Mumbai’s Harsh Lesson on Gun Control

People across the globe watched in shock as the terror attack on Mumbai unfolded on television screens everywhere. The meticulous planning and the sheer audacity of the attacks stunned the world and, in the final analysis, set the stage for a pure human tragedy: 195 lives lost, many times that number seriously injured, and hundreds of families scarred forever.

The terrorists targeted iconic landmarks like the busy CST railway terminus, two luxury hotels, a local Jewish outreach centre, a cafe, and a hospital. They placed bombs in taxis and other locations. All of these attacks occurred almost simultaneously, compounding the confusion and completely exposing the inept emergency services.

Now as the citizens of Mumbai go about the business of rebuilding their burnt out landmarks and trying to heal shattered lives, the emotions of a nation turn from horror to anger at being let down by those very people whose duty it was to protect them. But instead of playing the blame game it is time for the citizens of India to pause and try to understand why was it that these merchants of terror succeeded so well in their dastardly enterprise and how culpable are we for creating the circumstances which multiplied the magnitude of this tragedy many fold. After all, this was only a group of ten terrorists and those ten were mostly split into teams of two each, to enable them to cover several locations simultaneously. Why were they not stopped sooner? Did so many people really have to die?
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Back in the stone age?

back in the stone age
Image courtesy Oleg Volk –

As per this news report bystanders at Nariman House in Mumbai tried to thwart the terrorists attacking the Jewish centre by throwing rocks at them. Rocks!! Rocks versus AK-47’s and grenades? Yet people still debate whether armed citizens could have meant a substantially lower body count??!! If just one or two of those bystanders had a handgun or a semi-auto rifle in stead of just rocks, the rabbi and many others who died at that location may still be alive today.

I wish I’d had a gun, not a camera!

“I wish I’d had a gun, not a camera!” These were the words of the Mumbai based news photographer who clicked the photo of one of the terrorists, while they attacked the CST railway station. You can read more of what he had to say here here >>

Disturbingly he had this to say about the armed railway police charged with guarding the railway station – “There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything…” This simply underlines the need for more private citizens to be armed and prepared to defend themselves, we should not and cannot depend on the police to come save us in such situations.

Is my life not worth defending in India
Image courtesy Oleg Volk –

If only we had guns!

self defence is a fundamental right
Image courtesy Oleg Volk –

The dastardly terrorist attack on Mumbai last week (once again) exposed how strict gun control laws directly help criminals target law abiding citizens with impunity. The terrorists came to Mumbai armed not only with AK-47’s, grenades and bombs, but also with the knowledge that they could safely expect no armed resistance from the citizens of Mumbai!

Successive Indian governments have put in place legislation and policy measures that have ensured that terrorists have as safe a work environment as possible. Our own elected representatives have been looking out for the interests of the bad guys! The long standing government policy has been one of limiting gun ownership through a tight arms licensing regime combined with industrial & import policies that ensure that (legal) arms & ammunition are stupendously expensive and thus out of reach for most.

A used handgun that retails for under US$ 700 (new) in USA, ends up costing up to US$ 6,000 or even more in India (prices upwards of US$ 20,000 are not unheard of, and these are ordinary handguns not collectors pieces). Mind boggling? It gets worse, even if you manage that elusive arms license and fork out more than 10 or 20 times the original price for a 20 year (or more) old handgun, you have to contend with ammunition purchase limits. The limit most commonly imposed on arms licenses is 25/50 i.e., you can purchase 25 rounds at a time, subject to a maximum of 50 in a calendar year… this is what the government considers more than adequate for you to prepare yourself for a “self-defence” situation. Of course there is also the small matter of where you would practice your skills, shooting ranges being few and far between and where they do exist, membership is required more often than not… many a times a cumbersome process in itself… not that ammunition is exactly cheap in India, but if you can swing an arms license and also afford to pay so much money for an ordinary .32 calibre handgun, I’m assuming you are loaded to begin with!

A death toll of 188 (expected to rise further) and many times more injured. All this mayhem perpetuated by only a handful of terrorists! can we afford to ignore the writing on the wall? Can anyone contest the fact that, if even a small percentage of their victims had been armed & prepared – the terrorists would have been stopped much earlier and the death count would have been substantially lower? It is high time the Indian public demands that it no longer be denied one of the most basic human rights – the right to self-defence.