Mark Dennehy

The proposals for firearms ownership in Ireland was published on Friday.

How much bang for our buck?

Firearms expert Mark Dennehy writes:

This story started with proposed changes to the existing firearms legislation last November and which wound up in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee in January this year and which saw dodgy statistics, some seriously dodgy reporting and some truly epic unintentionally comic gaffes.  the Minister for Justice  [Frances Fitzgerald] on Friday published her intended policies for firearms legislation and they look pretty decent to most of us.

In short, what’s going to happen is this:

A new civilian body, the Firearms Assessment and Appeals Authority, will be created. It will act as a way to appeal licence refusals outside of a courtroom by having an independent expert look over the application decision.

The courts will remain an option; but this should save on a lot of hassle, stop a lot of court time being wasted by misinterpretations of the Firearms Act caused by a lack of training budgets and save Garda man hours for better uses.

Semi-automatic centerfire rifles will no longer be licencable. Those who have licences for them now can apply to keep the licences based on having a good reason to keep them. This will require a new Firearms Bill to be put before the Oireachtas, we’ve not seen that Bill yet.

The Minister has already signed a Statutory Instrument that clears up some confusion over licencing smallbore pistols for target shooting, which should help settle several court cases pretty much immediately. It’s not perfect (revolvers seem to be a bit badly considered in it) but it’s a lot better than what went before and it’s a lot easier to administer.

The Gardai will establish a centralised licensing system for restricted firearms, which will make things far more consistent for those classes of firearms. This will also require a new Firearms Bill.

The Garda Inspectorate will review the administration of firearms licensing. This could lead to firearms licencing being devolved to a civil service function, as is already done everywhere else in the EU. That way, we would have experts managing licencing while the Gardai are freed up from managing a sport to do other far more important things (though they would probably still be responsible for vetting the actual applicant). Again, that would also require a new Firearms Bill.

There will be no changes whatsoever to the licensing of shotguns and the vast majority of rifles which make up 99% of licensed firearms in Ireland.

Lastly and probably most importantly, the Firearms Consultative Panel, a body that brings together all the stakeholders from the Minister to the Sports Council to the Gardai to the various national governing bodies of sport, will be reestablished.

This means that in the future, problems like this will be dealt with in regular, unsexy, scheduled, minuted meetings like any other branch of bureaucracy. No more table-pounding, no more court cases, no more electioneering, just boring, dull, unsexy, effective, mundane laws that everyone can understand and read in one place, with an official communications channel to cope with everything from new legislation to product recall notices. And we can all get back to actually training and competing and winning matches and enjoying our sport.

Not everything in there is positive. Lots of folks shoot perfectly safely with semi-auto rifles and this is not the news they wanted to wake up to today.

And personally I look forward to the idea of a Firearms Bill being debated in the pre-election silly season on the floor of the Dáil by Deputies [Finian] McGrath and [Michael] Healy-Rae in the same way I look forward to having all my teeth pulled without anaesthetic — and I will bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets right now that that particular circus is not going to produce trouble-free legislation because grandstanding on legislation for technically complex areas is a recipe for disaster.

But on the whole, this is good news – the Minister has taken just about every decent idea that was thrown at her and has run with them and also opened up a permanent line of communication to stop problems like this coming up in the future. I’m kind of in shock about that to be honest…

Pic: Mark Dennehy

47 thoughts on “Their Aim Is True

          1. ReproBertie

            If only WADA would adopt the optics method of steroid detection.

            Professional rugby players who spend most of their time following training programmes and diets drawn up by strength and conditioning experts and sports nutritionists get to the size they are through steroid use. Yeah right. No doubt there are some that cheat but it’s not nearly as accepted or widespread as it is in sports like cycling, soccer and athletics

          2. realPolithicks

            “No doubt there are some that cheat but it’s not nearly as accepted or widespread as it is in sports like cycling, soccer and athletics”

            If you actually believe that I have this lovely little bridge I’d like to offer you.

        1. Charley

          From memory there’s around 200k licenced firearms in the state , probably the same again undeclared , that’s a lot of lethal toys.

          1. Mark Dennehy

            Nobody knows how many unlicenced illegal firearms there are in the state, if the Gardai knew enough to get a count, they’d know enough to confiscate them.

            Also, two Ministers for Justice have been asked how many illegal firearms there are in the state, including the current one, and both said the same thing – if they knew enough to count them, they’d be in a garda evidence locker, not “out there somewhere”.

          2. jungleman

            How many legally held firearms have fallen into the wrong hands (including children) in Ireland?

            How many legally held firearms have been used for criminal purposes in Ireland?

          3. Mark Dennehy

            You know the illegal ones are already illegal and the legal ones aren’t killing anyone, right? I mean… it’s kindof right there in the names. “Illegal” and “Legal”…

          4. ReproBertie

            Do you know the answers to your questions Jungleman or are you just throwing out random fear stuff?

            I have no idea of the numbers but from Mark’s posts am under the impression that the required gunsafes are a bit sturdier than you might have us believe.

          5. Mark Dennehy

            How many legally held firearms have fallen into the wrong hands (including children) in Ireland?
            How many legally held firearms have been used for criminal purposes in Ireland?

            Actually, we asked that a while ago in the Dail. For pistols, which were what was being discussed at the time, the answer was zero. The only pistols we know of which were owned legally, stolen, and subsequently used in a crime came from the PSNI, not civilians in Ireland.. For shotguns and rifles, some were stolen before the new security regulations came into effect, but we don’t actually know how many because the statistics are so bad – that’s what the dodgy statistics reference in the first paragraph is about. We do know they’re not the source of the guns the drug gangs are using to cause 99% of the gun crime out there, because you can’t legally licence the things they’re using and they’ve been caught smuggling them into Ireland in large quantities (there was one single seizure a few years back that had more pistols in it than were licenced legally at the time; and things like submachine guns are illegal throughout the EU and have been since the 90s). And we also know that those which were stolen were not the kind that people were getting worried about, because there were few of those and they were still all accounted for.

            But even the central statistics office wouldn’t accept the Garda statistics on this, so we don’t have many hard answers for you yet – the Garda Inspectorate will be auditing the stats and that should produce those, but it’ll take time.

          6. jungleman

            Well thanks for giving me an honest answer, regardless of your initial response which was to try to ridicule a very valid question! No repro, I don’t have the answers which is why I asked the questions… You’ll note Mark admitted he doesn’t have an entirely accurate answer to my questions either.

          7. Mark Dennehy

            I didn’t ridicule the question, I gave the same answer two Ministers for Justice have given to it.

            Unless you think all of the above are ridiculing the question… or you’re reading a reply not pointed at you?

        1. Mark Dennehy

          Hm. Well, 22 years of target shooting. Was on the Olympic team for a few years, represented Ireland in a few small international matches, won some medals. Helped run two shooting clubs – one the largest in Ireland, one the most successful in 10m shooting. Trained about a thousand people to shoot in total. Was an ISSF-qualified judge for a few years, though I think that’s lapsed now (haven’t checked in a while). Helped run the NGB for a few years. Helped write the 2006 firearms act and 2009 firearms act (the DoJ included the NGBs in the initial drafting process), and wound up studying the Firearms act for about a decade in order to do that.

          But beyond that, no.

      1. Anne

        When a gun’s pointed at your face, I’d imagine that your first thought aint gonna be ‘I wonder is that a legally owned firearm?’.

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