Historical origin and perspective
The First firearm derives its origin in the 10th century in China when bamboo tubes contained the gunpowder used to fight the war. Mahabharat which is the major epic of the world is the biggest battle fought between Kaourav and Pandav, there were many arms were used Such as Brahmastra, Vajra and the most deadly one was Sudrsan chakra which was used by Lord Vishnu to punish the most heinous sinner. But this was just beginning when possession of firearms was not only embedded in the culture of most civilized nations but it had become vital to maintaining the sovereignty of any nation. Even arms were very decisive to win hard battles.
Babur was the first emperor who introduced the use of gunpowder and firearms in the medieval period. From Babur to Akbar, who established a powerful empire in India, the possession of better arms and ammunition played a significant role in ruling for centuries.
Arms control law in major countries and International initiatives
A great democracy, the United States of America has a very unique history of having guns for its common citizens but this gun culture is legally recognised by federal law of the United state in the present time.
America constitutes 4% of the world’s population but its citizens hold 50 % of the world’s civilian arms . This has also given rise to Gun Violence in the Country. An average of 15000 people have lost their lives due to mass shootings happening every year. Such as the Las Vegas strip Massacre 2017.
European countries have not remained untouched by gun-related incidents such as the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels in 2014 and the terrorist attack on the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France.
The European Union has introduced the “Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition” regulation of 2022, which aims to control the supply of illegal arms within the region.
With a view to curbing illegal arms supply across national boundaries, United Nations members ratified the agreement in 2005 ie. International Tracing instrument for Small Arms imposes responsibilities on all members nation to put some identifying numbers or marks which can be traced by security agency of domestic or international one such as Interpol to find the real culprit behind arms supply.
India’s steps to curb illegal possession of Arms
In India, the use and possession of arms are governed by the Arms Act,1959. However, the recently revised Arms Amendment Bill, 2019 imposes harsher punishment for possessing illegal firearms and weapons. This includes reducing the number of firearms an individual can hold from three to two and increasing the period of a license from 3 to 5 years. Punishment has also been increased from 7 to 14 years.
Despite this, a 2018 Small Arms Survey found that civilian gun ownership in India is the second-highest after the United States. The National Crime Records Bureau reported that approximately 75,000 firearms were confiscated in 2020, with the highest number of seizures taking place in Uttar Pradesh, a state known for its illegal arms production.
Section 27 of the arms act defines that whosoever uses any firearms and ammunition in contravention of section 5 which defines licence for the sale and manufacture of arms and ammunition will be punished with imprisonment which will not be less than 3 years but it can extend to 7 years in case of repeated offence. Under Section 13 of the Arms act, 1959 Indian citizens can apply for arms licenses in the prescribed form. However, Section 14 prohibits acquiring an arms license if its possession will disturb public peace and tranquillity.
For centuries possession of arms has been considered to be as dignity and self-respect in society. It is widely accepted as a last resort to attack intruders or hostile enemies for self-defence. But As during British rule of 200 years use of arms by common civilians was restricted by enacting Indian Arms Act 1878, which was passed to disarm the entire nation so that common revolutionary should not have access to arms to attack the British Soldiers and citizens during the confrontation.
After independence in 1947, the Indian government followed in the footsteps of colonial law by implementing the Indian Arms Act 1953, to prohibit civilians’ possession of firearms.
Landmark judgement and Supreme Court’s recent views
In the case of Ganesh Chandra Bhatt vs District Magistrate Almora 1993, the petitioner contended argued that the right to bear non-prohibited arms should be considered a part of the right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Liberal grants of Arms Licences will reduce crime and will not increase them. A criminal will be afraid to attack a law-abiding citizen who will be armed to protect himself.
Section 97 of the IPC states that Every citizen has the right to defend his body and the body of any other citizen from attack. The lack of legal means for self-defence leaves law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals armed with illegal weapons.
However, the recent Supreme Court of India has registered a suo moto case to prohibit the large use of unlicensed firearms in the country. A bench led by Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna registered a case while hearing the bail application of the murder suspect. The bench mentioned that unlike the US no one should be permitted to use arms without having license permission from a concerned government agency. Justice BV Nagarathna noted that the use of knives and guns reflects a feudal mindset.
Considering the above-mentioned stories and the recent ruling judgment of the apex court we can say that use of firearms is dangerous for any civilized society. It brings hatred and a sense of vengeance among people and also many innocent lives are lost due to rampant gun violence. Strict regulation of arms licenses is the need of the hour and Law enforcement agencies need to take prompt action into illegal arms-related cases.