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The Arms (Amendment ) Bill, 2019

Updated: Jul 31



Introduction

The Arms (Amendment ) Bill, 2019 was recently introduced in Lok Sabha and is expected to be passed in this Winter Session. The Bill amends the 1959 Weapons Act which deals with weapons control in India. The Act describes guns, knives, and anti-aircraft missiles as weapons. The Bill 's Statement of Objects and Reasons acknowledged that law enforcement officials have referred to a increasing connection between ownership of illicit weapons and criminal activity. In this sense, the Bill aims to reduce the amount of permissible weapons per citizen, and raises fines under the Act for other offences. The Legislation also presents additional violating groups.


What changes are being made to existing offences?

Weapons authorization: The Act includes a certificate to obtain, own, or carry any weapon. A individual may get a license for up to three firearms (with certain exceptions, for example for licensed firearms dealers). The Bill decreases the permitted amount of weapons from three to one. That requires succession or heirloom-due licenses. The Act includes a one-year time limit for depositing the surplus weapons with the nearest police station's officer-in - charge or with a licensed weapon dealer as stated. When the owner is a member of the armed forces, a unit armoury can deposit the weapon. The surplus weapons must be delicensed within 90 days of the one-year span closing.


Prohibition of weapons: The Act forbids the production, selling, possession, transition, modification, checking or proofing of weapons without a permit. This also bans weapon shortening or turning fake weapons into guns without a license. In addition, the Bill prohibits the acquisition or procurement of unlicensed firearms, and the conversion of one firearms category to another without a license. It also requires gun club members or organizations to use any weapon for target practice, rather than only point 22 bore weapons or air rifles.


New offences: press crimes are applied to the Act. Those include: I unlawfully taking a weapon from police or security forces, punishable by 10-year imprisonment and life imprisonment, coupled with penalty, (ii) use weapons in a celebratory shooting that endangers human existence or the personal health of others, punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine of up to one lakh rupee or both. Celebratory gunfire refers to the use of firearms to fire ammunition in public assemblies, religious places, marriages or other functions.


The Bill also defines organized crime and illicit trafficking offences. "Organized crime" implies the practice of criminal conduct by a individual, either as a leader of a syndicate or on his behalf, by the use of illegal means such as intimidation or bribery, to achieve economic or other benefits. A syndicate of organized crime applies to two or three men who conduct organized crime. Possession by a member of a syndicate of weapons or ammunition, in breach of the Act, would be punished by imprisonment between 10 years and life, along with a fine This penalty would also extend on behalf of a syndicate to those dealing in unlicensed weapons (including their manufacturing or sale), modifying a weapon without a license, or importing or exporting weapons without a permit.


• The Act describes illegal trade to involve manufacture, purchase, selling of weapons or ammunition to or from India where the guns are either not registered in compliance with the Act or in breach of the rule. Illicit prostitution is punished by 10-year to life incarceration, along with a fine.

Firearms tracking: the central government may regulate the tracking of firearms and ammunition from the manufacturer to the purchaser in order to detect, investigate and analyze illegal manufacturing and trade.


What changes are being made to existing offences?

The Act explicitly prohibits the manufacture, selling, usage, transition, modification, inspection or proofing of weapons without a license. In addition, the Bill prohibits the acquisition or procurement of unlicensed firearms, and the conversion of one firearms category to another without a license. The above requires any modifications made to enhance a firearm 's performance.

The Act further introduces higher fines on a variety of criminal crimes. For example, the Act defines the penalty for: I trafficking with unlicensed weapons, including their manufacturing, purchase, selling, transition, conversion, (ii) shortening or modification of unlicensed firearms, and (iii) importing or exporting restricted firearms. Generally, the sentence for such crimes ranges from three years and seven years, along with a fee. The Legislation increases the mandatory sentence to seven years, and the limit to life imprisonment.

The Act also punishes unlicensed trading with restricted weapons (such as automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles) with seven-year incarceration and life imprisonment, together with fine. The Bill increases the minimum sentence to 10 years from seven years. Additionally, the penalty has been changed regarding situations where the possession of banned firearms ends in a person's death. The penalty was updated from the existing death penalty to allow the death penalty or life imprisonment, along with a fine.


Does the Bill address issues of organised crime?

The Legislation also incorporates a 'violent crime' concept. 'Chain crime' has been described as continuing illegal action by an individual, either as a part of or on behalf of a syndicate, utilizing unlawful means, such as violence or intimidation, to achieve economic or other benefits. A syndicate of organized crime applies to two or three men who conduct organized crime.

The Bill introduces tougher punishments for organized crime syndicate members. For example, a minimum term for an individual would be seven years for the possession of an unlicensed firearm, extendable to life imprisonment and liable to a fine. However, ownership by a member of a syndicate of unlicensed weapons would be punished by incarceration from 10 years and life, along with a fine. This expanded punishment often extends to non-members on behalf of a syndicate that contravene the rules of the Act.


Increase in Punishment

The Bill amends the provision for numerous crimes. The Act defines the punishment for: I trafficking with unlicensed weapons, including their manufacturing, purchase, selling, storage, modification, (ii) shortening or alteration of unlicensed firearms, and (iii) importing or exporting banned firearms; The sentence for such crimes varies from three to seven years, along with a fee. The Legislation, along with a fee, raises the sentence to between 7 years and life imprisonment.

• The Act punishes the purchase, storage or shipment of banned weapons without a warrant, with incarceration for five to ten years, along with the penalty. The Legislation, along with penalty, raises the sentence to jail for seven or 14 years. A court can impose a less than seven-year sentence, with reported reasons.

• The Act further punishes non-licensed possession of banned weapons (including their manufacturing , selling and repair) with incarceration of seven years to life imprisonment, coupled with a fine. The Bill increases the minimum sentence to 10 years from seven years. The sentence for situations in which the possession of banned arms and explosives ends in a person's death has been changed, with fine, from the current death penalty to death or life imprisonment.

Criticism

Statistics say registered guns are not adding to national weapons crimes. Just 2.8 per cent of the 37,116 weapons confiscated under the Arms Act in 2016 have been licensed / fabricated according to the NCRB statistics. About 90 per cent of the record of 3,775 firearm-related murders in 2016 included the usage of unlicensed weapons.

There is no solving the question of the huge stockpile of arms that militant groups have managed to capture from security forces. E.g. in Chhattisgarh, about 1,000 automatic and semi-automatic guns were stolen from law enforcement agencies by Maoists.

Reducing the amount of guns shooters who can carry would limit access to the specific handguns that were required during their initial training. Shooting sport includes three primary styles, pistol and weapons. If shooters are allowed to hold just one weapon, their choices will be restricted as far as the disciplines they would like to take up.

Some state governments bordering Pakistan are worried about the impact on firearms from the proposed curbs. During the opening of the Kartarpur Road, Punjab CM claimed that because Pakistan was seeking to fan fresh trouble in Punjab, controls on individuals' firearms should be placed on hold. Some firearm owners have stressed the cultural importance guns carry for 'martial cultures' in their advice to the MHA. So, e.g. Puja Shastra (weapons) on Dussehra.


Authored by : Arvind Bhati

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