Owning a gun in India legally can be a trying process. Before 1878 an Indian could own any weapon, but Lord Lytton passed the Indian Arms act 1878 which required Indians to obtain a license to own a gun. The Act of 1878 however exempted certain classes of citizens like Britishers, Anglo Indians and government servants from the provisions of the arms act.
The government of India amended the arms act of 1878 and brought in force the Indian arms act 1959. An Indian can now apply for a license under this act to own a gun. The government by an executive order citing the increase of terrorist activity made the following amendments
a) Completely stopped the import of guns from abroad.
b) Prohibited license for automatic weapons
The arms act of 1959 also created a distinction between prohibited and non prohibted bores. As a rule an Indian citizens are not allowed to own prohibited bores also known as service pattern weapons. They are allowed to have a licence only for non prohibited bore weapons also known as Non service pattern (NSP) weapons. Indian citizens can not own weapons with prohibited bores (.38 and .45) which are exclusively used by the Police and army.
Grant of arms licences is spelt out in Chapter III section 13 of the Arms act 1959. The duration and renewal of licences is laid down in Chapter III section 15.
The procedure to be followed for obtaining an arms license is as follows
a) The applicant is to apply on the prescribed form to the District magistrate. He will specify the weapon and bore
b) The application will contain the address of the application with residential proof. It will also contain the names of two citizens of the locality who can vouch safe the character and conduct of the applicant
c) The application will be submitted along with the application fee as specified in Chapter III section 16.
d) The applicant will also furnish the reason he needs a license.
The application will be verified by the police who will insure the following
a) Veracity of the applicant’s details.
b) Confirm that the reasons advanced by the applicant are genuine.
c) Is not involved in any criminal activity or charged with any offence under the Indian Penal code or other acts.
In case the District magistrate is satisfied that the application is genuine, he will by a letter inform the applicant who can then go to the DM’s office and collect the license. The DM will mention the time period in which the applicant will have to purchase a weapons (usually 3 to 6 months). Failure to purchase the weapon will render the license null and void. The weapon along with the license is to be produced for verification to the DM who will make an entry in the license. An Indian citizen can own a maximum of 3 weapons only.
Not withstanding what is written above a DM may at his discretion refuse a license where the licensing authority has reason to believe that the applicant is of unsound mind or likely to indulge in activities of a prejudicial nature( Chapter III section 14). This is a draconian section as the DM can refuse a license to anyone who in his opinion is a threat to public safety.
In India the license to own a gun is discretionary and unlike in the USA is not an absolute right which is conferred on American citizens by virtue of the second amendment.