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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Sankar Sen, IPS (Retd.)
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General National Human Rights Commission
Former Director National Police Academy

Law makers in California in USA are now mulling stricter gun control laws after a young man in California University killed six college students and himself. In the instant case, the young man was able to buy three guns and go on a rampage despite warnings from his family and mental health professionals that he was unstable and probably dangerous. In USA similar mass shootings are not uncommon. On April 16, 2007, in the State of Virginia, a demented psychopath killed and injured large number of school students and teachers. These massacres highlight the curse of gun culture in America. Unfortunately, in USA mass shootings have not resulted in stricter gun control laws nationally but prompted changes in state laws limiting access to guns.

At present it is estimated that there are about 240 million guns in America and one third of them are handguns which are easy to conceal. It is said that since the killing of Kennedy in 1963 more Americans died by American gunfire than perished in foreign fields in whole of the 20th century. (Economist April 21-27, 2007)

In America gun crimes, which were steadily falling throughout the 1990s, are again showing signs of going up. In 1994, President Clinton signed the limited ban on assault-weapons but George Bush allowed lapsing the ban in 2004. Bush administration also opened the debate on Second Amendment which enshrines the right to bear arms. Sometime back an appellate court in Washington overturned the Capitals longstanding ban on handguns on the ground that it violates the second amendment. In a 2:1 decision the judges rejected the districts claim that second amendment applies only to the militias. In 1939, the US Supreme Court had ruled in the case of United States vs Miller that, The amendment was adopted with the obvious purpose of protecting the ability of states to organize militias and must be interpreted in applying with that end in view. But the individual rights view is now gaining support. Some states and cities in the US have fairly tough gun laws, but these are undermined by states with weak laws.

In USA, there is constant and unyielding opposition of National Rifles Association (NRA) to any curb on gun rights. NRA feels that without guns the Americans will feel defenceless not only against criminals but also against tyranny. William Branton, the former Police Chief of New York, is of the view that politicians of both Republican and Democratic parties have been captured by the vocal National Rifles Association.

It may be mentioned in this connection that two Democratic countries, Japan and UK have low murder and crime rates and both have very strict control on fire arms. In Japan possession of firearms is a rare privilege and the number of those who hold licenses is limited. Most of the firearms are deposited in the rifle clubs and individuals cannot take these outside. In short, there are few firearms available with individuals to carry along. According to Chris Nuttal, former Director of Research Home Office, the argument of the gun lobby that it is the people and not the guns that kill is untenable. Easy ability of guns escalates the risk of wounding and killing in every case of crime.

Indian Scenario
Unfortunately, in India too many guns are easily available, posing serious problems. Too many persons possess licenses for holding arms and for every licensed firearm there is four or five unlicensed one. The number of registered guns in India reportedly is 63,00,000. Though unlawfully held guns cannot be counted but in India it is estimated to be 3,37,00,000. According to a former Director General of Police, UP, there are more firearms both licensed and unlicensed, with individuals in Moradabad district than in the whole of UK or Japan. Now, Kanpur has become the north Indias gun capital. With little industrialization in the neighboring areas, guns are one of the status symbols available to the locals.

In many dacoity-prone districts of Bihar and UP the dacoit gangs use weapons obtained from the licence holders either by threatening them or payments of money to them. As manufacturing of ammunition is a complicated job requiring equipments not easily available, these are obtained from the licence holders or stolen from ammunition dumps and factories.

Indian Arms Act 1959, which replaced the old Arms Act of 1878, is viewed as a law by the foreign rulers to disarm a subject nation. The Indian Arms Act 1959 is mild. The National Police Commission gave a number of suggestions for the amendment of the Act of 1959. The Act of 1983 embodies some of the recommendations of the National Police Commission and lays down enhanced punishment with the object of providing necessary deterrence. But mere amendment of law will not make a dent on the problem which has now assumed menacing dimensions. The Arms Amendment Bill 2010 proposes to amend Section 13 of the Arms Act 1959 which takes away the discretion of the licensing authority to issue a licence without receiving a police report. It specifies a period of 60 days for the purpose of police report required under Sub-section (ii) of the Section 13 of Act. It specifies the limit to 60 days from the date of receipt of application for sending the police report. The National Association for Gun Rights with Digvijay Singh, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, has opposed the amendment for undermining the citizens right to possess weapons. The efforts of government for making police verification mandatory were criticized as steps to undermine citizens right to keep and bear arms.

At present one of the important factors behind upsurge of crime and violence is the proliferation of arms. Naxalites are in possession of huge stocks of arms and weapons. Similarly, smuggling of arms from Pakistan poses another problem. In Pakistan a large number of authorities can grant weapons, licenses, even for possession of automatic weapons. There is thriving clandestine arms trade across the border. Many of the weapons are Dera made. Dera is a bordering town in Western Punjab where arms manufacturing is like a cottage industry.

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