ibnlive » India

Sep 15, 2006 at 09:06pm IST

Trigger happy: 40 mn guns in India

New Delhi: Abhijeet Singh is a software professional who works with Open Source Programs – a software that's open to everyone to use without restrictions.

He's also part of a growing group which wants the same freedom to extend to something totally different - guns.

“If you're mugged on a street, will you tell the muggers – ‘Wait, let me just call the police’ - and then go to them and continue getting mugged?" Singh asks.

“Criminals are already armed. Why should someone who wants to protect his family be denied that choice?” he adds.

But it isn’t that easy to lock and load in India. To own a gun, you first have to apply for a firearm license.

You then have to go for an interview with the local Deputy Commissioner of Police of licensing, where you'll have to prove a tangible threat.

Gun use in India is regulated by the Arms Act of 1959, which ensures that a person can own a gun only after a very stringent process.

Yet, the United Nations puts the total number of guns in the country at around 40 million.

“There's a very small line between legal and illegal arms. Guns get lost, stolen and end up in the black market,” says Vice-President of Control Arms Foundation of India, Anuradha Chenoy.

But the debate is also a moral one. Abhijeet is the moderator of a web group called indiansforguns.com.

One of it’s members, Asif Ali, says most gun owners are responsible citizens.

“Just because you have a gun doesn't make you a maniac," he explains.

But there's also a different point of view. "The mere possession of a gun can convince a person to use it," argues Anuradha.

The Government will be under the gun next month, when it has the chance to sign an arms trade treaty in the UN General Assembly. It's a vote that could be an indicator of things to come.