The gun and the cigarette have for so long evoked a spurious sense of freedom and machismo that they just dont die out. The cigarette has been found out. Not the gun. So even as Barack Obama struggles to take the liberally available gun out of American life,a motley band of Indian MPs cutting across party lines and led by Congress leader Digvijay Singh,who doubles up as the
patron-in-chief of the National Association for Gun Rights India,has petitioned the prime minister opposing changes to the Arms Act sought by the Union home ministry that await introduction in Parliament as the Arms Act (Amendment) Bill 2010.
Given Singhs public tendency to unabashedly attack Home Minister P. Chidambaram,the whole affair may be construed as personal. Yet,the MPs who went along with him are a rather exclusive and cushy club,who nevertheless argue that the changes will deprive ordinary,honest citizens of the means
to protect themselves from robbers,and… Naxalites! Perhaps the MPs believe every strip of this country borders the Chambal badlands and needs the gun-shop-lined streets of Jhansi. The amendments seek mandatory police verification and a database,as well as undoing the discretionary latitude of the licensing authority and shifting that authority from state governments to the home ministry for all non-VIP cases.
The process of legally acquiring firearms ought to be made tougher,and lives of citizens safer. Thats not a negation of the legal right to possess arms,its a check of ante-
cedents before issuing a licence. This logic holds irrespective of the
co-relation between legal firearms and crime; it stands whether or not illegal arms proliferate,or robbers and Naxalites. Incidentally,certain special interests advocate relaxed gun laws in India,a la the US. If anything,they should revisit the figures for unnecessary deaths in US gun crimes. They should note just how many promising Indians in the US have been killed in the recent past by strangers,acquaintances,colleagues or students in attacks which may not have happened at all if the gun wasnt as free as candy.