India's gun laws may be among the strictest in the world, but does that deter us from owning them?

Rashmi Singh

With 273 mass shootings in 275 days this year, it's difficult to believe that the Las Vegas mass shooting -the deadliest in recent years - will be the last. And despite a string of such cases, the unrestricted access to guns continues.

Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, was found to have acquired 47 guns, including rifles and semi-autos. He lived in a state (Nevada) where buyers don't need permits to buy assault weapons.

The picture is different in India, which has one of the strictest gun laws in the world. Here, acquiring firearms is a privilege and not a constitutional right (like in the US). In fact, Arms Rules, 2016, makes licences necessary, even for air guns. The process of procuring licences though, is difficult and often takes months. They are granted only after a thorough assessment, including background checks.

The Sydney University database on guns puts the rate of private gun ownership per 100 Indians at 3.4. That's a paltry number compared with 101 guns per 100 Americans - that's more guns than people!

India might not be trigger happy but it has its own misfiring when it comes to gun ownership. One, strict gun laws restrict access to licenced weapons but unlicenced firearms form about 85% of the civilian-owned stockpile. Second, India too has its 'gun hubs' - areas with a higher gun ownership and fatalities.


It's difficult to put a number on the unlawfully held guns, but a look at the licence status of firearm seizures made in the past gives a clear picture of how prevalent unlicenced guns are. Sixty percent of more than 100,000 firearms seized in India between 2014 and 2015 were found to be unlicenced, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for most of it.

Source: Lok Sabha reply

Worryingly, the recently-released home ministry data on active gun licenses reveals that UP trumps other states in terms of licenced weapons as well. Home to 16% of the country's population, the state accounts for 38% of the 33.7 lakh active gun licenses in the country, emerging as India's gun hub.

*Till Dec, 2016; rest for 2015


With just about 10 in 100 homicides using guns, Indians are less likely to be killed by firearms. But more than 90% of deaths by firearms have been caused using an unlawfully-held weapon- a trend noticed year after year.

Crimes like mass shootings are rarely heard of in India, but gun violence in road rage cases is not. While strict gun laws do succeed in restricting access to guns to an extent, but illegal gun ownership is a matter of concern.

Source: NCRB

More guns mean more gun deaths

Data also establishes, that Indian states with higher gun ownership figures, are also more likely to see higher gun fatalities.

Active gun licences
Deaths caused by firearms


Total firearm deaths: 19

States Active licenses Total firearm deaths
Andhra Pradesh - 8
Arunachal Pradesh 34,394 6
Assam 19,283 14
Bihar 82,585 691
Chhattisgarh - 113
Goa - 2
Gujarat 60,784 25
Haryana 1,41,926 98
Himachal Pradesh 77,069 3
Jammu & Kashmir 3,69,191 52
Jharkhand 17,654 654
Karnataka 1,13,631 41
Kerala 9,459 52
Madhya Pradesh 2,47,130 476
Maharashtra 84,050 114
Manipur 26,836 40
Meghalaya 18,688 2
Mizoram 15,895 4
Nagaland 36,606 6
Odisha 20,588 9
Punjab 359,349 161
Rajasthan 1,33,968 115
Sikkim - 0
Tamil Nadu 22,532 2
Telangana - 20
Tripura - 9
Uttar Pradesh 12,77,914 2,155
Uttarakhand 64,770 14
West Bengal 60,525 43
As in Dec, 2016; source: Home Ministry
Click on a state to view details

India too has its pro-gun lobby. There are voices that argue that guns don't kill people. That easy access to legal guns may reduce illegal firearm sales. The argument may have weight, but one things is clear: Legal or illegal, more guns mean more gun deaths.