some facts about guns, episode 4

A firearms company in India has introduced a lightweight revolver for women, supposedly to deal with the country’s (apparently quite serious) rape problem:

Giving more power to women to defend themselves and as a tribute to December 2012 gan[g]rape victim Nirbhaya, the Indian Ordnance Factory, Kanpur, has manufactured Nirbheek, a .32 bore light weight revolver, India’s first firearm designed for women. At 500 grams, it is also the first IOF handgun made of titanium alloy . . . .

But not all women believe carrying a handgun would help combat harassment on public transport daily. “There is nothing they can do to a woman with a gun that they cannot to one without,” says Shalini Seth, a medical executive touring on most of the week days. “In rape, the threat is not so much to life and a weapon may not be helpful once a tormentor has prevailed on his prey,” she says.

Senior IPS officer Arun Kumar, on the other hand, has a different point of view. “Once a target of rape whips out a handgun, the element of surprise is sure to scare the life out of most of the persons who attempt rape,” he said. “In most of criminal cases in India, the perpetrator, irrespective of whether armed or not, neither expects nor faces any stiff resistance from the target. Women carrying small handguns will surely make a difference to the tendency,” said Kumar, additional director general of police (ADG) heading Rules and Manuals wing of the UP Police.

The IOF Kanpur is confident the revolver will be the ideal weapon for women in India. “Expectedly, the weapon has received a very good response. More bookings are sure to follow . . . .”

Keeping in mind the target clientele, the IOF Kanpur has also ordered specially designed boxes lined with velvet to make it more attractive.

Nice. That’s what a lady’s looking for when she’s thinking about rape prevention — a fancy velvet box.

Interestingly, India already has the second largest number of guns in the world, with some 46 million — although, because of the country’s enormous population, that’s only 4.2 guns/100 people. The U.S., it probably doesn’t need to be said, is first in both per capita and absolute numbers, with about 270 million. China is third in absolute numbers (40 million), though, again, that’s a fairly small per capita rate.

Indians, unsurprisingly, want guns for the same reasons as anybody else:

Vikramjit Singh . . . owns 10 or so; he can’t remember exactly. They may come in handy if the old family feud resurfaces . . . .

“Having a gun 24/7 is a necessity,” he says. “You don’t know if their relatives will crop up again. And an expensive weapon is a status symbol. You can’t flash just any old gun around.”


“Rising incomes have made high-end weapons a new form of bling, and rising crime and memories of Mumbai’s 2008 terrorist attack have left Indians eager to be armed and dangerous.”


Government worker Deep Sidhu sits in his living room feeling the weight of the family’s Luger, a German World War II-era pistol, in his hands. Guns are in the blood, he says beneath a painting of a man toting a shotgun.

“This forgiveness-peace idea will only make Pakistanis think we’re soft targets,” he says.

“All that Gandhi stuff is for tourists,” adds his father . . . . “They should go off to Varanasi, see the holy cows.”

Of course, they also have exactly the same problems with guns as anyone else:

[A]uthorities have discouraged celebratory gunfire at weddings after several accidents, including the recent death of a bridegroom when his uncle’s revelry shots went terribly wrong.

Newspaper headlines detail numerous fatalities, many involving petty disputes: a toll collector killed with a homemade “country pistol,” India’s term for a Saturday-night special, over 50 cents; a 22-year-old man shot dead after a fight about urinating; a twentysomething man killed after jostling in line for water dispensed from a truck. On Jan. 28, five people were killed in election-related violence in the northeastern state of Manipur after the shooting deaths of at least two a day earlier.


Security guard Kuldeep Kumar, 30, lounges in front of an HDFC Bank branch with his far-from-new 12-gauge shotgun. Obtaining a license took ages and heaps of red tape, he says, proudly showing the thick booklet with multiple approval stamps and detailed rules.

The rules punish law-abiding citizens and encourage unlicensed ownership, gun lovers say.

Via The Volokh Conspiracy: Chicago banned the sale of guns anywhere in the city, ostensibly to impose serious transaction costs on gang members — travel to the suburbs — that ordinary citizens wouldn’t find onerous. The Northern District of Illinois has now ruled that the ordinance is an infringement of the right to keep and bear arms, notwithstanding that citizens could still buy guns elsewhere.

In the comments, people analogize to the First Amendment and ask whether it would be permissible for the city to ban the sale of paper and pen. In fact, I would guess that the city could ban the sale of paper and pen, or satellite dishes, or any number of other items associated with speech, because there are so many other avenues open for one to engage in meaningful speech. (Blocking the sale of a particular newspaper, of course, would be a much bigger deal.) This brings us back, again, to the idea of the right to guns rather than a generalized right to self-defense. The right to free speech is not, I think, the right to own or use any particular implement of speech. Whereas the Second Amendment, as understood through the Heller lens, is a right to specific implements (at least handguns, probably “guns” more generally). And that makes it hard to control the externalities of the core right (primarily gun crime, suicide, and accidents). Whereas, of course, there are all sorts of content-neutral restrictions on the implements of speech aimed at reducing the externalities of lawful speech — bandwidth regulation, noise ordinances, anti-billboard zoning, and so on.

You might not be aware of this, but firearms crime has actually dropped dramatically since the early ’90s. Gun homicides per capita have been cut in half, and non-fatal gun violence has dropped by 75%.

This generally tracks the nationwide drop in crime, although, for example, homicides in general have been reduced by a staggering 82%, which is much more than the drop in gun homicides. I’m not sure if that means that we’re all just stabbing much less, or if that figure includes other, non-intentional and semi-intentional homicides that might have declined for other reasons. (E.g., vehicular manslaughter dropping in reaction to aggressive anti-DUI campaigns?)

The whole crime drop phenomenon is a well-known sociological mystery, and I won’t dwell on it (though I like this theory). The point is simply that the environment has changed, and so maybe the balance between the value of firearm ownership and the danger of crime has also shifted.

Should that matter? Should constitutional rights come and go with the social winds? In other areas, like Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the answer appears to be “yes,” as much as I might often wish it were “no.” The presence of threats (or “threats”) like jihadi terrorism and, uh, immigrants who want to pick our produce seems to excuse a lot of invasive searching and seizing.

Of course, the Fourth Amendment, unlike the First and Second, invites a fluctuating calculus by explicitly invoking a “reasonableness” standard. But I do wonder whether it’s merely an accident that the Court finally got around to explaining and protecting the Second Amendment right in 2008, fifteen years after violence in American life peaked. Would Dick Heller and Otis McDonald have found five sympathetic ears among justices who had to live in 1993 Washington, D.C.?

Finally, in the “you won’t attract people to your cause” category discussed here, it’s probably not a good idea to joke about sending out bullets as gifts to commemorate the anniversary of a mass shooting. Just, you know. Don’t do that.

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