Licence not a guarantee user won't misuse it

Licence not a guarantee user won't misuse it

A six-year-old was accidently shot dead by his grandfather in the past week when he was firing in the air after Vishwakarma puja in southwest Delhi’s Bindapur.

One month back, a 26-year-old businessman shot at his parents after an argument over car licence in west Delhi’s Dwarka. A few months ago, a 10-year-old boy was accidentally shot dead by his 12-year-old neighbour while they were playing cops-and-thieves in west Delhi.

The common thread in all the three incidents is the use of licensed firearms as a cause of death or injury.

Crime has consistently been on the rise in Delhi, making some equip themselves with firearms for personal security.

And it isn't just men. Manisha Sharma, 32, a homemaker, says, "My husband goes on tours very often. A few months back thieves broke into our house while I was out, locked up my mother-in-law in a room, wiped the house clean of valuables and fled. My husband thought it was important for us to have a gun in the house. And you know what, I honestly feel safer with a gun in the house."

But there is a flip side. The licensed weapons can be used in committing crimes, and cause fatal accidents.

According to a police officer, licensed arms, primarily meant for self-defence, often find their way into the hands of people who love to flaunt them as symbols of power. And very often they are also used for committing crimes, be it in homes or on the streets.

Often, licence holders hoodwink law enforcement officers by using a single licence to keep several weapons. So during random checks, they are often able to pass off the illegal firearms as licensed ones.

The crime data of 2014 released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that six murders took place in Delhi with licensed weapons. Apart from that, several cases of accidental deaths, mostly during ceremonial firing in weddings, were also caused by licensed weapons, an official says.

The number is minuscule compared with crimes perpetrated with illegal weapons – 70 murders last year. But the need to keep a check on the way licensed weapons are being used is felt.

Under the Arms Act, 1959, civilians can procure a weapon licence after a lengthy process if they can prove a threat to their life. In Delhi, the designated authority to get arms license is the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Licensing).

“We first assess the level of threat perception to the licence seeker. It includes information about his family and more important his work. Mostly people who are into various businesses like property, share market and jewellery and politicians seek licences as the threat is generally more to them," says DCP (Licensing) Suvashish Choudhary.

To procure an arms licence, an application needs to be sent to the authority concerned. On receipt of the application, the licensing authority calls for a report from the officer in charge of the nearest police station.

"They basically check if you have a criminal record and also the veracity of all information declared in the application. Persons with criminal records are not eligible for arms licences. In almost all cases a policeman goes to each of the addresses given and even asks neighbours about the character of the licence seeker. Another purpose of verification is to check how authentic the stated need for a gun is," Choudhary adds.

The licensing authority then takes a call on granting the licence.

The Arms Act, 1959, and the Arms Rules, 1962, contain provisions for acquisition and possession of firearms by individuals. Under Section 3(1) of the Act, no person can acquire or possess any firearm or ammunition unless he holds a licence issued in accordance with the provisions of the act.

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