The Arms Act: An Overview

Through its armed forces, such as the army, and its law enforcement organisations, such as the police, the State defends its citizens. When necessary to defend the state and further its interests, these defence troops and agencies are permitted to use lethal force and weapons by the State. Citizens are typically not allowed to use or own firearms or guns since the State is responsible for upholding law and order and providing for national security

The Arms Act, 1959, and The Arms Rules, 1962, both ban the sale, manufacture, possession, acquisition, importation, exportation, and transportation of firearms and ammunition unless authorised by a licence.

What does Arms Act Define?

Only the military forces and law enforcement organisations are permitted to use firearms and ammunition in India. However, the regulations governing gun ownership and use by civilians are extremely rigid and tightly controlled. The Arms Act of 1959 is the main piece of gun control legislation in the nation and forbids the sale, manufacture, possession, acquisition, import, export, and transportation of firearms and ammunition without a licence. The British initially implemented gun control laws in India in the form of Arms Act, 1878 as a means to forbid Indians from possessing firearms and to avert any sort of uprising or mutiny against the British authorities.

The older Arms Act of 1878 because the earlier law was colonial and prevented Indians from possessing arms without a permit. In order to overcome these barriers, Independent India enacted the Arms Act, 1959. The Act came into force on October 1st, 1962.

Prohibited Arms and Ammunition

Section 2(i) of the Act defines "prohibited arms" as firearms, including artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank weapons; weapons designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas, or other thing; firearms so designed that if pressure is applied to the trigger, missiles continue to be discharged.

"Prohibited ammunition" as per section 2(h) includes ammunition designed or adapted to contain any noxious liquid or gas; rockets; bombs; grenades; shells; missiles; articles designed for torpedo service and submarine mining; and similar articles.

Acquisition, Possession, Manufacture, etc. of Arms and Ammunition Act

The following provisions relate to permissible acquisitions and possession of arms and ammunition under the Act −

  • For the possession or acquisition of any arms, it is essential to obtain an arms possession licence from a licencing authority as per Section 3 of the Act. A person who carries arms or ammunition without any licence is liable to be punished under Section 25 of the Act, except in cases where he is carrying it under the written permission of the licence holder or in his presence for the purpose of repair or use or renewal of a license. A person cannot carry more than three firearms.

  • The possession of arms other than firearms and ammunition requires no license, except when the Central Government is of the opinion that such arms also be regulated in light of situations prevailing in any area. In such a case, carrying such arms is an offence.

  • No one may manufacture, sell, transfer, or transfer any weapon or ammunition unless he has a licence to do so.

  • A person requires a licence for the shortening of guns or the conversion of imitation firearms into firearms.

  • A licence is required for the import and export of arms and ammunition.

  • Acquisition, possession, sale, or purchase of any prohibited arm or ammunition is prohibited unless a person has the authorisation of the Central Government for the same.

  • There is a prohibition on the acquisition or possession by or sale to persons below twenty-one years of age and some other persons as mentioned in the Act, etc.

The Act ensures strict regulation of the circulation of illegal arms and ammunition through these provisions.

License Issuance

The procedure for obtaining a gun licence in the country is laid down under Section 13 of the Act. The applicant has to submit an application to the licencing authority in the required form along with the licence fee, passport size photo, address proof, date of birth proof, identification proof, and medical certificate.

Also, the licence can be granted if it is needed for self-defence purposes; general security of banks and institutions; protection squad of politicians and VVIPs; crop protection from boars in the case of agricultural farmers; sports purposes such as shooting; foreign nationals may be allowed for a maximum period of six months under valid reasons.

A licence may be refused by the Licensing Authority in accordance with the provisions contained in Section 14 of the Act.

According to Section 15, any such licence granted under the Act shall be valid for three years unless revoked before that time. It can be renewed for the same period and is renewable from time to time.

A licence may be varied, suspended, or revoked as per the provisions of Section 17 of the Act.


Any person aggrieved by the order of the licencing authority in relation to refusal of grant of license; revocation; suspension; variation, may prefer an appeal against the Appellate Authority.

Procedures and Powers

Sections 19–24 relate to the powers of enforcing agencies such as police or magistrates.

They have the following powers 

  • Power to demand the production of a licence from any person who is carrying arms or ammunition.

  • Power to arrest anyone found carrying a weapon or ammunition in circumstances that raise the possibility that he is carrying them with the intent to use them.

  • Requiring the deposit of arms and ammunition from any person when their possession ceases to be lawful.

  • Power of search and seizure, search of vessels and vehicles for arms.

  • Power of seizure and detention of arms and ammunition on order of the Central Government.

Offences and Punishments

Sections 25–31 of the Act provide for punishment for all any such person found carrying or/and using any sort of arms without arms license or written permission.


 The Arms Act of 1959 significantly modifies numerous outdated regulations to accommodate the requirements of the contemporary independent India. The Arms Act of 1959, which established the guidelines for gun control, was successful in achieving its goal.

It has been observed that the regulations have become more lenient in granting permits for the possession of weapons on the grounds of self-defence, sports, and crop protection, which has resulted in favourable advancements in India's gun policies. However, the country may not be prepared to implement fast changes to gun laws and policies because doing so would place a heavy burden on society and the government in terms of societal hazards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the objectives of Arms Act?

Ans: The main objectives of the Act are:

  • To reduce the illegal manufacturing and sale of firearms in order to reduce crimes relating to them.

  • To make dangerous weapons unavailable to civilians to maintain social peace and order.

  • To make weapons available to citizens only for self-defence and only under authorised licences.

  • To make weapons required for training purposes available on a permit basis.

Q2. What is all about Arms (Amendment) Act, 2019?

Ans: The amendment of 2019 seeks to reduce the number of permitted firearms from three to two; increase penalties for dealing in unlicensed firearms; shortening or converting a firearm without a license; and importing or exporting banned firearms.

Q3. Is right to possess arms a fundamental right?

Ans: No. It is not appropriate for India to acknowledge the right to keep and bear guns as a fundamental freedom. Gun ownership ought to be a privilege bestowed by the government on law-abiding citizens rather than a fundamental right.

Q4. How many sections are there in the Arms Act?

Ans: It consists of 46 sections contained in six chapters.

Updated on: 11-Jan-2023


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