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Man who imported machine gun components via Dublin Airport given suspended sentence

Damien Graham pleaded guilty after bringing the components from a Florida gun show to Ireland.

A GUN ENTHUSIAST and firearms dealer who illegally imported a machine gun component into Ireland after attending a Florida gun show has been given a suspended six month sentence.

Damien Graham (53) pleaded guilty to four firearm offences at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

The court heard Graham, a licensed firearms dealer, arrived in Dublin Airport with 15 firearm components in his suitcase in November 2021. Two of the items – a machine gun bolt and an assault rifle conversion kit – were imported illegally, the court heard.

Graham, of Ballinagall, Ballickmoyler, Co Carlow, pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited machine gun bolt and importing it at Dublin Airport on 28 November 2021. He also pleaded guilty to possessing an assault rifle conversion kit without a certificate and importing it without a certificate.

The court heard machine guns and machine gun parts are prohibited in Ireland, while Graham did not have a certificate for the assault rifle conversion kit.

Garda Sharon Breen told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were tipped off to the fact that Graham would be arriving on an Aer Lingus flight from the States with illegal firearm parts.

When his suitcase were searched, firearms components were found wrapped in bubble wrap and duct tape and folded into clothes. Graham was initially “evasive” about the parts, initially trying to tell customs officers and gardaí that they were tools.

He ultimately acknowledged that they were firearm components and was found to have certificates for most of the items in his luggage, the court heard. When asked about the illegal machine gun component, he said he had bought it in the gun show sale and didn’t understand what it was.

Garda Breen said she didn’t accept this explanation, given Graham’s attempts to conceal the parts in his luggage.

When asked by Judge Martin Nolan if it was a criminal offence to bring firearms or firearm components on an airplane and into the country without declaring them, Garda Breen said it was not, once the person had a certificate proving they were entitled to hold them.

Garda Breen told the court that Graham was an enthusiast and that she didn’t believe there was anything sinister at play, causing Judge Nolan to remark that “his enthusiasm got the better of him”.

Defence counsel said Graham runs a gun dealership but primarily works in the tools trade, where he has won salesman of the year. She said he was “deeply embarrassed and ashamed to be here today as a firearms dealer ” and that the incident has caused him reputational damage.

Sentencing Graham, Judge Nolan accepted there was no sinister motive involved and Graham was “a gun enthusiast who just wanted to buy this particular item”.

However, the judge noted machine guns and machine gun parts have been illegal in Ireland “for generations at this point”.

He said even if people hold a licence for such items, they should tell everyone involved when they are bringing them on planes. “Surreptitiously trying to bring a component part of a firearm or a conversion kit, it’s a pretty reckless thing to do,” he said.

The judge said he did not believe Graham deserved a custodial sentence and he handed down a six month sentence which he suspended on a number of conditions.