THE ruling at Tuam District Court that overturns a Garda decision not to grant licences to two young men who wished to buy semiautomatic handguns underlines the urgent need to reform gun ownership legislation.
The Garda objections were overruled because the two men already held shotgun licences and the judge contended that “a gun was a gun”.
Such an analysis suggests that our judiciary need to familiarise themselves with the lethal capabilities of semiautomatic handguns. Any suggestion that a 9mm pistol, capable of firing 17 high-velocity rounds without pause, is in the same category as a shotgun is dangerously wide of the mark.
Such rationale would support an application for a licence for a Kalashnikov or Uzi automatic assault weapon, a consequence no one could accept.
The Tuam weapons were designed for military or police use and have no place in the normal lives of private citizens or target shooting.
Worryingly, the court was told that 2,000 9mm handguns are already held by private citizens, many more in other calibres may also be in circulation.
The vast majority of these weapons are in responsible hands and will never be used illegally by their owners but that is not the issue. By their very presence in our communities we run the risk of these lethal weapons falling into the hands of criminals who have shown no compunction about using them.
Hundreds of thousands of Irish people own guns for traditional purposes. They behave responsibly and their privileges should not be curtailed.
However, legislation that defines more precisely the kind of weapons acceptable in our society is badly needed.
Unless it is forthcoming we run the risk of indirectly arming criminals, the awful possibility of a Dunblane-type tragedy and the unnecessary curtailment of access to sporting guns.
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