The gun culture is on the rise in the quaint hill state. The demand for arms licences has shot up by nearly 15% in the past two years.
The spurt in number of applicants for firearm licences in a peace-loving state has thrown the state government into a tizzy. The home department has sought details of gun licenses from all district police chiefs and their deputies.
"We have asked all superintendents of police to send us the record of gun licence-holders in their respective districts," a senior functionary of home department told Hindustan Times.
"There has been up to 15% surge in applications for arms licences. However, more worrying is the fact that frivolous reasons are being cited by applicants for obtaining such licences," said another senior official of the home department who didn't want to be quoted.
"There was a case where a businessman wanted a gun licence to carry cash. He could easily have contacted a private agency for the job," he said. "More people are seemingly opting for arms because the gun culture is catching up. In old times, keeping a gun in the house was a matter of pride. People also sought gun licences for crop protection. But now it appears that people are applying for gun licence just for thrill," said Bilaspur SP Balbir Thakur.
The double-barrelled gun seems to the top choice of people. Also, many are seeking revolver licences.
There is no data with the government on how many licences have been issued across the state, said sources.
Also, the government wants to know for what purpose the licences were issued.
Officials said it was also getting difficult for the police to verify the threat perception being cited as reason for seeking a gun licence. The gun licences are issued by the offices of deputy commissioner and additional district magistrate. The verification is done by the SP office concerned.
"Police verify the antecedents of the applicant. The verification report is sent by the police station concerned. Threat perception to the person is also verified by police," said director general of police (DGP) Sanjay Kumar.
Poor response from the gun-holders to government's request to deposit arms during the elections is also being seen as one of the reasons that prompted the government to compile a comprehensive data on arms licences issued in the state. "It has been noticed that people do not deposit their firearms during election time. Only 50% heed to these directions," he said.
Recently, violence erupted at Indian Institute of Technology in Mandi where four bouncers hired by a private contractor were allegedly lynched by a mob. The bouncers were carrying illegal weapons along with them.
The home department has shot off a letter stating that arms licence should be issued only if a threat perception exists and the applicant would have to mention the name of the person from whom he/she faces threat.
The police have rejected many applications for gun licences. "Curtailing gun ownership through denying licences to curb crime is based on flawed reasoning. The fact is that if a victim is unarmed, it comes as an encouragement to armed criminals. The mafia or the terrorist are not going to be deterred by gun-control laws. The law-abiding citizens, however, should be allowed to use a weapon for their protection," said Jaswinder Singh, a gun-manufacturer at Mandi.
Gun licences are also issued to farmers for protecting their crops from wild animals such as boars and monkeys. There are around 12,000 gun-holders in Shimla district alone.