A one-and-a-half decades' struggle of animal rights activists has finally yielded result as the Central government has ordered that sale of pellet or air guns will be only through a licenced arms dealer.
The activists had been campaigning against unrestricted sale of pellet guns as they claimed that these weapons were being used against birds, squirrels and dogs and a joint petition was made to the government for restricting their sale.
The move to restrict sale of pellet or air guns was made after a sustained campaign by animal rights activists and on the recommendation of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
Interestingly, security forces continue to use high calibre pellet guns on pro-freedom protesters in Kashmir despite a huge public outcry as the guns have severely injured about 4000 civilians, fully or partially blinded about 700 and killed about nine protesters during the ongoing unrest.
According to a notification issued a few weeks ago, sale and transfer of pellet guns can only be made through a registered arms dealer.
Earlier, it could have been procured from shops easily.
The fresh notification said that "sale, transfer and keeping for sale or transfer of all types of air weapons including air rifles, air guns and paintball markers or guns irrespective of the muzzle energy or calibre or bore shall be only through the authorised arms and ammunition dealers or the air weapon dealers licenced under these rules".
A pellet gun having muzzle energy less than 20 joules can only be sold against an identification and residence proof of the buyer and such a gun with muzzle energy of more than 20 joules will be sold only through an authorised arms and ammunition dealer to a valid arms licence holder.
An air gun releasing two joules energy can kill a bird, five joules energy can kill a monkey and 20 joules can kill a human being.
AWBI while making its plea to the Union Home Ministry had said that air guns, air pistols or air files procured without a license would adversely affect the animals.
Animal right activist Gauri Maulekhi of People For Animals (PFA), an organisation which has been spearheading a campaign for banning unrestricted sale of air guns, said her organisation had received hundreds of complaints about its misuse.
"PFA received hundreds of complaints from people about how their neighbours were shooting stray dogs and how children were doing target practice on birds and other animals.
"To us this suggested a trend which led to a stakeholder consultation and then we decided that there should be some kind of restriction," she said.
PFA had first moved the Delhi High Court in 2000 seeking ban on unrestricted sale of air guns, air pistols and air rifles and secured a favourable order in 2002.
However, the order was challenged by National Rifle Association of India and Manufacturers of Toy Airgun, Rifle, Pistol and Pellet Association in the Supreme Court which stayed the high court verdict prompting the activists to approach the government again.
"We told them that a pellet gun is a killer and that gun is going to be used on either birds or squirrels or dogs. It is creating a whole viciousness. You either license them or remove them," Maulekhi said and expressed her happiness over the government order which was issued in later part of July this year.