Concern over rise in gun ownership

GARDAÍ have expressed concern at the sharp rise in the legal ownership of handguns in recent years.

Figures show that the number of handguns licensed has jumped from one in 2004 to 1,835 in 2008.

The main Garda association, and senior Garda sources, said they were concerned about the rise in semi-automatic and automatic handguns. They called for handguns to be banned or to put heavy restrictions on their use and storage.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he was concerned and would soon review the law surrounding handguns.

Gun clubs said there was no significant rise in semi-automatic handguns and superintendents had the right to refuse licences.

Michael O’Boyce, president of the Garda Representative Association, said: “Anything that increases the danger to the public or our members we have concerns about, particularly the increase in the availability of handguns.”

Senior gardaí complained of the continuing lack of legislation governing the area. “The .22 target pistols for target shooting don’t cause too much damage, it’s the 9mm Glock or .45 or .44 automatic we would be concerned about,” said one superintendent. “These are weapons we consider to be military police weapons. These have a magazine with 11-13 rounds, with a rapid rate of fire. These are not for sporting purposes.”

He said the lack of legislation meant it was up to each superintendent to decide whether to issue or not.

Mark Dennehy of the National Target Shooting Association said the figures should not be a cause of concern. The rise was over a period of four years and all the firearms issued were legal before 1972, when they were all taken into custody during the Troubles and not released to owners until the end of the 1990s.

He said their estimates suggested there were only around 100 to 150 people using “full bore” firearms (.32 calibre up), including the likes of the 9mm Glocks. He said a Firearms Consultation Panel, comprising the shooting associations, Garda and the Department of Justice, were looking at the area and trying to find solutions which would feed into the minister’s review.

Firearm figures

TOTAL number of firearms licensed:

2004 — 215,304

2005 — 221,609

2006 — 221,449

2007 — 227,287

2008 — 233,120

SHOTGUNS:

2004 — 170,236

2005 — 173,556

2006 — 171,916

2007 — 174,832

2008 — 177,455

RIFLES:

2004 — 44,967

2005 — 47,596

2006 — 48,536

2007 — 50,986

2008 — 56,689

HANDGUNS (pistols and revolvers):

2004 — 1

2005 — 347

2006 — 882

2007 — 1,339

2008 — 1,835


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