A REVIEW OF firearm licensing in Ireland has prompted questions over how gun owners will be compensated if they lose currently legal guns.
The Department of Justice confirmed that a joint review of licensing is currently underway with An Garda Síochána, although no concrete proposals are yet in place.
Licenses can be sought for a number of different firearms from the age of 16.
Sport and hunting
It is thought that over 200,000 licenses have currently be issued, with the majority being shotgun and rifles used for sport and hunting.
A very limited number licenses for handguns have been issued, although only for target shooting.
Background checks are carried out by gardaí when a license is applied for, which must be renewed every three years.
Restricted firearms, such as shotguns and rifles with a magazine capacity of more than three rounds, can only be used in designated gun clubs, of which owners must be a member of.
Shotguns, which can obtained for vermin control or hunting, must be stored disassembled, while restricted firearms or multiple non-restricted must be stored in alarmed safes.
TDs Dara Calleary and Mattie McGrath submitted questions to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter last month as to whether a compensatory scheme will be put in place if changes to current licensing laws are introduced to offset the effect it would have on gun-owners whose firearms become illegal.
They both noted that the resale market in Ireland for these firearms would be ‘non-existent’.
“In light of public safety concerns highlighted by the Garda Commissioner and difficulties in the interpretation of the legislation expressed by members of the judiciary,” Minister Shatter responded, “my Department is examining key issues relating to firearms licensing in conjunction with An Garda Síochána.
“Opportunities for consultation with relevant stakeholders will be explored when work on the proposals is further advanced,” he added.
The National Association of Sporting Rifle and Pistol Clubs (NASRPC) has expressed concern at the potential changes, highlighting recent moves by gardaí to revoke licenses for some pistols.
Essentially all centre-fire handguns were banned several years ago, meaning that owners would have to return the gun to a dealership, and either sell it to a foreign market or re-apply through the courts to keep the firearm.
“The logical progression of this policy if applied uniformly is that ultimately almost all currently licensed .22 pistol Firearm Certificate holders will lose their Firearm Certificates,” a statement on the group’s website reads, “either by revocations in the short term or by refusals to renew upon the expiry of the license.”
The statement also notes that many of these decisions by gardaí have later been overturned in the courts, stressing that this places a drain on the ‘public purse’.
They say this shows that legislation is being interpreted incorrectly.
It is advising its members to write to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter using a letter available on their website.
The organisation stresses that these guns are not being used in crimes, saying “may be licensed in accordance with the legislation as enacted by the Oireachtas and for which there is “no evidence of them being a problem in the state”.
CSO figures show that there were 1116 incidents since 2008 where a firearm or firearms were reported stolen following robberies, thefts, and other incidents.
128 occurred last year. Read the full statistics here.