Wednesday 29 January 2020

Armed gardai won't deter serious criminals

Wicklow People Reporter, Deborah Coleman. Picture Garry O'Neill (No Reproduction Fee)
Wicklow People Reporter, Deborah Coleman. Picture Garry O'Neill (No Reproduction Fee)

The issue of an armed police force has been raised again this week as the Garda Representative Association holds its annual conference.

Increasing levels of violent crime are said to be the main reason for calls for regular community Gardaí to be armed but the impact of such a definitive change cannot be understated.

Gardaí today are responding to situations which are more and more perilous, more and more dangerous and they are endeavouring to police a level of gangland crime that is more wealthy, dangerous and armed than ever before.

Many feel that the playing field would be more level, were officers to be armed.

Certain units already have firearms at their disposal and the proper training to go with it so where is the merit or benefit to having firearms rolled out across the board?

Gun culture and gun crime is something that has become a very real threat to society - particularly in the United States where matters have gone so out of control that proper reform will take a generation.

At present, all criminals don't walk around with a weapon in their pocket, but if the Gardaí were all suddenly armed, then this would change, in my view.

I cannot pretend to know what it is like doing the job they do, and certainly it takes a certain type of person to put themselves in the firing line for the safety of others.

They go into volatile situations every day where thugs display threats and violence towards them and they cannot be blamed for seeking that extra level of protection.

However, if we move to a fully armed police force, there can be no doubt that society would change in some ways.

Having Gardaí who are trained to effectively diffuse a volatile situation and to judge how a violent person should be dealt with should, for the most part be enough to police the majority of towns and villages in Ireland.

Fully introducing guns to the force wouldn't necessarily make me safer on the streets but rather fear what the fallout would be when those who the Gardaí are trying to police, emerge with more weapons and less scruples when there is a chance that they, themselves could be shot.

It comes back to penalties and the power of the courts to enforce tougher sentences and stricter bail conditions so that there is a bigger deterrent.

Wexford People