NEW DELHI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- India will have a national database for all licenced gun holders from April next year, the government said.
The Home Ministry said in a notification that the names of all licenced gun holders across the country will be included in the national database and they are also to be given a unique identification number (UIN) from the next financial year.
"Every licensing and renewing authority will have to enter the data in the National Database of Arms Licenses system, which will generate a unique identification number (UIN), and w.e.t. April 1, 2019, any arms licence without UIN shall be considered invalid," the ministry said.
Sources said the move by the Indian Home Ministry would enable law enforcement officials across the country to keep a track on all licenced private gun holders and crack down on them in case they were found to be indulging in crimes that could endanger people's lives.
According to GunPolicy.org, a global group, India has 40 million privately-owned firearms -- second only to the United States -- but only 15 percent of them are legal. And police officials say the black market in arms flourishes in India as 85 percent of guns owned are illegal.
But for those who legally own guns, getting a licence is not an easy task.
"The minimum age criteria for a licence is 21 years. Moreover, the applicant has to prove a genuine reason such as a threat to their life for acquiring a licence and undergo a medical check-up to demonstrate their sound mental health," a police official said.
"On top of these, the applicant can't have a criminal record. And civilians can only own handguns and under no circumstances possess automatic weapons," he added.