Written answers

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Firearms Licences

10:00 pm

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Question 89: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of licensed handguns in respect of each year from 2002 to date in 2009; the number of licensed handguns that were reported as stolen; the number of such stolen guns that were subsequently used in crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14264/09]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy will be aware that prior to 2004 there was a de facto ban on handguns in this jurisdiction. However, I understand from the Garda Authorities that records indicate approximately 2,000 handguns have been licensed since the beginning of 2004. The most recent figures on stolen firearms were received on 16 December 2008 and indicate that 31 handguns were recorded as stolen since 2004.

I am further advised that stolen firearms are used in the course of the commission of other criminal offences but, because not all stolen firearms or firearms used in the commission of offences are recovered, it is not possible to say precisely how many formerly legally held handguns have been used in criminal offences.

As I have stated on a number of occasions I am concerned with the situation we now find ourselves in following the growth in the licensing of hand guns over the past few years. We now have these 2,000 handguns licensed, and not as a result of a considered or deliberate public policy decision. As Mr. Justice Charleton said in a recent judgment the public is entitled to feel alarmed at the proliferation of handguns. I am not going to permit the growth of a 'handgun' culture. It was against this background that I announced my proposals for reform in this area, which include a ban on issuing new licenses for handguns and a strict regime for renewal of existing licenses, with limited exceptions made in relation to Olympic sports.

The House may note the endorsement of these proposals by the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate who draws on her own considerable experience of policing in the United States. She has recently been quoted as saying that a lot of guns used in the commission of crime in the States are guns that have been stolen from their rightful owners. We must have controls in place to prevent the same thing happening here. My proposals will be reflected in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which I will be publishing imminently.

It is important to say that my proposals in relation to handguns will not impinge directly on the activities of the vast majority of licensed firearms holders. I recognise that those firearms holders pursue their legitimate interests in a law abiding way and am anxious to have a well regulated sector in which those interests can be successfully pursued, in cooperation with the relevant authorities. But the reality is specific issues arise from the inherent nature of firearms.

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