Nations Must Make Gun Laws More Stricter

It must be said with utmost regret that due to guns being easily available in various countries we see that the most ghastly, dastardly and cowardly attack on innocent people as we saw just recently in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on a mosque in which at least 50 people were killed and 50 injured in a mass shooting on March 15, 2019. All these precious lives would not have been lost if there were more stricter gun laws in place. Gun should not be given to any person whoever applies for it without proper verification!

To put things in perspective, a 28-year-old man named Brenton Tarrant has been taken into custody and charged with murder. The shooter targeted two mosques in Christchurch: the Al Noor mosque where 42 people were killed mercilessly and another at the Linwood mosque where seven people died. The alleged shooter also live-streamed his dastardly and ghastly attack on social media, most gruesomely displaying how he entered the mosque and shot worshippers as they struggled to flee. It is reported that seven Indians have also lost their lives in this cowardly and most reprehensible attack!

Needless to say, in a brief press conference, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the mass murder a 'terrorist attack' and said that the perpetrators held 'extremist views' that have no place in New Zealand. She very rightly lamented that, 'This is one of New Zealand's darkest days.' India reiterated its unstinted support to New Zealand in its hour of crisis along with other nations.

It is gratifying to learn that in the wake of the terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she would soon announce new gun laws. While New Zealand's gun laws are not as restrictive as in, say, Australia, those of countries such as the US are far more relaxed. The New York Times listed what it takes to own a gun in several countries. Let us discuss some of them here apart from those listed in The New York Times. They are as follows: -

New Zealand

1. Background check (criminal, medical, mental health, domestic violence records).
2. Character references.
3. Interview in person between authorities and applicant's partner or next of kin.
4. Inspection for firearm storage facilities at home.
5. A gun safety course.

It must be pointed out here that Reuters quoted Radio New Zealand as reporting that more than 99% of applicants for a firearms licence in 2017 were successful. The country, whose population is 5 million, has an estimated 1.5 million firearms. Only owners are licensed, not weapons, so there is no monitoring of how many weapons a person may possess. This loophole must be plugged right now in the wake of the dastardly attack on a mosque which has left 50 dead! Buying hand guns and certain semi-automatic rifles requires a special permit. It is recommended that no person from now onwards should be allowed more than one gun and here too there must be proper and strict police verification. It is also recommended that vehicles should be checked at various points to ensure that no person is carrying gun especially at religious shrines and other important places.

Australia

1. Must join and regularly attend a hunting or shooting club, or be a collector.
2. Course on firearm safety and operation, written test and practical assessment.
3. Storage that meets safety regulations.
4. A review of criminal history, domestic violence, restraining orders and arrest history, with possible interviews of family and community members.
5. Specific permits for specific types of weapons; wait is of at least 28 days.

No doubt, these laws are some of the toughest in the world. Countries like New Zealand must emulate them to ensure that no person is ever able to carry out such ghastly attack so easily! Here it must be revealed that Australia had introduced them after a lone gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur in 1996 using a semi-automatic AR-15 (the same weapon that was used in Christchurch), Reuters reported. Australia had banned semi-automatics, launched a gun amnesty in which tens of thousands of weapons were handed in and made it much tougher to own them. Gun owners must provide a valid reason for owning a weapon and gun clubs must inform the authorities of inactive members.

United States

1. Background check for criminal convictions, domestic violence and immigration status.

2. Many US states have additional buying restrictions, including waiting periods and expanded background checks.

3. Where these waiting periods do not apply, an application may be cleared in days. Roughly a third of American gun owners buy guns without a background check, which federal law does not require when buying directly from a private seller. This loophole must be checked forthwith. There must be a proper background check. It is because of such loopholes that we keep listening in news that gun attacks keep happening regularly in USA.

4. Fugitives, those convicted of a felony with a sentence exceeding 1 year, past or present and those who were involuntarily admitted to a mental facility are prohibited from purchasing a firearm unless rights restored.

5. Forty-four states have a provision in their state constitutions similar to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. The exceptions are California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. In New York, however, it must be stated that the statutory civil rights laws contain a provision virtually identical to the Second Amendment.

6. Additionally, the US Supreme Court held in McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) that the protections of the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms for self-defense in one's home apply against state governments and their political subdivisions.

7. More recently, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in its 2016 decision titled Peruta v. San Diego County that the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right of gun owners to carry concealed firearms in public.

Japan

1. A firearms class and a written exam, held up to three times a year.
2. A doctor's certificate of mental fitness and absence of a history of drug abuse. It is a commendable provision.
3. Firing training (permission for undertaking this course may take up to a month). One-day training class, with a firing test has to be cleared.
4. Interview with police, whom applicant must convince why he or she needs a gun. This again is very commendable and every country must emulate it.
5. Review of criminal history, gun possession record, employment, even personal debt and relationships with friends, family and neighbours.
6. Application for gunpowder permit.
7. Certificate from a dealer describing gun.
8. Hunting licence (if hunting is purpose).
9. Gun safe and ammunition locker that meet regulations, to be inspected by police.
10. An additional background review.

Russia

1. Hunting licence, or reasons why gun needed for self-defence which is commendable.
2. A test of relevant laws, handling, first aid skills.
3. A doctor's note certifying absence of mental illness or drug history which is again very commendable.
4. All the above before application. After applying, a background check which again is commendable.

China

1. Reasons to possess a firearm.

2. Storage at gun range, remote hunting ground or pastoral area.

3. Demonstration of knowledge of safe gun use and storage.

4. A background check of mental illness, criminal record and domestic violence.

5. In China, most civilians are prohibited from keeping guns inside their homes. This is the most commendable provision and it must be emulated in countries like New Zealand and USA where incidents of violence and misuse of guns is increasing!

United Kingdom (UK)

1. In the UK, access by the general public to firearms is tightly controlled by law which is much more restrictive than the minimum rules required by the European Firearms Directive, but it is less restrictive in Northern Ireland. All countries must emulate UK.

2. No wonder that UK has one of the lowest ratews of gun homicides in the world.

3. Members of the public may own sporting rifles and shotguns, subject to licensing, but handguns were effectively banned after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996 with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Ukraine

1. Ukraine is the only country in Europe where firearms are not regulated by statute.

2. Citizens are permitted to own non-fully automatic rifles and shotguns as long as they are stored properly when not in use.

3. Handguns are illegal except for target shooting and those who hold concealed carry permits.

4. A citizen may be issued a firearms license if that person:

(i) is 25 years of age for rifle ownership, 21 years of age for smoothbore weapon ownership, 18 years of age for cold or pneumatic weapon ownership;
(ii) has no criminal record;
(iii) has no history of domestic violence;
(iv) has no mental illness or history of mental illness;
(v) has a good reason (target shooting, hunting, collection).

5. Gun owners are required by Order to renew their licenses and registration of their guns every three years. Failure to comply will result in revocation as well as confiscation of guns.

6. Concealed carry licenses are available but are not normally issued unless a threat to life is present and can be proven.

Israel

1. In 2018, Israel significantly loosened firearms restrictions, allowing all citizens who had undergone combat training and qualified in Advanced Infantry Training (Rifleman 07) to apply for a private handgun licence.

2. Prior to 2018, only a small group of people were eligible for firearm licenses: certain military personnel, police officers or prison guards; residents of settlements (in the West Bank and the Golan Heights) or those who often work in such towns and licensed hunters and animal control officers.

3. Age requirements vary. It is 21 for those who completed military service or civil service equivalent, 27 otherwise and 45 for non-citizens.

4. Firearm license applicants must have been a resident of Israel for at least three consecutive years.

5. Background check (criminal, health and mental history) should be passed.

6. Applicant should establish a genuine reason for possessing a firearm (such as self-defense, hunting or sport).

7. A weapons-training course should be passed.

8. Those holding firearm licenses must renew them and pass a shooting course every three years.

Kuwait

1. Kuwait has strict firearms laws.
2. Hunting shotguns are the most commonly licensed weapons.
3. Handguns are only allowed for VIPs.
4. Automatic rifles and machine guns are not legally permitted for civilian possession.

Lebanon

1. Ownership of any firearm other than handguns, hunting arms and antiques is illegal and only the latter two are permitted to leave the owner's home.
2. Disregard for this law is prevalent.
3. Lebanon does not officially grant the right to bear arms, but it is a firmly held cultural belief in the country.
4. Firearms licenses are granted to certain individuals but the test is not open to the public and requires a particular need to be demonstrated.
5. Gun control has been largely unsuccessful due to a historic gun culture and a lack of effective central government control or authority over many parts of the country.

Malaysia

1. Malaysia has strict gun laws.
2. The Arms Act (1960) requires the citizens of Malaysia to have a license for manufacture, import, export, repair or ownership of firearms.
3. A firearm license can only be granted by the Chief Police Officer of a state.
4. Discharging in crimes such as extortion, robbery, resisting arrest and house-breaking is punished by the death penalty.
5. Exhibiting a firearm for any of the scheduled offences (without discharging) carries a penalty of life imprisonment and caning of not less than six strokes.
6. Possession of unlawful firearms carries a sentence of up to fourteen years in prison and caning.
7. While the general public cannot obtain a gun through legal means but a black market for guns does exist.

North Korea

1. Firearms cannot be easily acquired.
2. In 2009, North Korea enacted a new law strictly regulating firearms.

Pakistan

1. It is very easy to acquire gun.
2. It has permissive firearms laws compared to the rest of South Asia.
3. It has the sixth highest number of privately owned guns in the world.
4. The law in Pakistan does not stipulate that a gun license should be denied or revoked.
5. Gun culture is strong in Pakistan.
6. A license permits ownership of any number of weapons including handguns of any size and fully automatic weapons.

Philippines

1. It has generally strict gun laws, though liberal in comparison to other Asia-Pacific countries.
2. Gun control became notorious in 1972 during presidency of Ferdinand Marcos who implemented a near-prohibition of all civilian guns.
3. Applicants must be of a minimum age of 21 years and have no history of criminal activity or domestic violence.
4. License-holders may carry handguns in public with the acquisition of a Permit to Carry (PTC), which are granted on a may-issue basis.
5. Applicants must demonstrate a need for a PTC like an imminent threat of danger.
6. PTCs are typically granted to lawyers, accountants, media practitioners, cashiers, bank tellers, priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, physicians, nurses or engineers.
7. Inspite of strict laws, gun culture is strong.

Kenya

1. Gun law in Kenya is specified in the Firearms Act (Cap. 114) laws of Kenya.
2. The Chief Licensing Officer (CLO) has discretion to award, deny or revoke firearms licenses.
3. Applicants must be 21 years of age or older, pass a stringent background check for criminal activity, mental health and domestic violence and state bona fide reasons for their need to privately own and carry a firearm.
4. Checks are regularly repeated with failure to pass resulting in immediate revocation of the license.
5. Once licensed to own a gun, no additional permit is required to carry a concealed firearm.

South Africa

1. To apply for a firearm license in South Africa, the applicants must pass a competency test covering the specific type of firearm you are applying a license for and a test on the South African firearm laws.

2. Once these tests are passed then the applicant need to apply for a competency certificate where the South African Police Service will perform a background check and an inspection of the premises where the firearm will be stored.

3. After both the tests are passed and the certificates are awarded the applicant can then apply for a firearm license in the categories ranging from self-defence to professional training.

4. Different license categories have different restrictions as for instance the amount of ammunition that the owner may hold.

Argentina

1. Firearms in Argentina are restricted and regulated by ANMaC (Agencia Nacional de Materiales Controlados) since late October 2015 when said agency replaced RENAR (Registro Nacional de Armas de la Republica Argentina), both being a branch of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

2. To own a firearm in Argentina, one must be a legitimate user.

3. Applicant must be 21 years of age or older, provide a medical certificate that certifies they are physically and mentally fit, complete a safety course, provide a legitimate means of income and undergo and pass a background check.

4. A successful applicant is fingerprinted and issued a license which has to be renewed every five years.

5. One may not legally fire a firearm in Argentina if they are not a legitimate user, even if that gun belongs to someone else.

6. Once a legitimate user wants to purchase a firearm, they must provide a secure location to store the firearm(s), and give an acceptable reason for wanting a firearm – such as collecting, target shooting, hunting, business or self-defense in the home.

7. Firearms must be purchased through a licensed dealer and registered with ANMaC.

8. If a firearm is inherited, a re-registering form must be filed.

9. There is no limit on the number of firearms owned so long as they are properly stored.

10. Handguns above .32 calibre are conditional-use; fully automatic handguns are prohibited to civilians.

Brazil

1. All firearms in Brazil are required to be registered.
2. The minimum age for ownership is 25.
3. Certificates of aptitude and mental health are required prior to the acquisition of a firearm and every three years thereafter.
4. It is generally illegal to carry a firearm outside a residence.
5. Executive Order No. 5.123 of 1 July 2004 allows the Federal Police to confiscate firearms which are not possessed for a valid reason.
6. Self-defense is not considered a valid argument.

Mexico

1. Under the Mexican Constitution, citizens and legal residents have the right to own arms, but may only carry them in accordance with police regulation.
2. Applicants must have a clear criminal record and proven income and residence thereby clearly implying that they cannot be homeless.
3. New firearms are purchased through the Ministry of Defense.
4. Prohibited weapons include large-calibre handguns, shotguns with barrels shorter than 25 inches (640 mm) or bore greater than 12 gauge and rifles which are fully automatic or of large caliber.
5. One handgun is permitted for home defense.
6. Collectors may be authorized to possess additional and prohibited weapons.
7. A carry license may be issued to those employed by private security firms or those who may be targets of crime.

Indonesia

1. Indonesia has generally strict gun laws.
2. Licenses are normally only issued to civilians employed in a profession that involves firearms such as military and law enforcement, with an exception for politicians and businessmen.
3. Applicants must be of a minimum age of 21 years to obtain a firearms license and go through a very thorough background check and mental evaluation.
4. They must also state a bona fide reason for wanting to own a firearm, which would include hunting, target shooting, collecting security and self-defense.
5. All firearms must be registered.
6. Gun permits are valid for five years and may be renewed.
7. Civilians cannot possess military weapons, but may possess long rifles.
8. Handguns can be used only for sport shooting and hunting.

Thailand

1. A firearm license in Thailand is granted only for self-defense, property protection, hunting or sporting use.

2. Applicants for a firearms license must be at least 20 years of age, have a record of good behavior, have an occupation and receive income and have a permanent address in Thailand with a name 'listed in the house registration specifically in the area where the applicants are applying for a license for at least six months.

3. A license may not be issued to anyone who is a repeat offender or mentally unstable.

4. Since October 2017 citizenship is required to purchase and use firearms.

5. Fully automatic firearms and explosive devices are prohibited.

India

1. Guns in India are strictly regulated by law.

2. The Arms Act, 1959 and the Arm Rules 1962 prohibit the sale, manufacture, possession, acquisition, import, export and transport of firearms and ammunition unless under a license which is difficult to obtain.

3. Licenses are valid for three years and may be renewed.

4. The Arms Act classifies firearms into two categories: Prohibited Bore (PB) and Non-Prohibited Bore (NPB) where all semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms fall under the Prohibited Bore category.

5. The Indian Government has a monopoly over the production and sale of firearms with the exception of some breech-loading smooth-bore shotguns of which a limited number may be produced and imported.

6. The criteria considered during issue of NPB firearm permits are whether the applicant faces a threat to their life. PB firearms criteria are more stringent and are often for persons in government positions who face immediate danger or threats and for those whose occupation involves open threats and dangers and family members of such people.

All said and done, all nations must make more stricter laws for not just buying a gun but also for keeping them. Also, those who have guns must be made to undergo compulsory thorough scrutiny and police verification. They must be made to go through medical tests and also under no circumstances should any person have more gun than one. Those who are repeated offenders should not be allowed to keep guns. Ammunition also must not be unlimited. Police must check this on regular basis. Those who are found violating the rules must be made to pay a heavy penalty and also sentenced to jail for at least five years! All this will certainly go a long way in ensuring that the dastardly killing of innocents by those who have weapons are checked to a large extent! There must be mandatory, proper and strict checking of all vehicles and all persons at all religious places at various points so that innocent devotees are never again killed in the dastardly, ghastly and cowardly manner in which we recently saw in two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand which shook the whole world! Above all, gun laws must be made more stricter and those who have guns must be thoroughly made to undergo suitable test and proper police verification and held duly accountable! Those who are either mentally unstable or have a past criminal record must not be allowed to keep gun!

 

Sanjeev Sirohi 
on 09 April 2019
Published in Others
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