The Rajya Sabha Tuesday passed The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote with members across party lines lauding the government’s decision to increase punishment for celebratory firing.
Members raised questions about heirloom weapons as the legislation proposes to allow only two licensed weapons against three permitted earlier.
The Bill was approved by Lok Sabha on Monday.
Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishen Reddy said that heirloom weapons can be deactivated and kept. He pointed out that most of the deaths in celebratory firings were by unlicensed weapons; only two of 959 deaths in Bihar, 14 of 792 in Jharkhand and 181 of 1,483 in Uttar Pradesh were by licensed weapons.
The minister said the government is putting in place a system in which every ammunition will have a serial number.
The Bill increases the renewal window for a firearm licence from three years to five years, besides changing the penal regime and making it more stringent for manufacturers of illegal weapons.
The legislation does not make any changes to the licensing regime for sportspersons.
A motion moved by Congress MP Digvijaya Singh to send the Bill to a Select Committee was defeated by a voice vote.
MPs asked about safeguards in the Bill for those in remote areas for whom guns are a means of self-defence. Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa said that holders of gun licences are not criminals but “respectable people” and they should be treated as such. BJD’s Prasanna Acharya said that guns are not a status symbol.
The Bill provides a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for manufacturing and carrying illegal arms. It also provides that a person can have a maximum of two firearms as against three allowed at present.
The Bill also ensures that those using firearm in a rash or negligent manner in celebratory gunfire, endangering human life or personal safety of others shall be punishable with an imprisonment to two years, or with fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh, or with both.