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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
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# Firearms
Minister commits to meeting gun groups before any changes made to firearm ownership rules
A public consultation on proposed changes to firearm ownership rules is now open.

JUNIOR JUSTICE MINISTER James Browne has said he will meet with gun owner groups ahead of any policy or legislation change to firearm licensing in the State.

An expert group tasked with making recommendations on a range of issues – including who should have access to firearms in the state – has suggested that the current firearm licence system be replaced with different types of firearms certificates. 

According to published figures from An Garda Síochána in 2020, there were 208,835 active gun licences.

The Firearms Expert Committee (FEC), which was established by the Government last year, recommended that first-time applicants for all firearms should be required to undertake appropriate training on an authorised range.

A graduated approach to the licensing of first-time licence applicants should be set up, such as the introduction of a provisional firearms certificate, the group recommended. 

First-time gun owners

It also said that gardaí should routinely condition the licences of first-time applicants or applicants seeking to use new calibres of firearms to require them to use the gun under the supervision of an experienced shooter, which is the case of Northern Ireland.

The committee also agreed that legislation should require a firearm certificate holder to spend a minimum number of hours using that firearm on a range each year in order for the firearm certificate to remain valid or to be eligible for a renewal.

Club membership should be required when a firearm is sought for the purpose of recreational hunting or game shooting, said the group. 

Since the report delivered its recommendations, TDs Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy Rae have called on the minister to ensure he will meet with gun owner groups before any changes are made to the licencing system.

Minister Browne has now launched an online consultation platform to allow stakeholders to indicate their level of support for the recommendations. 

“Any proposed changes to policy or legislation arising from any of the recommendations of the FEC will be subject to prior consultation with firearms stakeholders,” he said.

He encouraged as many people and organisations as possible to engage with this process to make their views known.

While he has sought written submissions on the recommendations, Browne said he intends to meet with gun owner groups.

The review was set up a few months after the victim’s rights organisation AdVic said in the wake of the tragedy of a Kerry murder-suicide – where Eileen and Jamie O’Sullivan were murdered and Maurice O’Sullivan took his own life – that the rules around gun ownership in Ireland should be reviewed.

The bodies of Eileen O’Sullivan (56) and her 24-year-old son Jamie were found inside their home in Ballyreehan, close of the village of Lixnaw in September 2021.

Eileen’s partner Maurice O’Sullivan (63) was found outside at the rear boundary of the house. All three had sustained gunshot wounds and a legally-held firearm was found in close proximity to the body of Maurice O’Sullivan. 

When asked at the time about whether such a review should take place, Micheál Martin, who was Taoiseach at the time, told The Journal that the devastating enormity of the events needed to be evaluated and reflected upon.

He said such incidences had happened elsewhere around the country in recent times, stating that “it is a very significant worry”.

“So I do think we need to reflect on that and learn lessons from it and then apply it in a number of areas … I think we can’t ignore events of this kind,” Martin said at the time. 

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