The mass shooting at Las Vegas on October 01, the most gruesome and deadliest of all mass shootings in US history, segued, predictably, into a debate about gun control. Liberal/leftist entities renewed their chants for increased gun control citing the rampage that results due to lax gun ownership legislation, while pro-gun-rights activists rallied behind the claim that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens save lives and that such incidents are extreme outliers.
Regardless, I am of the opinion that on balance, guns in the hands of trained, law-abiding citizens protect lives. It’s also important to emphasize that guns don’t kill; malevolent people with access to guns do, and it takes firearms to subdue such people. Of note is the fact that strict gun regulation doesn’t necessarily make it difficult for the offender to obtain firearms, it simply disarms the innocent and makes for a field day for the unhinged loons.
Anyway, I don’t wish to reiterate the merits of gun ownership and make a case against undue gun control and regulation. There are several outstanding and credible sources on the web that make the above argument in a cogent manner.
The following piece is on the possible merits of a law in India along the lines of the 2nd Amendment to the US Bill of Rights. Bear in mind that gun ownership is not enshrined in the Constitution of India and the current gun laws on the books are built up on the disarmament drive during British colonial rule. Disarmament of Indian subjects became an imperative to establishing colonial rule after the armed mutiny of 1857 against growing British takeover of territory, trade, and governance.
India’s bureaucratic culture, corrupt law enforcement agencies, and tardy criminal courts often result in under-reporting and under-trying of offenders, protracted courtroom battles, and, in some cases, withdrawal of charges by the victim. Much of this sorry state of affairs is the result of political pressure or existential threats brought to bear upon the victim.
The above is especially true in the northern states of India, with political power concentrated in the hands of a few well-connected families, prevalence of a lawless culture, and a tacit acceptance of criminal conduct as a daily routine.
This reflects in day-to-day acts of injustice towards those who aren’t well connected and don’t have the means to take legal action. Young women pay a dearer price in this thuggish northern culture with stories of gang rapes, molestation, forced marriages, and dowry-related deaths making frequent headlines in local newspapers.
In 2012, India garnered negative attention in international media for the gruesome gang rape and aggravated assault of a young girl on a public bus. Her male companion was assaulted with a metal rod, which was also used subsequently to penetrate the female victim. It took the court around two and a half years to give a verdict in what had become a high-profile court case.
In the following years, other cases of sexual assault sprung up across the country, with a shocking incident of gang rape in Bombay (Mumbai), known for its nightlife and its low incidence of gory sexual crimes.
It’s not just women whose lives are under direct threat. Journalists, especially those whose opinions are unsavory, have to keep an eye out for danger lurking around the corner. While receiving death threats might be a part and parcel of a profession that engages in political dogfighting with the powers that be, recent years saw the political execution of notable journalists, the recent being that of Ms. Gauri Lankesh.
Minorities, especially Muslims, have come in the cross hairs of Hindu nationalists, especially, with the indirect beef ban instituted across most of India. Past few months saw harassment, lynching, and stabbing of law-abiding citizens over religion and their connection to either consumption of or transportation of beef.
Even businesses aren’t safe if they are on the wrong side of the fence. Hindu fanatics associated with Shiv Sena – a bunch of delinquents that masquerade as a political party – recently forced, under threat, butchers and eateries serving meat to close down for nine days owing to a Hindu festival. This is not the first time this political party has used their muscle to disrupt commerce. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the party’s youth wing vandalize gift stores and harass couples on Valentine’s Day in a bid to maintain and enforce ‘cultural purity.’
The state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India is presently reeling under the worst form of institutionalized moral policing, with its chief minister, Yogi Adityanath – whose understanding of a secular state is hazy at best – having installed ‘anti-Romeo squads’ to crack down on socializing between opposite sexes. Penance is left at the discretion of police officers or the rag-tag militia in charge with patrolling and ranges from harassment to physical assault.
The ever-growing power of the state is tightening the noose around individual liberty, choice, tolerance, and free commerce – some of the hallmarks of a liberal society. The law enforcement is either complicit with the politicians or ineffective and the courts are sluggish and marred in bureaucracy.
The presence of several fault lines in the Indian demographic, thanks to its multicultural and multiethnic foundations, add fuel to fire.
The Modi administration, fully aware of the fault lines and with intentions to pre-empt insurgencies, doubled down on gun regulation and introduced stricter laws. Under the new law, not only will it be more time consuming and difficult to obtain a gun license, equipment like air-guns, blank-firing guns, and paint ball guns will also require a license.
While it seems that Modi wishes to cut down firearms-related violence, he seems to be willfully ignoring the fact that in 2014, only 14% of the victims of gun violence were killed by licensed guns. A sizeable chunk of these fatalities occurs at the barrel of unlicensed guns, of which there is a thriving underground economy.
Disarming law-abiding citizens only makes them susceptible to being browbeaten by predators, religious fanatics, and political goons.
Could the possession of a firearm by a prospective victim deter the assailant?
“Yes!” says a study out of Chicago that looks at crime deterrence and gun ownership. In fact, the dissuasive effect is more pronounced in crimes like aggravated assault, rape, murder, and robbery.
With courses on safety and use made mandatory for obtaining license, a firearm can be used to level the playing field between the victim and the assailant. Might we see lower incidence of rapes, sexual assaults, disruption of commerce, and infringement of individual liberties? The study does seem to answer this question in the affirmative.
Will Modi and his political mandarins realize this vital fact and loosen up gun regulation for lawful men and women? It doesn’t seem so. A well-regulated citizen militia that doesn’t need to be in his thrall will run counter to his political ambitions and statist principles.
India has a long way to go until she gets her own ‘second amendment.’