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Gun violence is not just a US problem, it has reached our Indian schools

Monday, March 5, 2018

An eighteen-year old boy brought a firearm to his school in Jacobpura, Gurgaon putting 600 other school children in imminent danger.

What is more worrisome is that he brought the firearm to school just so he could show it off to his friends.

While the boy in question and his friend whom he took the gun from have both been arrested, this new aberration in violence that is plaguing our schools and putting our children in harm’s way seems to only be gaining clout.

Just last month, an eighteen-year old boy marched into the principal’s office in Swami Vivekananda School in Yamunanagar and shot her three times. Few hours later, she died in a private hospital. The reason for this heinous act? The principal refused to accept his late project report submission following his record of plummeting class attendance.

For all his puerile, frivolous words and actions, there was one statement made by President Trump that I agree with. The heinous acts of opening fire on unarmed, innocent civilians portrays a deep-rooted mental health problem. A problem that also undeniably reflects on the inadequate upbringing of the culpable child.

A recent Gulf News Report on India estimated the number of firearms in the hands of Indian civilians to be a whopping 40 million of which only 6.3 million are registered weapons. The disturbing image in the news piece shows a bejeweled lady in her red sari draped demurely over her head, handling a gun at a newly-opened Lucknow firearms store in 2002.

It feels like it was just yesterday when the news of Ponty Chadha, the liquor baron, being gunned down at his family farmhouse near New Delhi by his own brother did the rounds. Or that of Jessica Lal, Pramod Mahajan, journalist Jyotirmey Dey and Gulshan Kumar to name a few prominent victims. In recent times, gun violence has also seeped into the anatomy of our political landscape with journalists like Gauri Lankesh being murdered in cold blood for being anti-establishment or our newspapers even today being flooded with children, men and women being shot dead for increasingly inane reasons, giving rise to an insidious problem much like that of sexual assault.

When this problem crosses the threshold of schools where our children are supposed to be safe – a second home away from home, there is nothing to feel except heart broken and helpless.
The recent Florida school shooting that witnessed the mass murder of 17 persons and 14 other severely injured victims was declared one of the deadliest school massacres in the world. The perpetrator was arrested who confessed to his crime but the profound loss of those 17 school students sparked the fire that led a number of the surviving students to become gun activists and lead country-wide protests, demanding the need for stricter gun control laws. This school shooting even managed to shake up the sitting president of the country, the man who was instrumental in overhauling the anti-gun laws instituted by the former president Barack Obama and true to his erratic form proceeded to suggest placing guns in the hands of “skilled” school teachers. However, in a stunning double take, during a televised meeting with lawmakers last week, President Trump appealed for the need for comprehensive gun control measures and stricter background checks before their purchase.

India too needs to weigh in on the need for introducing stricter punishments for owning firearms illegally. Currently, the laws are lenient for illegal possession, but this July the Indian cabinet has decreed that a verification report has to be sought by the police before issuing gun licenses. While the debate is strong on both sides of the gun ownership fence, there is no denying that an increased number of firearms in the hands of civilians can only lead to more danger. So much so that school going children are now bringing guns to class and firing at their classmates and teachers – guns taken from their parents.

Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI) is working with Delhi Police to help civilian gun owners obtain adequate training in the safe use of guns. The problem also lies in the corrupt manner in which stolen arsenal becomes the further loot of politicians and security companies in auctions. As reported by a Manipuri native, author and founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, 90% of arsenal is owned / manufactured by governments. When vigilante armed groups loot governments for this arsenal, they become illegal weapons, which on capture are then auctioned off to dubious politicians and senior officials instead of being destroyed.

Walmart in the US sells guns like it does household rations. Our country, luckily, has not reached that far with the sale of arsenal but a re-look at the ease with which licenses are given and background verifications are done, if at all is paramount. Mental health might be to blame in many cases and many counselling sessions with both parents and students can be undertaken.

But we simply cannot be lax when teenagers are pulling out and waving around guns in their classrooms instead of tiffin boxes.

Source: blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com



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