After the Delhi rape case, in which 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey was brutally and mortally wounded, females in the Indian capital are keen to own firearms. According to the Guardian:
Hundreds of women in Delhi have applied for gun licences following the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman by six men in a bus in the city last month.
The news underlines the widespread sense of insecurity in the city, deep before the incident and deeper now, and the lack of faith in law enforcement agencies.
Thanks to the visitor who pointed out this story. He rightly said that libertarians should be shouting about this and ensuring that those opposed to the idea understand that they are effectively in favour of rape. Well said. Unfortunately the visitor used a fake email address to leave the comment, which I cannot encourage, though credit is deserved. It is perhaps a little extreme to call gun control advocates such names but they are putting the prevention of rare and emotive tragedies above the individual’s inalienable rights to life and to self-defence, and that’s the wrong judgement to make.
The Guardian, of course, places itself firmly in this “pro-rape” category stating that the “rush for firearms will cause concern”. Really? So what is the current position in India?
There are estimated to be 40m guns in India, the second highest number in the world after the US.
Licences are hard to obtain and most are illegal weapons, many manufactured in backstreet workshops. Official ownership levels remain low – three guns for every 100 people – but in recent years the number of women holding arms has risen. Most are wealthy and worried about theft or assault.
It is odd for the Guardian to editorialise that this is a cause of concern. They have reported in May 2012 and now again in January 2013 that Indian women want guns for self-defence and that they increasingly get them, they even posted an excellent video showing articulate middle-class Indian women with rifles, shot guns, pistols (and in one case, all three). They showed all the gun shops in the Punjab, but it is apparent that India does not have the same kind of gun problems as the US. In fact, a little Googling reveals that although there are regular large-scale killings in India, especially in Uttar Pradesh (which, incidentally, has a reputation for corruption) but it is related to Hindu / Muslim religious tensions and has involved swords and bombs, as well as guns. That is not a comparable scenario. So why is it that the Guardian is reporting a desire for more lawful ownership of guns by women for self-defence with such studious yet concerned neutrality? Apparently it does not compute for them that this could be good news.
Privately manufactured guns
The fact that many of these Indian guns owned by the rich for self-defence, as well as the gun that killed British tourist Stephen Ashton in Thailand owned by a gang member, are being manufactured in low-key workshops is a challenge to advocates of disarmenent. In fact it is a sign that gun control will be impossible to implement in a country that respects freedom of speech and offers even a modicum of privacy. It does not take much privacy for engineering knowledge to be shared and put to work.
Think about it. The technology for manufacturing guns is centuries old and the tools available in normal hardware stores and from paces like the Axminster catalogue are increasingly sophisticated. The natural cause of economic and technical progress is that guns should be easier to manufacture at home. Gun control will not work outside of an Orwellian surveillance society with strict censorship and microphones in every room. Even if you think that gun ownership is undesirable, which I am increasing convinced is not the case, then the rational option would still be to plan for the reality of inevitable gun ownership and ensure as many as possible are in the hands of the right kinds of people.