Ted Nugent would be pleased.
Millions of women in India have purchased handguns in recent years to protect themselves from crime, violence and sexual assault.
As more women attain higher education and jobs in India than ever before, they have increasingly become a target for criminals and sexual predators.
As a result, a large number of Indian women are arming themselves to fend off criminals, and something of a “gun culture” has emerged in the country.
In fact, India reportedly has about 40 million guns in circulation (a modest number compared to its 1 billion-plus population) -- but even so, the country ranks second in the world behind the United States in terms of gun ownership.
However, India has strict gun control laws, and getting licenses for weapons is very difficult -- which means that most of the country's pistols and revolvers are owned illegally.
Dr. Harveen Kaur Sidhu, an affluent 33-year-old woman who lives in Chandigarh, Punjab, explained to the Guardian why she carries a revolver in her pocketbook.
I don't have faith in the police to protect me, she said. There are so many attacks on women these days. It's everybody's right to defend themselves. I think all women who are vulnerable should be carrying guns.
In Punjab, which has a long military and warrior tradition and is probably the center of India’s gun culture, more than 31,000 gun licenses have been issued to women.
A lot of lower-class men, they harass women, so a gun is very good way of telling them to back off, an anonymous Punjabi woman told the Guardian. If I am coming home late at night on my own, it is very necessary. Even if the police come, it is too late.”
India has an organization called the National Association for Gun Rights India (NAGRI), which, like the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the U.S., advocates for citizens to have easy access to purchase handguns.
“During colonial times, British imperialists disarmed the entire Indian nation -- to further their own agenda, NAGRI's website states. However, 63 years after independence, the rights of our citizens are once again being trampled over -- this time by our own democratically elected government! All citizens have the natural God-given right to self-defence, which is recognised by the Indian Constitution as well as the Indian Penal Code; however this right is meaningless without the right tools of self-defence!”
We are not trigger-happy people, said Rakshit Sharma, NAGRI's secretary general, the Guardian reported. We are looking at [using firearms] as a last resort. We see [guns] as a force equalizer.”
Sharma added that his group receives many inquiries from women who want to know how to obtain a gun and stay within the law.”
Business is very, very good, a Punjab gun-seller boasted to the paper. Better than it's ever been. People buy weapons, 10 percent for security and 90 percent for status. People will happily spend 80,000 rupees [$1450] on a foreign-made handgun.
Sexual crimes are escalating in India, too, particularly in the capital of New Delhi.
There are so many incidents, especially in Delhi, Dr. Sidhu said. Women who are working or who are travelling should definitely have a gun. Why should I be dependent on someone else, even my husband or the police, for my own safety? I should be independent. Imagine all the problems and mishaps which could be avoided if women could defend themselves properly. The females have to be self-armed and protected and should send out a strong message that we are not taking this anymore.
Under India’s constitution, Indians are not explicitly permitted to possess guns; however, the 1959 Arms Act does grant citizens that right. Groups like NAGRI want to simplify the government's cumbersome and restrictive process for getting gun licenses.
India has a huge problem with illegal guns -- estimates suggest that almost 90 percent of homicides in the country are perpetrated by killers owning illegal weapons.
We are outraged, said Abhijeet Singh, who founded a group called Indians for Guns ,in an interview with the Washington Post a few years ago. We are not murderers. Instead of going after real criminals, the government is indulging in window dressing by bringing in gun control laws that target law-abiding citizens who have licensed guns.”
See here for a discussion of the rape crisis in Delhi, India.