The United States and India are the world’s leading countries based on the number of gun ownerships; however, the exposure, culture, regulations, and impacts differ across the two, with the US experiencing adverse events. The American gun culture is as old as the country’s Constitution, which can be traced to the history of British colonial rule. While the US accounts for 4% of the worldwide population, it commands an alarming 46% of the global gun ownership index, implying that American civilians have more guns than 25 countries combined. Nonetheless, only 1.07 million are legally registered. By contrast, India is the second country with many firearms (71 million), albeit, considering its population (1.3 billion), the rate of ownership is five guns per 100 people compared with the US’ 120 guns by 100 people (Mridul, 2019). India and the US have varying gun cultures, gun laws, and crime rates due to their dissimilar flexibilities to constitutional amendments, with India maintaining a constant change while the US espousing a conservative view.
Gun Culture and Laws in the US
American gun culture and debate started with British domination way before independence. Given that the British government did not have any form of police officers to enforce law and order, the American people were required to possess arms for self-defence and the security of their families. The American Constitution grants all people the right to have guns, making arms readily available. Regardless of the gains associated with guns, these tools have also attracted massive regret as more than 1.4 million people have succumbed to gun violence (Roychowdhury, 2018). For the first time, gun culture became institutionalized in the US culture in 1791, during the Second Amendment to the country’s Constitution. This amendment also granted the citizens the right to wield arms. Based on this law, “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep bear arms shall not be infringed” (Roychowdhury, 2018). The only standard for qualification is to be a conscious person, be above 21 years without a criminal record.
Whereas most people demanded this right for security and self-defense, decades later, this right had a price as millions succumbed to the painful gun culture in the country. More than 230 years since its first passage, the government is yet to change this law. For instance, the 2019 survey shows that at least 63,000 licensed gun dealers operate in the United States, selling arms worth at least 83,000 crores (DNA Web Team, 2021). This amount exceeds the Indian budget, consistent with the year of valuation gun sales figures for 2018. One of the reasons for continued gun culture in the United States is that most sitting presidents significantly lobby and support the idea and have previously been riding on the positive side of gun adoption. For instance, former US President Theodore Roosevelt had a habit of taking photographs with guns. Other leaders, including George W. Bush, George Bush Senior, Jimmy Carter, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, have previously loved and embraced the gun culture and glorified the practice. While guns have been the cause of the assassination of four previous presidents in the country, such as James Garfield and Abraham Lincoln, the sitting leaders have been less vocal to lobby for restriction measures on gun ownership.
Survey on Gun Prevalence in the US
Whereas most people demanded this right for security and self-defense, decades later, this gain cost the country as millions succumbed to the painful gun culture in the country. More than 230 years since its first passage, the government is yet to change this law. For instance, the 2019 survey shows that at least 63,000 licensed gun dealers operate in the United States, selling arms worth at least 83,000 crores (DNA Web Team, 2021). A yearly average of 31 people died due to terror attacks between 2002 and 2011 in the US. More than 11,000 die a year because of suicide and homicide related to culture (DNA Web Team, 2021). While the country has substantial strides against terrorism, little has been done to combat gun violation and possession. DNA Web Team (2021) survey shows that at least 58% of American people have experienced gun terror. More than 100 people succumb to gun violence every day in the country, with three million children encountering gun culture in the forms such as mass shootings each year. More than 27 events of mass shootings happened in 2018 alone. Furthermore, more than 24,000 people succumbed to suicide by shooting in 2019, making the US the only country where most individuals die by suicide due to gun culture.
Indian Gun Culture and Laws
India has had strict gun ownership rules and culture. The ownership debate started way back in the Indian Arms Act of 1878, the colonial gun law forbidding Indians from possessing guns, except the Europeans. Indians would only own, manufacture, and sell firearms with permission from the government. Colonial masters intended to completely outlaw gun ownership following the 1857 Revolt to contain any possible uprising (Sangwan, 2019). During this time, Indians criticized the law saying it was prejudiced against them and favored the Europeans, only to find the gains of this policy decades later. Restrictions on gun possession curtailed the distribution and eventually reduced gun-related fatalities.
The debate over gun ownership did not stop even after independence. The government enacted the Arms Act, 1959, and the Arms Rules, 1962, which only permitted citizens to own guns based on three conditions. The first permit is for crop protection; the second is for sports and self-defense. The country has strenuous rules for gun violations that have been effective for decades. The production, selling, and transportation of guns are strictly regulated. Individuals who obtain guns must undergo stringent checks and balances, such as appearing before boards and hearings from departments and eventually the decision from the district collector and superintendent of police. The mandate to award guns related licenses was later disenfranchised from the state governments and surrendered to the Union Government with the 1987 amendment (Sangwan, 2019). India recently returned this mandate to the state administrations following the rise in the wave of terrorism. Other security protocols include training personnel handling the firearm and the license seeker and having a national database showing mandated gun holders foster gun control.
Comparison of Gun Culture Between India and the US
History, especially the colonial period, significantly shaped most laws currently associated with gun possession in the US and India. The US has retained the gun policy years down the line, while India has been flexible in making gun policy amendments. The Small Arms Survey (SAS) report revealed that the total number of guns present in the country by the civilian population was 393 million by 2018. By the same year, India was the second country with the leading gun ownership, with close to 71.1 million guns. Gun ownership and culture fall into two classifications forbidding civilian ownership of guns and allowing ammunition. The possession rate in America is 120 guns per 100 persons. By contrast, India’s rate is five guns per 100 people (DNA Web Team, 2021). Thus, the United States permits citizens to own guns, while India places considerable constraints and checks against ownership and only allows a limited class of weapons.
Besides policy implications, gun possession between the US and India differs significantly, especially in violence cases and exposure to crime. Based on the crime rate associated with guns, Americans are 12 times more likely to succumb to a gun death than an average Indian. Homicides associated with gun crime are high (60%) in the USA versus 10% in India (DNA Web Team, 2021). Restrictive policies of India reduce the prevalence of gun crime, while the permissive laws of the US buttress gun violence.
The different constitutional laws between India and the US are responsible for sustaining the varying perspectives and gun culture experiences. The rate of gun violence is high in the US due to the free reign policies. India is not entirely free from gun crime, but on a scale and level of sophistication far less than the United States, without considerable parallels between the two nations. The US and India’s corresponding gun laws, culture, and constitutional policies are opposite since the US mandates ownership while India strictly regulates ammunition through the Arms Act of 1959. The presence of guns in India is supported by a black market from the located manufactured weapons.
DNA Web Team. (2021). DNA Special: Buying a gun in the US is as easy as grocery shopping in India. DNA, Web.
Mridul, A. (2019). Buying guns: How does India compare with the US? CBC, Web.
Roychowdhury, G., S. (2018). Guns and violence in America & India: A study in contrasts. Decca Chronicle, Web.
Sangwan, N. (2019). What India can teach the US about gun ownership. The Telegraph, Web.