Today’s Times of India carried an article titled Government mulls lifetime validity of arms licences.
On the face of it, it seems like the government is moving towards positive change. This is true – to an extent. Increasing the period of validity of Arms Licenses will reduce harassment as well as corruption and needless load on government machinery.
However, there are also some dangerous changes being mooted! I quote from the article:
As per the draft rules, acquisition of airguns with muzzle energy under 20 joules or 15 feet or 0.177 mm will not require an arms licence.
However, firearm replicas, paintball markers and blank firing firearms will be brought under the definition of arms.
What does this mean?
1) This means that any airgun which has a calibre greater than .177 cal or produces energy greater than 20 Joules, will be treated as a firearm.
2) Anything which resembles a firearm in appearance (replica) will be considered a firearm.
3) Blank firers, which are by design incapable of launching a projectile and therefore thus far NOT defined as firearms, will now be considered as firearms. This would include toys like cap guns, popular with children, especially during diwali.
What will be the consequences of these changes?
1) They will be treated as firearms and anyone possessing any such airgun without an arms license for the same will be treated at par with someone possessing an illegal firearm! Also, each one of them will count towards the legal limit of 3 firearms (max).
2) Since many people who own airguns already own firearms, they will face a tough choice – either declare & deposit (read “have confiscated”) their expensive airguns OR simply hide them from the authorities and break the law! This rule will create a whole new class of criminals, where none existed before. Some of them will get caught and be sent to jail – for possession of airguns!! Needless to say, when they come out of jail in 3-7 years time, they will likely be hardened criminals and/ or emotionally scarred for life.
3) Since it will be next to impossible to train all enforcement personnel as to the meaning of what exactly 20 Joules/ 15 ft.lbs means and how to measure it – anyone who has in their possession an airgun which is NOT .177 cal, is almost certain to face harassment from the authorities.
4) Since none of the small scale airgun manufacturers (in India) has the capability to manufacture .177 cal barrels, they will likely go out of business very soon. Because, once .20, .22 & .25 airgun owners start facing harassment, people will stop buying airguns in these calibres.
5) You can very soon look forward to headlines of some poor kid being arrested for being in possession of a .22 airgun (the most common calibre in India). The poor innocent child will be sent to some reform home for at least a few weeks/ months – the time it will take to forensically test for 20 Joules power. Needless to say, he/ she will come out of this episode emotionally and mentally scarred for life.
All airgun owners should prepare themselves for a world of pain and harassment.
1) Possession/ sale/ manufacture of anything resembling a firearm, will attract the same penalties as those for a real firearm.
2) Toy guns, wall-hangers, key-chains, lighters, handicrafts – none of which are capable of launching a projectile, will be treated at par with real guns if they look like one!
3) The thriving replica manufacture industry, employing thousands of artisans (largely in Rajasthan), will cease to exist.
4) Shows, movies, etc. which require replicas as props, will either need to change their storyline or if possible shift to overseas locales – at the cost of the domestic economy.
5) You can very soon look forward to headlines of some poor kid being arrested for being in possession of a “diwali” cap gun. The poor innocent child will be sent to some reform home for several months. Needless to say, he/ she will come out of this episode emotionally and mentally scarred for life.
For blank firers
1) Possession/ sale/ manufacture of blank firers, will attract the same penalties as those for a real firearm.
2) Blank firers, which are by their very design incapable of launching a projectile and in fact cannot even chamber and fire a “real” cartridge (they have blocked barrels and vent gases below or to the side) – will be treated at par with real guns.
3) Same as point 4 above.
For paintball markers
1) Paintball markers (guns), which use compressed CO2 to shoot a polymer pellet filled with paint, which is incapable of even penetrating cardboard, will now be treated like a firearm.
2) The legal implications of this move are as mentioned above.
3) This will effectively kill off the nascent adventure sports industry, which often offers paintball games as part of their services. These games are most often subscribed to by companies, as team building exercises for their executives.
Amongst others, Rahul Gandhi is reportedly an avid paintball enthusiast. Is this some devious plan to deny him the pleasure of having fun with his friends?
If these changes are being enacted to improve law & order, the public should be told how many OR if there are any recorded instances of airguns, replicas, blank firers, paintball markers being used in the commission of violent crime?
If there are no significant numbers of crimes being committed using these objects, what is the need to license them? What public purpose is being sought to be achieved?
Should we not concentrate our efforts towards the menace of illegal guns?
I’ll conclude by stating the obvious, these are ill thought out changes to the law. They will be next to impossible to enforce and will make criminals out of honest citizens.
Let us not take one step forward and two steps back!