If there’s one horrifying truth that has come out from the grisly string of shootings that have claimed eight lives in New Delhi over the last week, it is this: guns are shockingly available in this country. Talk of ‘gun control’ and we conjure up the idea of the United States and its ‘gun culture’. But clearly, bullets are flying in our own backyard. People don’t just fall dead either as targets or unintended victims on the streets. It’s one thing to blame the police for not being ‘tough enough’ when it comes to cracking down on such crime. It’s quite another to go to the root of the problem that finds a thriving market of weapons and ammunition in India.
Putting up barricades and holding up peak-hour traffic, hoping that gun-carrying criminals will stop by to be arrested, is a joke. The police would better spend their time piecing together eyewitness accounts, forensic evidence, and criminal intelligence to nab the culprits. In last week’s cases, gunmen have reportedly fired over 50 rounds and used “expensive foreign-made firearms” to target their victims. This shows the emergence of an alarming new trend in street crime involving the use of sophisticated firearms.
There are strict gun control laws in the country, and private ownership of firearms and ammunition is highly regulated. Yet the number of people who own guns as symbols of power and prestige is increasing. In fact, reports indicate that the number of gun licences issued in Uttar Pradesh and the suburbs of Delhi has shot up from 95 in 2005 to nearly 400 already this year. There is only so much that firearm dealers can do by conducting background checks of their customers, as criminals rarely purchase weapons from legitimate gun shops. Apart from leaving a paper trail, they would be able to buy one in the black market for a fraction of the price. Since a good percentage of firearms is believed to have been smuggled from abroad, law enforcement authorities may find the going very tough. But it is time someone took a long good look at India’s murky gun bazaars.