -- beating the share market and gold in terms of pure return on investment. Even the shoddy domestically produced guns suddenly seem to have found a market. Also since the Government now had a near monopoly on (even half-way decent) arms & ammunition for the civilian market, they started turning the screws by pricing their crude public sector products (ammunition, rifles, shotguns & small quantities of handguns) at ridiculously high rates -- products that frankly, given a choice no one would ever purchase.

Curtailing gun ownership, to curb violent crime, through denying licenses or making legal arms & ammunition ridiculously expensive is based on flawed reasoning. The fact is that licensed firearms are found to be used in a statistically insignificant number of violent crimes, motorcycles & cars are far more dangerous. The certainty that a potential victim is unarmed is an encouragement to armed criminals. Less guns, more crime. Most violent crimes involving firearms are committed using untraceable illegal guns. Terrorists or the mafia are not going to be deterred by gun-control laws, they will be willing and able to procure arms of their choice and use them to commit crimes irrespective of any laws. Ironically in India it is cheaper (by several times) to buy the same gun in the black market than it is to buy it legally!

Read the rest.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 2, 2008 in International Affairs | Permalink


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One of the many tragedies of the Mumbai terrorist attacks is that none of the victims had the means to defend themselves or any of their families, colleagues, wards, patients, guests etc.
Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 2, 2008

A good many of the victims were tourists. Do you normally travel with a handgun / rifle / shotgun when you leave Canada?

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-12-02 9:07:06 PM

In Canada if you defend yourself with a gun while you were not already in the process of using it, especially if it's a restricted gun (how could you defend yourself if it's trigger locked and in a locked box?) you'll very likely go to jail.

The right to self defense is not recognized in Canada because the social engineers fear an armed populace.

Expect banning semi-automatic rifles and handguns (one pull of the trigger one shot) to be one of the Coalition's first acts as it's something they all agree on and it's "progressive" and a good response to terrorism and will make jobs at the Canadian Firearms Center. This maneuver is expected to cost well over $1b between the bloat and buy aways (when they force you to take $500 for your $7000 rifle)

Posted by: Pete | 2008-12-02 9:10:25 PM

In Canada if you defend yourself with a gun..............
Posted by: Pete | 2-Dec-08 9:10:25 PM

And the relationship to India is?

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-12-02 9:14:59 PM

A good many of the victims were tourists. Do you normally travel with a handgun / rifle / shotgun when you leave Canada?

Posted by: The Stig | 2-Dec-08 9:07:06 PM

No, I actually never travel anywhere with a firearm since I don't own one. I would, however, prefer to stay in a hotel where the security guards were able to carry them.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-12-02 9:20:04 PM

I took my kids to a football tournament in Great Falls Montana in Oct. 2001. The hotel we stayed in had very well armed security guards roaming the halls, giving the 12 year old kids heck for every little thing. I found it disturbing, and wouldn't let my own kids go to the pop machine alone. I realized everyone was still in shock from 9/11, so I decided to be extra polite. Some of those guards seemed "underqualified" to carry loaded weapons in public.

It's hard to imagine the average citizen being able to react to an attack like that one. Just having a gun doesn't cut it. You have to have the stomach to use it. It seems a lot of the Indian police were a bit short on stomach. I suppose they'd never come face to face with an armed opponent before. If that happened in Israel, a waiter would have pulled out a pistol, and cut down a couple of attackers before the police ever got there. It's all about being prepared. I doubt they'd have the same success if they attacked some place populated by mainly Sikhs.

Posted by: dp | 2008-12-02 10:20:40 PM

dp: The armed police who cowered are cowards. They are not alone. Many Sikhs are cowards. Places populated mainly by Sikhs may have reacted even more cowardly under similar conditions. Fear is a universal constraint.

Posted by: dewp | 2008-12-02 10:52:54 PM

The point of this article is spot on in that gun bans and gun control always give the criminal, in this case terrorist, element a huge advantage.

Of course no one suggested that the tourist be armed, but well trained and armed security would have made a difference. As for the Indian police being cowards, I am not so certain. It may have been the case, but it is also possible that they feared facing heavy-handed investigation and possible charges had they opened fire.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-02 11:20:04 PM

One of the many tragedies of the Mumbai terrorist attacks is that none of the victims had the means to defend themselves or any of their families, colleagues, wards, patients, guests etc.
Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 2, 2008

A good many of the victims were tourists. Do you normally travel with a handgun / rifle / shotgun when you leave Canada?

Posted by: The Stig | 2-Dec-08 9:07:06 PM

And the relation to Indian gun laws is?

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-03 1:42:16 AM

Righteous use of guns in self defense or saving lives should come without repercussions. However it is a short walk from there to murder and laws need to be clear on the subject. Not vague and ambiguous like they are in Canada so that they can be enforced any way a court room sees fit.
And an unarmed population with strict gun control doesn't get to make that choice at all anyway. They're sitting ducks...

Those who beat their swords into plow shares will plow for those who did not.
(source ?)

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-03 1:48:45 AM

In, India it is common sight to see privileged politicians , bureaucrats , judges and even the outlaws being protected by gun toting security personals while the common man is denied arms to even defend himself /herself.

Posted by: Anil Sinha | 2008-12-13 6:37:14 AM

As always, the gun guys get it dead wrong:

India is one of the most heavily armed nations in the world, and is suffering an epidemic of gun violence. Writer and activist Binalakshmi Nepram tells of her work tackling small arms proliferation, and working with women survivors to rebuild lives.

I dedicate this article to the more than 5000 women who have lost their lives or been wounded by gun violence in my home-state of Manipur in Northeast India.

As the world knows, India is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, the land where non-violence was born. Last year the United Nations declared that his birthday, 2 October, would become International Day of Non-Violence. The India that existed at the time of independence championed peace and disarmament. However, sad to say, the India of today is very different. While many know of India's economic rise, I know of an India that is weaponized and arming itself to the teeth.

In February 2008, over 450 arms companies came to India's capital New Delhi to sell their wares at an international arms bazaar. India, my country, is the second most heavily armed nation in the world, and the majority of an estimated 40 million firearms are in civilian possession. There are 900,000 arms-licensed holders in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, while the number of arms dealers is pegged at 1400. In the words of one gun dealer at the bazaar, "Gun shops are mushrooming in the state of Uttar Pradesh like public telephone booths".

Posted by: Perry Logan | 2009-01-18 6:31:23 AM

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