Women in Delhi are rushing to apply for gun licenses in the aftermath of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student who died in hospital last weekend, but most will be left defenseless as a result of India’s strict gun control laws.
The story again illustrates how draconian gun control policies only serve to disarm victims while emboldening criminals.
On December 16, a couple boarded a bus in the Munirka area of Delhi on their way to Dwarka in the south-west of the city. The woman, who remains unnamed, was subjected to a brutal gang rape that lasted almost an hour before she and her companion were beaten with iron bars then thrown out of the bus into the street. The woman died from her injuries at a Singapore hospital last weekend. Six men were arrested for the murder and could face the death penalty.
The incident generated massive public outcry against the treatment of women in India and a call for tougher anti-violence laws. Figures show that a woman is raped in Delhi every 14 hours and rape cases have doubled in India since 1998. Government efforts to step up police patrols have failed to reduce the rate of violent crime targeting women.
After the story prompted global condemnation, women across Delhi responded by flooding the city’s licensing department with calls demanding to know how they could obtain firearms for self-defense.
“We have received over 1,200 calls since that day. These include not only the average working woman, but even students who travel long distances to colleges and even their concerned parents. They were eager to find out more on the procedure to acquire arms,” a Delhi police officer told the Times of India.
There have already been 274 applications from women since the incident, but most will be left defenseless as a result of India’s draconian gun control laws. To be granted a gun permit in India, applicants have to prove that their life is in immediate danger.
Typically, less than 10 per cent of women who apply for a gun are granted a license, and the majority of these are under an inheritance clause which allows them to own a firearm if their husband or father had a permit. In 2010 and 2011, over 600 applications for firearms in Delhi were rejected. The licensing system is also discriminatory against women, forcing parents to hand over weapons to their daughters as the only way to ensure self-defense.
When hundreds of concerned women turned up in person at the Delhi licensing office, they were told that the threat of rape and violent crime “could not be reason enough” for them to obtain a firearm, and officials were ordered by their superiors to hand the women a letter assuring them that “their daughters were indeed safe on Delhi’s roads.” How a letter would be any use against a violent rapist was not explained.
Almost all of the women who apply for a gun in the interests of self-defense following the gang rape will see their applications rejected and will continue to be at the mercy of sexual predators with no means of protection, once again re-affirming the fact that gun control laws create more victims while aiding violent criminals who are free to target the innocent knowing they will face little or no resistance.