Strict Indian Gun Law Aided Mumbai Terrorists in Attack
December 9, 2008 - 6:16 PMIndia's strict gun laws are partly to blame for the success of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, according to the head of an Indian gun rights group and a U.S. expert who has examined the impact of gun laws on crime and terrorism.
Abhijeet Singh, founder of Indians for Guns, told CNSNews.com Tuesday that if the citizens of Mumbai had been allowed to carry guns, terrorists would not have killed as many people as they did--and might have been deterred from attacking in the first place.
In last month’s Mumbai attack, when terrorists armed with AK-47 assault rifles took over two resort hotels, local residents, hotel security guards and even local police were caught empty-handed and unarmed.
“That’s because India’s gun laws make it nearly impossible for its citizens to own guns,” Singh said in a telephone interview from Delhi.
Singh said his group has long fought against the India Arms Act, which doesn’t bar all guns outright.
“On paper, pretty much anyone can apply for an arms license, but, at the end of the day, the grant of the license is completely at the discretion of the authorities,” Singh said.
Under rules added to the India Arms Act in 1983, the central government’s “licensing authority” can refuse to grant a license to anyone who is of “unsound mind,” who has been convicted of “any offence involving violence or moral depravity,” or who is “for any reason unfit for a license.”
Authorities, consequently, reject 95 percent of the applications they receive, Singh said.
“Half the time they won’t even receive applications, because they’ve exceeded their monthly quota,” he added. “They make it so tough that most people just give up.”
The result is a nearly unarmed population, Singh said.
American Enterprise Institute researcher John Lott, meanwhile, said he agrees with Singh that Mumbai may have avoided the bloodshed if its residents had been armed.
Unarmed populations, he said, are prime targets for mass shootings, and concealed-carry laws deter such incidents.
Lott, author of “More Guns Less Crime,” said that multiple-victim public shootings are much less likely to happen in places where people are allowed to carry concealed handguns – a conclusion he reached after conducting research on the topic at Yale and the University of Chicago.
In studying multiple-victim public shootings in the United States that occurred from 1977 through 1999, Lott said he found that the presence of armed law enforcement, while it may reduce the number of murders generally, typically had no effect on multiple-victim public shootings.
“This is because police are easily identified,” Lott said. “Terrorists either kill police first or wait until they leave the scene to attack.”
In Mumbai, police immediately hid from the two terrorists who ran through the Mumbai railway station, Singh said.
“The police officers’ excuse was that the terrorists had had fully-automatic AK’s, while they only had bolt-action rifles,” he added.
Lott, meanwhile, theorized that the police probably knew they would be first to get shot.
“That’s the benefit of concealed handguns,” he said. “At Virginia Tech, 500 people came into contact with the killer. If the killer had known a significant percentage of the people were carrying concealed handguns, he wouldn’t have known who to take out first. He would have wanted to take out the people who were armed, but he wouldn’t have known who they were.”
“Right-to-carry” laws are the only laws that have lessened the number and the severity of multiple-victim public shootings, according to his research.
When states change their laws to allow people to carry concealed handguns, these attacks decrease by 60 percent, and the number of people injured or killed in them drops 78 percent, Lott said.
The attacks that do occur overwhelmingly take place in the few areas people aren’t allowed to carry concealed handguns, like malls and college campuses, he said.
“In fact, every single multiple-victim public shooting in the United States, in which more than three people were killed, has taken place in an area where concealed handguns are not allowed,” he added.
Singh said he wonders what would have happened if even 10 percent of the thousands of people in the train station had been allowed to carry concealed handguns.
“There were only two armed terrorists, and no one had a single gun to fight them with,” he said.
“We’re talking about 500 people killed or wounded in one day. Even if we could have saved 200, that would be 200 more people going home to their families.”
Ironically, Singh quoted the Indian pacifist Mahatma Gandhi, who had strongly condemned India’s gun law, which stemmed from British colonial rule:
"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest," Gandhi wrote in his autobiography, “Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth.”