The Ministry of Home affairs, Government of India, is on the way to amend the Arms and ammunitions policy. The document issued by MHA says “Proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country disrupt the social order and development.” How true is it? As in many other issues, the conventional wisdom could be wrong. India has very strict gun control laws. In India, people were prevented from bearing arms by the British under Lord Lytton as Viceroy through the Arms act of 1878 after the mutiny of 1857. Though the Arms act, 1858 was repealed in 1959, Arms Act, 1959 was put in place, supplemented by the Arms Rules, 1962. As a result, there was improvement in several development indicators, after Independence, but crime rates in India have gone up several times, mostly in urban areas.
With all these gun control laws, we were not able to prevent the terrorist attacks in 2008, Mumbai. A reporter in the location was caught saying he wished he had a gun instead of a camera. Only people loyal to the British were allowed to possess arms. Many freedom fighters were opposed to this rule. Even Mahatma Gandhi opined in his Autobiography:”Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of its arms as the blackest. “I do believe that when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless victim to her own dishonor.”
Proponents of gun control usually argue that gun rights will lead to high crime rates. Firstly, a criminal is a person who violates the law. Is it logical to assume that such a violator will obey gun control laws? A criminal planning to attempt a murder won’t think “Oh, I am sorry. I don’t have a gun. So, I am not going to do this!” In one way or the other, he will get hold of a gun or some other powerful weapon. Vikram Kona writes: “There are around 40 million illegal small arms in circulation in India. Most of them are either illegally smuggled in or manufactured in the illegal cottage industries. Criminals never apply for licenses, nor do they spend a fortune to buy illegal guns. They get them cheaply and easily on the black market, and use them against law abiding citizens with impunity.” Gun control would only disarm innocent, law abiding citizens. Secondly, there is no empirical evidence to prove that gun rights lead to severe crimes. Quite the contrary, in fact! Nations with the highest crime rates are the ones with the strictest gun control laws. The low crime rate of Switzerland is illuminating. Violent crime skyrocketed after gun measures were prohibited in Australia in the last 90’s. When Washington D.C. enacted a ban on handguns, homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%. Often, it is argued that Gun controls are the reason for the low crime rate in UK. There are two points to be noted here. Crime rates were extremely low in UK, even before the hand gun ban. Crime rate rocketed after the ban. As it is said, “Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York.” A study by the US Department of Justice found that there were 40 percent more muggings in England, and burglary rates were almost 100 percent higher than in the United States.
It follows from the philosophy of self-ownership and the right to own property that people have the right to defend their lives and property- If necessary, by force. If so, people should have the right to bear arms. It goes without saying that people should be held accountable for their actions too. But, it makes no sense to punish a person before the criminal act is performed. It is absurd to prevent some people from being armed simply because there are people who use guns for wrong purposes. Why should ones rights be determined by the actions of others? Should a person be prevented from driving an automobile as others drive recklessly? (People killed by their own guns are an extremely rare minority) Charles Reese perceptively noted: “To believe that guns cause crime is as stupid as believing that hammers and saws cause houses. Cars and doctors kill a lot more people than firearms, but nobody wants to ban them.” There is even an NRA slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Not for a single moment am I saying that gun rights will prevent crimes. But, people will have a more chance of protecting themselves if they are free to defend themselves. Murderers, thieves and terrorists would think twice before attacking their victims if there is a chance that they are armed. Women and physically weak people could be made strong only through gun rights. It’s ridiculous to expect policemen to be omnipresent. Defending oneself is a skill which anyone can acquire.
It should also be said that a ban of guns won’t eliminate guns from the society. There will always be people who get hold of guns, just like people have access to drugs despite of strict penalty. Such laws can only be enforced selectively. Almost always, people who are not in good terms with the authorities will be punished. The real intention of the people in power is to increase their power through disarming people. Gun control is the greatest threat to individual liberty.