Gun Ownership in India

gun ownership india graphic

Colonial Roots of Gun-Control

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.

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.

An example of British thinking in colonial times:

“No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion.” –James Burgh (Political Disquisitions: Or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses) [London, 1774-1775]

And thoughts (on this subject) of the man who wanted to rule the world:

“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.” — Adolf Hitler (H.R. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talks 1941-1944)

The leaders of our freedom struggle recognised this, even Gandhi the foremost practitioner of passive resistance and non-violence had this to say about the British policy of gun-control in India:

“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.” — Mahatma Gandhi (An Autobiography OR The story of my experiments with truth, by M.K. Gandhi, p.238)

Post Independence

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.

“A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie.” — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

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.

More Recently

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.

“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” — George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, himself a socialist

Why Citizens Need to be Armed

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!

“Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I’m always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You’ll pull the trigger with a lock on, and I’ll pull the trigger. We’ll see who wins.” — Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Mafia hit man

“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside…Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them…” — Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War in 1775

And from the world’s gentlest human being:

“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” — The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times) speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate

It is, of course, no coincidence that the right to have guns is one of the earlier freedoms outlined in U.S.A.’s Bill of Rights. Without guns in the hands of the people, all the other freedoms are easily negated by the State. If you disagree with that statement, ask yourself if the Nazis could have gassed millions of Jews, had the Jews been armed with rifles and pistols–there weren’t enough SS troops to do the job. Lest we forget, in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1944, a couple of hundred Jews armed with rifles and homemade explosive devices held off two fully-equipped German divisions (actually about 8,000 men) for nearly two months.

Closer home take the case of the Godhra carnage and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Would wanton mobs have slaughtered so many innocent people with such disregard to consequences if their potential victims had been armed and ready to defend themselves? A serious consideration should be given to an armed civilian population as a solution to religious and racial riots as well as other crimes. Since all criminals are instinctively driven by self-preservation allowing legal ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens would act as a serious deterrent. This will make sure that if the Govt. fails to do its duty to protect the life and liberty of its citizens (as it has so often done in India’s recent past), citizens will be able to protect themselves. I’ll take some potential objections and try to answer them:

Arguments & Counter-Arguments

Q1. Won’t legal owners of arms use the firearms to kill and murder others?
Ans. When a man holds a rifle, he becomes almost godlike: suddenly, he has the ability to deal death and injury to another over a considerable distance–to send, as it were, a thunderbolt of Zeus. For some men, unquestionably, this power is going to be abused, just as some men will always drive a fast car at reckless speeds. For the vast majority of men, however, this power produces precisely the opposite effect: they are humbled by the power they hold, and they become more responsible in its use. That is why, in a nation like the United States with well over seventy million gun owners, only a tiny fraction, less than half a tenth of one percent, use a gun to commit a crime each year. Also since the firearms would be registered with the Govt. along with the owners address, the type of the firearm, its serial number etc. Those (the criminals) who want to commit crimes will not and DO NOT bother to purchase firearms legally and register them. They can and do buy them from the black market (at a fraction of the cost of a legal firearm, I might add). Legal ownership will allow law abiding citizens to protect their and others life and property.

Q2. Won’t there be a free for all during riots?
Ans. By definition riots ARE free for all. However, very few people will participate in riots knowing that a large number of law abiding citizens own firearms in the area. This will actually prevent riots. Riots are mostly started by miscreants (unscrupulous politicians?) who want to benefit from the chaos of riots. However, the risk (loss of life or limb) for the miscreant in starting and/ or participating in such riots, when a large number of the general civilian population owns legal firearms, is significant. Therefore in most cases miscreants will not dare to start riots in the first place.

Q3.What about domestic violence and firearms?
Ans. Domestic violence has nothing to do with firearm ownership. Firearms are merely a tool — not the cause of violence, to quote a famous NRA slogan “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Women in India face domestic violence even today with very limited legal gun ownership. If anything, legal firearms in the hands of women might help even the odds — by removing the physical weakness of women from the equation.

Q4. What about accidents?
Ans. More people in India get killed in automobile accidents than firearm accidents. In countries where gun ownership rates are high like the United States (which has a firearm to population ratio of approx 96:100, i.e., almost 1 firearm for every man woman & child), Switzerland, New Zealand etc. several times more people die in road accidents than from firearm accidents. Firearm accidents can be further minimised by making a gun-safety course mandatory before a permit is issued – so long as this is not used as another excuse to delay or deny permits.

Q5. What about firearm assisted suicides?
Ans. A suicidal person has many different available ways to end his/ her life. Firearms are just another means for him/ her. Statistically suicide rates have little correlation with firearm ownership patterns. Many countries with strict anti-gun legislation have high suicide rates and vice versa.

Q6. Are there any working systems and what are the results?
Ans. Yes, for example in U.S.A., Switzerland, New Zealand. One must note here that different states in US have different degrees of gun ownership and firearm restrictions. Interestingly the states with more restrictions on gun ownerships have a higher crime rate than those that are less restrictive.

I do not condone violence or a violent solution to problems, but there can be no justification for not letting people be prepared to defend their own and their families’ lives and property. When one is surrounded by mobs bent on setting you on fire and the like, in a country where policing is non-existent, owning firearms by people will have a great deterrent effect on mobs. Of course, if I could sue the police for not giving me complete protection, then I might feel differently (but don’t count on it). But by law the State cannot be at fault for not protecting its citizens — so if the cops take 25 minutes (or several hours) to respond to your call, and in those 25 minutes a criminal kicks open your door, shoots you and your wife, rapes your 11-year-old daughter, and beats your baby to death, that’s just tough luck. What about incidents like 1984 and Godhra, where the local administration and police wilfully neglected their duty to protect the citizens of this country?

Please also read the entertaining Parable of the Sheep for an explanation so simple that even a child can understand it.

As the Indian Law stands today a citizen of this country cannot even own a stick without inviting a penalty of 7 years in prison. We live in a country where we have still not cast off the yoke of antiquated laws made by our colonial masters to keep us oppressed and at the mercy of the government, notwithstanding the lofty vision of the first page of our constitution.

Harping on the few who unfortunately misuse firearms unfairly ignores those millions of us spread all over the world who own and use them responsibly. Dreaming romantically about a world where everything has been made perfectly safe “for the children” is just that, dreaming. I’ve tried visualising world peace until I’m about ready to have an out of body experience, but as soon as I open my eyes, they’re bombing civilians in the North East or gunning down innocents in Kashmir. Welcome to the real world.

“I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”— Patrick Henry

This article was published in The New Gun Week, 10th December 2004 issue (Gun Week ceased publication in December 2011 and has been succeeded by The Gun Mag). It has also been widely quoted online and in print, amongst others places excerpts also appear in “Maliks : Commentary on Law of Arms & Explosives”

  • AK47shouldbeallowed

    Absolutely right, articles like this should be the main topic in India, who cares about Zionist/Brahmin/Bania fueled feminist protest, more women would be protected from rape if everybody had the ability to bear arms, the people in America made this the second amendment just because the government would one day turn on the people, which is what the Indian government has been doing for ages, and having weapons would destroy the Aryan establishment that is looting India to this day.

    • Woah! You seem to suffer from more than a few prejudices… Please refrain from making such bigoted comments, which detract and distract from the essence of the argument!

      Gun ownership is about liberty and empowerment, it has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.

  • Shubh

    Excellent, this article can be very precisely used in a debate in parliament or the supreme court to liberalize the gun ownership laws in India.
    And most certainly result in victory.
    Somebody should file a petition regarding the liberalization of gun laws in India.

  • Rahul

    I wish. Do you realistically expect the government to act rationally ? Do you really expect the powers that be, to hand over gun rights so easily ? Those corrupt parasites know their game is over once the citizens get empowered. Right know you throw a shoe/tomato at these corrupt ticks and the goons in uniform come at you guns pointed. Because they know you have no gun to point back at them. That is where the uniformed thugs get their arrogance and contempt for citizens from – they’re so used to serving their political masters from being torn by the citizen slaves, they treat the citizens like slaves too.

    No, it’s going to take a significant number upright, honest and sensible people get in parliament to amend stupid laws, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • vikram

    It’s good to see that people like you take initiative for bringing up such issues.
    I my self tried to get noc from my department and it took me 5 years to explain them, why I require arms licence and its not that I will shoot somebody as soon as I get it.
    Finally got it.
    I would like to know what all weapons can I buy , what bore/ calibre after I get my licence as per Delhi law.
    Thank you

  • Anujit Bhowmik

    The country has always been ruled by many kings and then Muslim/ Afghan rulers and then by the British, who left a legacy with rules framed by them, so as to suppress us for generations to come. To overcome this the educational system has to be changed right now. It may take many more generations till Indians can use guns as birth right to freedom. Flip Side – The Indian population will be under control, govt. schemes will not be required. If arming citizen is criminal all American are criminals.
    The constitution definitely needs a complete revamp.

  • Rohit

    This is the best article i’ve read till date about gun condition in india, rationally and factually supporting Use of guns.
    I would like to know if 1911, walther p99 and SW99 are allowed for civillian use in india or not?

  • Julian

    The idea that “a bad man with a gun can be countered by a good man with a gun”, which is always rolled out by gun ownership advocates, would appear to lack evidence.

    Rampage shootings are all to common in the USA but I never hear of the shooter being killed by a member of the public, even in States which allow concealed carry of hand guns. Invariably the murderer takes their own life or they are shot or arrested by police officers. This is despite little or no restrictions on gun purchases and high rates of ownership.

    It’s one thing to have a gun, but it’s another thing entirely to use it, even in ones own defence.

    • You haven’t heard of it simply because:

      a) A potential mass shooting is nipped in the bud by an armed citizen makes “poor news” for the media companies. They thrive on blood, gore and shocking news.
      b) You haven’t bothered to look.

      You might want to take a look at the following links:


    • Edward Grygowski

      Unfortunately, you are completely mistaken about armed civilians stopping crime and criminals firearms. I am a member of the national rifle association in the u.s.a each month their journal, the “American rifleman” publishes a column called “the armed citizen” where documented incidents of civilian resistance to criminal aggression are presented. All of the stories are exempted from local news sources with locations, dates and references to the local source of the incident report. Many are resolved without deadly force being used. Sometimes
      shots are fired or traded with criminals, but in all cases, the intent of the criminal was disrupted by the presence of a firearm before police or other authorities could arrive on the scene. The column may be viewed online at You are also mistaken saying that mass shooters only kill themselves or are arrested by police ( with FIREARMS most often) since millions of crimes are stopped completely in this country by private carry licensed civilians, it greatly relieves the burden on the police. No one knows how far a criminal is willing to go in the commission of his or her crime against a person. I believe it is as much of a crime if someone is prohibited by law from having the right and means to meaningful self defense. One book documenting how much crime is reduced in the u.s.a. Is by John r. Lott jr., ” more guns, less crime understanding crime and gun control laws” 1998, by university of Chicago press, Chicago and London, isbn 0-026-49363-6. Further documentation of the misguidance at best, or the outright fraud of the goal of most gun laws to reduce crime, again in the u.s. Is the negative correlation of crime and city populations living with repressive gun laws and the number of firearms in a population. The ratio of guns to people here is approx 97:100. However, cities with the most restrictive laws, such as my former city of Chicago, il, currently exhibit some of the highest rates of crime, including murder by firearms. It seems that criminals and gang members ignore gun laws as easily as they ignore all other laws against assault, robbery, theft, sexual assault and again murder. With regard to carrying handguns, the most easily adaptable of firearms for self defense purposes, Mr. Lott concludes his study with these thoughts: ” preventing law abiding citizens from carrying handguns does not end violence. It only makes victims more vulnerable to attack.” He firmly believes that his study clearly demonstrates that the answer to the question ” will allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns save lives? The answer is yes it will”.
      Note- prior to this study, the largest previous study covered only 170 cities for a single year. His book examined over 54000 observations (across all 3000 counties of the u. S. A.) for 18 years and controlled for a number of other factors never accounted for in previous crime studies.

  • Ishan Behoora

    Incorrect when citing things atleast link to respectable news sources with proper evidence to back it up.

    Also there is an insane link between us gun laws and its mass shootings. The US is the one model of how not to have gun laws.

    that’s one link between gun violence and mass shottings. Also your pie chart is misleading. Obviously mass shootings are a small part of gun violence which is a small part of human deaths … Seriously? The argument is guns are okay cause ppl are dying anyway ? Ppl die of a variety of causes always. There are natural deaths , road deaths , disease deaths , natural disaster deaths etc and then gun deaths and terrorism deaths. We should and correctly do treat each of those categories separately.

    I’m glad my country has good gun laws. And India doesn’t stop you from owning you just prove youre competent and go thru the required stringent laws and you can have one for protection. I’m kind of happy that the place im studying in is a small town which seems peaceful but who knows tomorrow there might be a shooting here also given how crazy the US is with these mass shootings.

    • Rolling Stone and Huffington Post as respected news sources?

      I think you are not serious.

      Both of those sources are far left in the U.S., and they are pontificating on a very political subject. The left, in the U.S.A., is known for its abject ignorance of all things involving firearms. Unfortunately, the left has controlled most of the U.S. media for decades.

    • Nupur

      You are absolutely right

    • Varun Priolkar

      >Rolling stone
      You’re kidding right?
      Alright I’m out.

      • KapilDeshmukh

        Exactly. Huffington post is a joke.
        They cannot be taken seriously.
        They are the same people who posted an article saying Air conditioners were sexist.

  • Piyush

    Is it possible that an
    Indian citizen can buy foreign companies manufactured gun legally… Mean if someone don’t like indian revolver or pistol.. But interested in USA made revolver and pistol say like Smith and wesson or colt guns…
    Can it happen..

    • Yes, assuming that the citizen holds a valid arms license for the description of firearm he wishes to purchase and purchases the same from either a licensed arms dealer or another citizen who owns the firearm in question on his/ her arms license.

      Of course foreign made firearms are not cheap in India, for e.g. at current prices it would be hard to find a good condition Smith & Wesson .32 revolver for less than ₹ 6,00,000/-. Imports of arms & ammunition are banned, so you cannot import one from overseas – except for some exceptional cases like transfer of residence & nationally “renowned shooters”.

      • sharath nair

        but how are we supposse to make the government liberalise the laws bcoz they want to keep us vulnerable so that when we protest on streets they can send the police for lathicharge india is a fake democracy with elected dictators

  • puneet

    hey ,i have some queries brother

    1)what kind of rifles we can own in india?(can we own semi auto rifles)
    2)can we import guns?

    i want to own this ‘Springfield m1a’,im a noob so forgive me if im making some childish queries.

  • if gun ownership has direct relationship with criminal homicides or mass shooting, then sweden should be next to the USA, but it is not. per capita ownership of guns in Sweden is 45.2. but do we hear anything about mass shootings in Sweden. NO. armed citizenry is the only way to make our country safe

  • Dr. Asad alam

    mr. ishan behoora loves himself too much.
    “Just go through the process and get a gun. ”
    if it was so easy, the why only corrupt politicians and big businessmen have guns.
    believe me-to obtain any licence you have to pay at least 1000 times the required fees as bribe to every single clerk and officers of government. even then it depends on your “CONNECTIONS” to the politicians that will get you a license. Do you live in the real world, my friend

  • deepu

    Harness that gun dangling by your side, stick it up the balls of anyone that confronts and challenges what you believe is right and fire at will, welcome a worthless life or a hero’s death! Your choice.

  • **

    How to apply to get armour/gun license, can anybody tell me the procedure?

  • Chattarjee

    Does one need to know how to shoot a gun, in order to buy a gun or get a license (India)?

    • mundaire

      There is a requirement to undergo a basic competence training prior to getting an arms license, however how/ where & whom will conduct said training is ambiguous.

  • sharan kadagad

    Completely agree with you. Have stayed in US for 2 years. I feel one needs a firearm to keep himself and his family protected in today’s world. I’m hoping the gun laws in India are made easy or removed. We wouldn’t have had 26/11 if citizen had fire arms.

  • Dhruba


    • mundaire

      Sure, but you’ll need the proper license for running a gun shop. A separate license is required to be able to do repair/ modification work.

  • Dhruba

    well 32 acp is leagal.. and importation is BAN. so can any one make for themselves??

    • mundaire

      You’ll need a license to manufacture, to be able to legally make one.

  • Mark

    I’m travelling to India in Jan and wonder if there are any good gunshops
    in Delhi or surrounds. I’m interested in rifles and double rifles.
    Mark Anderson

    • mundaire

      There are several gun shops in Delhi, you can find their contact details by visiting the Yellow Pages (North India sub-section) at

      However, if you are expecting to find a fine piece at a bargain price, you will be sorely disappointed. When the 3 gun (max) limit was imposed in the early 1980’s, some of the best pieces were exported by the container load. Whatever remain are either in poor condition or insanely expensive – often both!

      • Mark

        Thanks so much Mundaire!

  • Parush Goel

    Is there a way by which i can import Browning Maral chambering .30-06 in India ?

  • Abhijeet, Great article. We need to first start the education. I, like most Indians, had the mentality that govt must give you security and comfort. Thankfully, I came out of it.

    There was one instance where my old parents were threatened by local goons who stopped us filling the land we own. Despite ownership of land, obeying the laws of land use, local goons still extorted money from us. Such things would never occur if the right of self defense is valued as a fundamental right. Our constitution unfortunately got muddled with amendments in Marxist tradition.

  • Ajan

    “Closer home take the case of the Godhra carnage and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. ”

    And do you think rioting mob would not have guns? The criminals are already having very tough time because of strict laws, and now if guns are made easier to get they will openly buy it from open market and start shooting people, police and armed civilians then will try to resist them and you have full fledged fire fight. Look at Somalia or Pakistan where guns are available and see what is situation there.

    • mundaire

      Have you ever been in a riot like situation? No? Well I have had the misfortune of living through the mess of 1984 in Delhi. Let me tell you something about rioting mobs, they melt away when they face determined armed resistance, where rioters figure out that they have a chance of getting injured/ killed by their potential victims. These are not battle hardened courageous military troops, they are a bunch of cowards looking for soft targets on whom to vent their pent up frustrations and anger AND more often than not, loot valuables from their victims to line their pockets.

      Let’s talk about Pakistan, where incidentally the British era Arms Act of 1878 is still in force. How often have armed mobs gone on a rampage there, shooting up urban neighborhoods? If they ever did, they’d get shot at by legally armed citizens.

      The real irony is, the Indian Arms Act 1959 was supposed to make it easier for ordinary citizens to lawfully own firearms, while in fact (due largely to various amendments made since the early 1980’s) it has currently made it next to impossible for a law abiding citizen to own a legal firearm. Not unless, he/ she is willing and able to pull strings/ bribe their way through the system.

      This translates into the sort of self-entitled persons who think they are above the law, getting arms licenses. You know, the Manu Sharma’s of this world.

      If our system really worked, anyone without a criminal background would be issued an arms license, which is how it was supposed to be.

  • syed ali

    hi, how can i get licence for airsoft/ airgun in india

  • Infocorp

    Awesome piece. I landed on this one while searching for gun license process in Uttar Pradesh!

Gun rights in India, eBusiness, shooting, etc.