Almost one legally held firearm has been reported stolen or lost every day, on average, over the last four years.
Garda figures show 1,134 firearms have been reported stolen between 2010 and 2013 inclusive, and that a further 159 have been reported lost.
Such weapons are targeted by gangs specialising in the theft of firearms who sell them on to other criminals.
Interim Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan said that “a responsibility falls on all firearms owners” to ensure every precaution is taken to ensure their guns don’t “fall into the hands of criminals”.
An annual report compiled by the Garda chief, and published yesterday by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, shows that 168,597 firearms certificates were in force at the end of 2013.
Ms O’Sullivan said that as certificates are renewed every three years, the 168,597 figure does not accurately reflect the total number of firearms.
At the conclusion of the first three-year firearms licensing phase, in July 2012, there were 218,684 certificates, she said.
In addition to the 168,597 in operation at the end of 2013, there were 3,121 non-resident firearms certificates granted to people not ordinarily resident in the State.
Other figures in the Garda Annual Review of the Operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009 show:
- Four new shooting ranges were authorised by local superintendents last year;
- 16 shooting ranges were authorised at the end of 2013;
- 20 rifle and pistol clubs were authorised at the end of 2013, the same as the previous year.
Ms O’Sullivan said 809 restricted firearms certificates were issued during the year.
She said that “a responsibility falls on all firearm owners to ensure that every precaution is taken to ensure their firearms remain secure and do not fall into the hands of criminals”.
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