THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Many aspiring and budding shooters in the capital are facing various challenges due to lack of shooting ranges for practice to get gun licence. The Thiruvananthapuram District Rifle Association (TDRA), constituted in 2007 to nurture shooting talents, had been lying defunct until recently.
Though the capital has one of the best shooting ranges set up by the state sports department at Vattiyoorkavu, the facility is inaccessible to the public and shooter fraternity. Sources said the department charges exorbitant fees.
Sanjeev Rajan, a young medal-winning shooter from the capital, had to set up a range at home for practice. “I have been training for the past four-and-a -half years. Neither the sports council nor the sports department provides facilities for shooters in the capital. Here it is considered a luxury sport. Only people with a good financial background can pursue a career in the sport,” said Sanjeev, who won two medals at the recent Kerala Games. “Before the pandemic, the sports department used to charge Rs 500 monthly for practice at the Vattiyoorkavu range. However, after reopening, they have hiked it to Rs 2,000 per week. It’s unaffordable for people like me,” said Sanjeev.
The recently reconstituted TDRA has placed a special request before the state government to reduce the fee for imparting training to aspirants. “The association had been lying defunct for the past 10 years. We revamped it only recently. Since then, a slew of enquiries from techies, youngsters, and students are coming in, but the association is unable to provide admission because we don’t have a shooting range. I get a minimum of six-seven calls daily. Shooting is good for improving focus and concentration and many people want to learn it,” said TDRA secretary Manoj T. He said the association is now planning to set up a private range.
The Kerala State Rifles Association is planning to spot at least 200 shooting talents in the state by 2030. “There are hardly around 40-50 qualified shooters in Kerala. We aim to scout for talents in the rural areas, bring them to the fore and make them competent shooters,” said Manoj. The association also plans to form shooting clubs to increase the popularity of the sport. “If educational institutions or private parties are ready to set up ranges, we will provide the services of certified trainers and all technical support,” said Manoj.
‘Insufficient & expensive’
The Kerala Police recently launched arms training for civilians applying for gun licence. The department has made certification mandatory for getting a licence. However, many in the field said the police too are charging an exorbitant fee.
Anoop Kaushik, a gold medallist, said the training course offered by the police costs around Rs 25,000. “The course is strictly for .22 calibre guns. They should have covered other kinds of guns too,” said Anoop. The only gun models that don’t require a licence in the state are 0.177 calibre air rifles and air pistols. The price of such an air rifle is around Rs 14,000. The peep sight air rifle costs around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 while the 0.177 air pistol costs around Rs 40,000.
“Many people are hesitant to buy licensed guns because of the hassle involved. The authority doesn’t issue a licence within the timeframe and the applicants are made to run from pillar to post to get the clearance. Often the police authorities don’t give favourable certificates to gain the licence. It’s a very complicated process and some people are still waiting, having submitted the application around one-and-a-half years ago,” said Anoop, who also runs an armoury shop in the capital.
Vimal Kumar T, a trainer and gold medal holder, said there is a lack of awareness among the public and often people forget the physical and mental benefits a person can gain from practising shooting.
“There is a huge misconception surrounding this sport. Even private coaching is not allowed here,” said Vimal.
How to get a gun licence
As per the Indian Arms Act non-prohibited bore (NPB) licences can be issued to an Indian national who clears the following criteria:
Self defence: Individuals who could be prone to attacks for reasons such as being wealthy or facing genuine threat, etc.
General security: Applicable for security personnel of banks and other high-security institutions. This also covers gunmen and protection units of VVIPs.
Crop protection: Those who have agricultural or similar land that needs protection from non-scheduled pests and vermin, such as boars.
Sports: Those under sports shooting discipline
Returning NRI: Any NRI, who has owned a gun at his foreign residence for over two years, can apply for a licence and bring in the firearm they owned abroad.
Foreign nationals: On obtaining security clearance, foreign nationals can carry a firearm for up to six months during their stay in India.
Retired defence officers: Those who served in the armed forces can obtain special licences
- Applications can be submitted online to the district collector, with valid documents and a fee of Rs 1,000. (https://ndal-alis.gov.in/armslicence/applyOnline.do)
- Police clearance certificate, after background checks
- Personal interview to check if the applicant is mentally sound
- The district authority shall call for a report from the superintendent of police, tahsildar and the divisional forest officer concerned
- Applications will be forwarded to the local police station for verification
- Competent authorities make thorough assessments regarding threat-based requirements of the arms by the applicant, capabilities of use, safe handling of the arms, physical fitness of the applicant, etc
- If the report is satisfactory, license will be granted
- Civilian training certificate from the police
- Applicants should fill the National Database on Arms Licence form
- Submit it to the Arms Act Department for generating unique ID