People living in the countryside should to be able to apply for gun licences to protect themselves and their property, according to a rural TD.
Michael Healy-Rae, who holds certificates for three different guns, said firearms were very restricted in Ireland. They are linked to pest control and game hunting or sports, and one had to be a member of a gun club, or own land, to be granted a licence, he said.
However, the Kerry South TD said changes in rural Ireland meant communities now have to police themselves against ever-more aggressive and armed criminals. He claimed that with whole swathes of the country left without a rural Garda station, legislators may have to now open up the debate around legally held guns.
It may be time to extend the gun licensing categories for personal protection of home and property, he said.
“I am speaking solely in the context of rural Ireland, which is very different to urban areas,” said Mr Healy-Rae.
In his own region of South Kerry and West Cork, vast tracts from Lauragh to Kenmare to Castletownbere are now without protection, the Independent TD added.
“I am raising the matter in the Dáil and asking that another licence category be added to allow for the protection of rural dwellers.”
Some years ago, Mr Healy-Rae threatened to take out a licence to hunt “marauding” deer — he did not confirm yesterday if one of his licences was to shoot deer.
Mr Healy-Rae said he was open-minded about gun control — he felt that not issuing guns to rank-and-file gardaí had been a success.
However, he said it was time for debate.
Each firearm needs a separate certificate — these are issued by local Garda superintendents. There are currently 220,000 firearms certificates on issue in this State, according to gardaí, and these are renewed on a three-yearly basis. The vast majority of registered civilian firearms in Ireland are sporting shotguns and hunting rifles.
Gardaí have reminded firearms license holders they have an obligation to ensure that firearms are stored safely and securely, both in the home and while travelling to a shoot or to a hunt.
For example, a shotgun must be disassembled and each part of the weapon must be stored securely and separately when not in use, and the trigger housing must be secured against use with an appropriate trigger lock.
Gardaí last week warned anybody with firearms to store them in a gun safe, securely fixed to a solid structure.