Licence to shoot for sport: Who can get one, how?

Rocky Yadav, accused of killing Gaya youth Aditya Sachdeva on May 7, got the alleged murder weapon on the ‘sports quota’.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Updated: May 16, 2016 12:13 am
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Which gun did Rakesh Ranjan Yadav alias Rocky use in the alleged murder?

Police have said they recovered a Beretta pistol that was used to commit the crime. The pistol was registered in Rocky’s name.

Did Rocky have a licence for the weapon?

He did, although the process to revoke the licence is under way. Rocky was issued an arms licence on June 12, 2013, under the sports quota and for general protection. It had an all-India permit, which was valid until 2018.

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How did Rocky come to have a licence under the sports quota? Was he a sportsman?

Yes, he was. He has been an active sports shooter for several years and has participated in the national championships in the big bore events. Hence, he was eligible for a licence under the sports quota.

So, who gets a sports quota arms licence, and who issues it?

To be eligible to get an arms licence under the sports quota, you need to be a registered target shooter, which can be done by signing up with a local shooting club. So, if you’re in Delhi for example, you can sign up with the Delhi State Rifle Association. The success rate of members applying for a .22 rifle licence for target practice is very good due to liberal government policies for sports shooters. Issuing a licence is the prerogative of the state police or the district magistrate. In Delhi, where Rocky Yadav got his licence, the licencing authority is the ACP, Delhi Police.

But Rocky was a big bore rifle shooter, while the weapon allegedly used in the killing was a pistol. Does that mean if one has a sports quota licence, one can buy arms that are not used for target shooting?

Ideally, no. But there is no law preventing you from doing that. A civilian can buy up to three weapons — a rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun and, although it’s not legally binding, this is the combination that most people use.

However, if you have a licence under the sports quota, and you are a “renowned shooter”, you can buy up to seven weapons — four related to the event the shooter specialises in, and three other weapons. Once a weapon has been purchased, it has to be entered into the licence book by the issuing authority, which is one way of keeping a check on its misuse. But since Rocky had claimed a threat to his life — he had said that he belonged to the Left Wing Extremism-hit Chatra district of Jharkhand — he could buy a pistol which was in no way related to his target shooting practice.

What does ‘renowned shooter’ mean? Was Rocky a renowned shooter?

A “renowned shooter” is someone who has participated in a National Championship, and has attained the Minimum Qualifying Score (MQS) prescribed by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). Rocky had a ‘Renowned Shooter Certificate’ from the NRAI because he had achieved the MQS, which is also referred to as a “renowned shot” — a basic benchmark a shooter must attain to avail of facilities the government provides for sports shooters.

Can someone be killed by a shot fired from a weapon used for sports shooting?

Yes. It is commonsensical in the shooting circuit to treat your weapon, especially a loaded one, with utmost respect. And the bullet, after all, remains the same. What matters is the velocity that is generated with the shot. There are air rifles, for instance, that shoot a pellet at relatively low velocity. But it may kill a small bird and cause serious injury to a human. Some modern air rifles and air pistols can be used to kill.

However, guns used in sports shooting are not classified as firearms. So, it is not mandatory for say, an Abhinav Bindra (air rifle) or a Jitu Rai (air pistol) to acquire an arms licence since the Ministry of Home Affairs exempts these categories from the Arms Act. In 2011, Delhi High Court had ruled against the government policy saying air guns could harm animals; however, the Supreme Court put a stay on the ruling in 2012 after the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) went in appeal saying air guns were “merely toys and as such these did not fall under the purview of the licensing regime”.

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