Tribune News Service
New Delhi, dECEMBER 1
There are a lot of worried people in the shooting sports community in India. Their anxiety stems from a bill being tabled in Parliament which seeks to bring down the number of weapons a licence-holder can own.
The Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019, will be tabled on Monday, and once it is passed, it will allow each licence-holder to hold only one weapon, instead of the current three. The Act does not affect the practising sports shooters, but they point out that limiting the number of weapons will hit new and emerging talent.
Olympian and double trap ace Ronjan Sodhi, who has won two World Cup Final gold medals, says the amendment will be a killer blow to sports shooting. Ronjan and his brother Birendeep, a former India international in trap, were given guns by their father Malwinder Sodhi, and that’s how they took up the sport and became champions. Ronjan says this won’t be possible after the restrictions come into effect.
“The first weapon that many buy in the country is for safety purposes, and only then they would buy a sports weapon. I was fortunate that my father had a second or a third gun. That’s how I and my brother started shooting,” Ronjan said.
“Today people are expecting five or six medals from shooters (in the Tokyo Olympics) but by doing this (new Act), they will kill the sport. I understand that they are saying that active shooters will not be affected, but what about people who want to take up the sport?” he asked.
Former national champion Gusti Noria, whose son Asher won the junior World Championships gold in double trap and represented India at the 2010 Asian Games, says the amendments will be disastrous for the sport. “We will not feel the effect of this immediately, but 10 years down the line you will have fewer medals. This Act will indirectly kill young talent,” Noria pointed out. “Our earnest request to the government is that by doing this, we are harming the sport of shooting. This is not the answer to control crime because 99 per cent of the crimes are committed with illegal arms.”
“India has won 30 quotas for the Tokyo Olympics so far, of which 15 have come from shooting. Please do not kill the goose that is laying golden eggs,” he added.
Privilege sport again
Ronjan Sodhi said the restrictions will again make Indian shooting, especially in the shotgun disciplines, the domain of the privileged few. “Earlier only the Maharajahs had the guns, that’s why people still call it Maharajah’s sport,” he said. “This new Act will again make this a sport for a privileged few, who are already shooters. My son can come into shooting, but what happens to the son of a non-shooter? Whoever thought about this amendment must understand the sport.” He said people will be discouraged to take up shooting as it is next to impossible to hire guns in the ranges. “They don’t have many guns, and many guns need repairs,” he said. “The ones that can be used by the general public are never made available. Where will a normal citizen go if he wants to take up this sport?”
We've written to Ministry: Raninder
- National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh said that he has approached the Sports Minister on this matter. “They (Home Ministry) has exempted us to the extent that the sports shooting is insulated from any impact. But this new draft is slightly different from the one which was on public display. This has the potential to damage our future,” he said. “We have written to the Sports Ministry. Let’s wait for Sports Ministry to talk to their counterparts in the Home Ministry to see whether they agree to our genuine concerns.”
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