Sunday 18 March 2018

Country's gun control laws in the line of fire

ANNOUNCING the new gun licensing measures in the new Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill in 2009, Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform Dermot Ahern said the new laws were 'a necessary step in moving away from the handgun culture which has been developing'.

He said last year that he has been shocked by the growth in the number of legally-held handguns in the State. 'Handguns were effectively banned in the State until 2004, mainly as a result of measures introduced during the Troubles,' he said. 'But following a series of judicial decisions that is no longer the case, and about 1,800 handguns have been licensed. That number will continue to rise unless we take action. At least one judge has expressed his concern at this alarming growth.'

He said he feared the number of handguns could grow exponentially and would equate to that of countries such as the United States unless the issue is tackled. He said his proposals to ban handguns had received the backing of the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate.

The new laws mean that no new licences are being issued for handguns, with very limited exceptions in relation to Olympic sports only. Any existing handgun licences will be subject to the new rigorous licensing procedures where their renewal is sought.

The new three-year licensing system for firearms allows Superintendents to enquire into the medical history of applicants, provide for character referees for applicants, and introduce minimum standards for secure accommodation of firearms.

The bill also focuses on knives and other offensive weapons.

A number of handgun owners in Wexford who have been refused licences for them this year, are appealing the decisions to the district court. The cases have been adjourned, while a judicial review in the High Court is awaited.

Wexford Chief Superintendent John Roche told a Joint Policing Committee earlier this year there are little 'mini armies' in some houses.

He said that of the handguns licensed nationally, a disproportionate amount of these are here in Co. Wexford, due to the presence of a thriving target shooting club in Castlebridge. He said he refused applications for 9 mm pistols, such as Glocks, 'the very type criminals use in robberies'.

'People on a shooting range don't need a 9 mm pistol that's designed to kill,' he said. He pointed out he had at that stage granted 50 applications for .22 target shooting pistols.

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