Use of realistic ‘toys’ by criminals forced Justice Department to act against imitation firearms

The State wants to control the unregulated trade in imitation firearms, because they can be a “threat to public safety”, if misused.

David Stanton invited opinions on regulating imitation guns.

Fake firearms continue to be used by criminals in robberies and burglaries, and have even been aimed at gardaí.

Nineteen imitation guns were seized by gardaí in investigating crime in 2015.

Minister of state at the Department of Justice, David Stanton, yesterday announced a review of the controls governing ‘realistic imitation firearms’.

Mr Stanton said this will involve a public consultation and he has asked individuals and organisations to submit their views by May 1.

“Realistic imitation firearms pose a threat to public safety, when misused,” said Mr Stanton.

“While I recognise that law-abiding members of the public gain enjoyment from the responsible use of realistic imitation firearms, such as at authorised airsoft venues, I want to protect this lawful use by ensuring the right regulatory framework is in place.

“I am inviting all interested parties to express their view on matters such as sale, purchase, and marking of realistic imitation firearms.”

Replica firearms are largely unregulated, including private possession and use, import, or sale.

A realistic imitation firearm (RIF) is anything that has the appearance of being a firearm (other than weapons already included in the Firearms Act, 1925), whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet, or other missile.

The statutory controls that currently apply are section 9A of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990.

Under that act, a realistic imitation firearm is defined as “a device that appears to the observer so realistic as to make it indistinguishable from a firearm”.

The department said RIFs are not defined as firearms under the law and that, consequently, the usual statutory controls associated with firearms do not apply.

These controls include:

  • Licensing of private possession and use by An Garda Síochána;
  • Import/export under licence issued by the Minister for Justice;
  • Sale through registered dealers;

Section 9A provides for an offence of having an RIF in any public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, and Section 9B provides that gardaí may authorise the use of RIFs at specific venues.

The department said the importation, sale, and the age at which RIFs may be purchased are unregulated. It added that while members of the public enjoyed using RIFs in a responsible, legal manner, in the hands of criminals these realistic-looking ‘toy guns’ may pose a threat to public safety.

www.justice.ie

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