What Happens When the Right of Self-Defense is Taken Away

Drudge linked to a Reuters story that both heartened and saddened me. Here’s an excerpt:

“India’s radical Hindu nationalist party governing Mumbai has handed out kitchen knives and chili powder to women following a gang rape in the capital New Delhi that ignited a national debate on the best way to tackle sex crimes.”

My first reaction was to think “good for these women and good for the Shiv Sena party for helping to empower potential victims.” And then moments later I felt terrible that the best defense against rape that these women can hope for in their own country is a tasty spice and a kitchen implement. Of course, it’s better than nothing and it is great to know that Indian women, who have for generations been the victims of a misogynistic culture and a government that has been unwilling and unable to protect them, are standing up for themselves. The story noted:

“Mumbai police said they were examining the knives and considering legal action.

“This is a symbolic gesture,” said Shiv Sena spokesman Rahul Narvekar, adding that a knife shorter than six inches in length does not fit the definition of a weapon. The party also handed out small bags of chili powder – apparently to throw into an attacker’s eyes.”

The problem, as you’ve already guessed, is that India maintains extremely strict gun laws. You have to demonstrate to the government that there is credible threat to your life in order to even be considered for a weapon license. Of course, this hasn’t stopped terrorists from perpetrating terrible attacks against the Indian people, including the 2008 Mumbai slaughter. It has, however, served to make the Indian public a softer target. The situation is even worse for Indian women, who are constantly at risk of sexual assault and are, ironically, statistically less likely to be granted a gun license. From Russia Today:

“Hundreds turned up at the police department seeking permission to get a gun for self-defense, with officers having to explain that “a clear danger to one’s life” should exist for someone in India to be given a license.

“They said that with even public transport no longer safe in the city, they just cannot take chances. When we told them this could not be reason enough, we were told to provide in writing that their daughters were indeed safe on Delhi’s roads,” the officer added. Not only do the women of India suffer from male violence with impunity, they are also discriminated against in their rights to legally acquire arms, the Indian National Association for Gun Rights said. “The fact that even parents are ready to hand over weapons to their daughters shows they are living in fear. There is a 20% increase in self-defence courses across the city,” he concluded. Out of more than 800 applications for guns received from women over the last two years, only a few dozen have been accepted by the Delhi police, with just a handful of licenses granted on the grounds of personal threats. Others were rejected as “no personal safety threat was assessed,” though “self-defense” is an increasingly popular reason provided in applications. This may not stop some of the parents from buying guns on the black market, or illegally manufactured weapons. Of 40 million firearms in the hands of Indian civilians only 6.3 million have been registered, the international bulletin of firearm injury prevention GunPolicy.org estimates.”>

Reading a story like this reminds me of what we’re fighting for. If you are thinking “it can’t happen here” you need to realize that it already has in many parts of the country. For example, in D.C. you are not allowed to carry a knife with a blade longer than three inches. Pepper spray is illegal, as are stun guns and tasers. And of course, you are facing serious jail time if you choose to exercise your right to carry a firearm for personal protection.

The threat to our rights is real. It recedes from time-to-time, but it is always present. There are people in this country who would look to India’s gun laws as a model for the US. This despite the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the revelation that horrific sexual assaults of the sort that gun control proponent Stephen King might write about are common. India should not be an inspiration for us, it should be a cautionary tale.

About the Author

I'm a political analyst by vocation, but not of the sort of politics I'm looking at on this site. Having had the good fortune of experiencing a number of foreign countries, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the USA is the only place for me. Although it may not seem like it sometimes, this country is still the freest, and hence the greatest on Earth. However, I worry that some of the rights and freedoms I value are under threat, so I started this site to blow off some steam and air some of my views in the hope of starting a conversation with other people out there. I'd love to hear what you think about my ideas even if you don't agree with them.