The story so far: The U.S. recently witnessed two episodes of mass shootings in a span of 11 days that killed more than 30 people including elementary school children. In 2020, it had witnessed 24,576 homicides, of which approximately 79%, or 19,384 incidents, involved the use of a firearm.
What do gun laws in the U.S. say?
The Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”, is often attributed as the root cause of all firearm-related violence. The U.S. Supreme Court previously held that the amendment protects the right to “keep and bear arms” for self-defence, while federal courts argue of a potential infringement if federal, state and local firearm regulations circumvent this right.
How are Arms regulated in Canada?
Canada introduced legislation to amend its Firearms Act on Monday. It is proposing to institute a ‘national freeze’ on handguns — preventing sale, purchase, transfer and import of handguns into Canada. The legislation is of particular significance because handguns were used in 49% of all firearm-related homicides in 2020. Possessing a fully-automatic weapon, unless registered before 1978, is illegal in Canada. Gun licences are valid for five years and accorded to individuals at least 18 years of age upon completing the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. Vetting is undertaken to ensure that applicants do not have a history of violence, are suffering from mental illnesses or were previously barred from the process. The proposed legislation would revoke licences from holders deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. (by means of partner violence, gender-based violence, among others). It is mandatory for individuals and businesses to update records before transferring ownership of non-restricted items. In 2020, firearm-related homicides constituted 39% of all homicides in the country.
How do gun laws work in Japan?
Acquiring a gun in Japan is particularly difficult — one has to present a series of documents, establish their ‘needs’, undertake an approximately month-long training on handling and safety, pass a scrutiny of criminal records and medical health, and then an exam to prove eligibility. Buying a weapon too requires a separate certification (from the dealer) mentioning the desired model.
Applicants must be 18 years, not suffering from mental illnesses, not having a license revoked less than five years ago, not dependent on alcohol or narcotic substances, and have a fixed residence.
Any violation is punishable with an imprisonment for a period up to three years, which could extend up to five years or more along with a fine of 10 million yen if done for “purpose of profit”. The Council on Foreign Relation states that “some analysts link Japan’s aversion to firearms with its demilitarisation in the aftermath of World War II. Others say that because the overall crime rate in the country is so low, most Japanese see no need for firearms”.
How is it in New Zealand?
The turnaround in gun-law legislation in the country came in 2019 following the mass shootings that took place at two mosques in Christchurch.
The legislation now requires firearms dealers to provide licence numbers of all its employees at a facility, including those not directly involved in handling any arms but having access to the premises.
It is now also mandatory for all weaponry to have an identification number. In case a dealer receives an item without the same, they are required to have them stamped or engraved within 30 days of receipt. Applicants must be at least 16 years of age and undertake training in handling and storing firearms, and pass an exam. The vetting process requires the applicant to furnish contact details of known people to ascertain that she/he is a ‘fit and proper person’. In addition, if an applicant has resided overseas for six months or more in the past 10 years, she/he would have to provision a criminal history check from each country.
What about India?
Gun licence applicants in India must be at least 21 years and not convicted of any offence involving violence, of ‘unsound mind’ or a threat to public safety and peace. Upon receiving an application, the licensing authority (i.e., the Home Ministry), asks the officer in-charge of the nearest police station to submit a report about the applicant after thorough vetting.
The Arms Act amended in 2019 reduces the number of firearms that an individual can procure from three to two.
Indian laws are particularly elaborate in dealing with sale and unlawful trade of weapons. It also enlists specific provisions on curtailing the use of licensed weapons to ensure social harmony. No entity is permitted to sell or transfer any firearm which does not bear the name of the maker, manufacturer’s number or any other visible or stamped identification mark. Any act of conversion (such as shortening the barrel of a firearm or converting an imitation firearm into a firearm) or unlawful import-export is punishable with an imprisonment term of seven years, which may extend to life imprisonment and be liable to monetary fines.