Invitation to disaster? Cops: Get gun licence first, learn how to shoot later

Police scrap mandatory firearms training before grant of licence, say it can be done within 6 months of getting gun; experts unhappy with move, cite recent cases of accidental firing to highlight dangers of rookies handling weapons.

Despite two recent cases of accidental firing that left two people injured in the city, the Police Commissionerate has done away with the mandatory firearms training before grant of arms licence to civilians.
Experts say the move might prove risky. They say there is the potential danger of irresponsible handling of firearms leading to unhappy consequences, even fatalities, all because of lack of training.

Representation pic

The police, on the other hand, claim the step was taken as they came across cases of people with suspected criminal background being allowed to use the firing range at government-approved institutes. The Administration Department at the Pune Commissioner office issues arms licences to civilians under the Arms Act of 1959, Section 13. The department feels it was necessary to do away with the mandatory training as it feared anti-social elements could approach arms training institutes approved by the state government and end up acquiring or sharpening their skills.

Police reasoning
Sources in the Administration Department claimed that a few cases of people with a criminal background being allowed target practice at such institutes had already come to light. The police said they also found serious violation of norms, where some people were allowed to practise without a background check done on them. "The clause which made it mandatory to hold an arms training certificate was removed in July this year as we found cases where some criminal elements were allowed target practice at firing ranges," said Assistant Police Commissioner Vasant Soanawane. "To avoid such incidents in future, we have asked licence-holders to furnish arms training certificate within six months of their being issued a licence."

Training experts say
A Y Kulkarni of the Lethal Force Institute, which trains bodyguards of VIPs, armed guards of nationalised banks and mainly police officers, said it may not be a good idea to let a person possess a firearm without the necessary training. "Granting licence without training can be risky, considering the potential danger of irresponsible handling of weapon. It is like asking a layman to perform an operation and then go for a degree in surgery. If a person who does not know how to handle a weapon is granted an arms licence, his curiosity about the firearm could lead to a serious eventuality," said Kulkarni. He added that the institute always followed all norms before allowing anybody use of its facilities.

"At our institute, we do not impart arms training at our shooting range without getting hold of the necessary character verification from the police station under the jurisdiction of which a person lives," said Kulkarni. "We are aware of the dangers involved. In case a suspicious person approaches us, we not only deny him training but also inform the law enforcement agencies in order to verify his credentials." Rana's Rifle Club director Chandrakant Mandlik said the new step might even lead to casualties as a result of accidental firing. 

"We strictly follow the instructions issued by the Commissioner's office and the Collector's office and do not allow arms training without checking the antecedents of the interested person," said Mandlik. "In addition, we also submit a monthly report about people who have acquired training to the Commissioner's office."

The number of people in the city who possess firearms, which include shotguns, rifles, revolvers and pistols

Procedure for getting gun licence
A person can apply for an arms licence after submitting all the necessary documents. Besides necessary documents validating the reason for which the arms licence has been sought, a host of certificates like birth certificate and school leaving certificate need to be submitted. The application is then forwarded to the police station concerned to verify the person's background. Once it is cross-checked and stamped by an officer of the level of deputy commissioner, the application is referred back to the city police commissioner for a final decision.

Recent cases of accidental firing
>> A constable was injured when colleagues' service revolver went off by mistake at the Traffic Office earlier this month
>> Six months ago, a retired army man was injured in Dehuroad while cleaning his firearm
>> A civilian was injured in Solapur when his firearm fired accidentally last year

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