Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, has announced the signing into law of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.
Minister Ahern said: "This Act is about halting the emergence of a gun-culture in Ireland. Experience in other countries shows us that any relaxation of controls on gun ownership or registration very quickly results in dramatic growth in firearms with many longer term negative downstream consequences. I will not allow that happen on my watch."
The Act introduces the most far-reaching gun control measures since the foundation of the state including:
· A ban on handguns.
· A ban on ‘practical shooting’ (a self styled extreme shooting activity).
· Ministerial powers to prohibit particular firearms or categories of firearms in a precise manner.
· A requirement for referees, background medical checks and standards for the safe keeping of guns in the home for all firearms licence applicants;
· Radically tightened licensing procedures for the renewal of currently licensed guns;
· New regulations governing target shooting Clubs and Ranges.
· Those involved in target shooting (rifle and pistol) will be subject to a more rigorous authorisation procedure by the Garda Commissioner;
· A new three year licence with outsourced fee collection and licence production resulting in greater efficiency and improved customer service at garda station level;
· New guidelines on licensing matters, published by the Garda Commissioner, which will be available to the public.
Minister Ahern continued: "The modernisation of the licensing system is a big step forward and will result in a better system all round, with benefits accruing at many levels. This Act gives the Garda Commissioner the additional powers he needs to address matters relating to firearms licensing."
To deal with the issue of ‘realistic imitation firearms‘, the Act introduces a range of measures including restrictions on their import, sale and use. Three of these measures will be introduced:
· it will be an offence to brandish a realistic imitation firearm in public;
· Garda Superintendents will have the power to authorise ‘airsoft’ venues; and
· the establishment of a register of dealers.
Minister Ahern concluded: "The vast majority of licensed firearms holders have nothing to fear from the bringing into force of these provisions of the Act. Instead, the Act provides for a modern, comprehensive licensing regime, while at the same time outlawing unacceptable practices."
On the issue of knife crime, the Act gives the Gardaí increased powers of search and also introduces scope for increased penalties and prosecution on indictment.
The Act also contains a number of other elements including amendments to the European Arrest Warrant Act of 2003, which are being proposed with a view to improving the operation of the European Arrest Warrant system in light of the experience of its operation since 2003.
The Act also contains a number of minor technical changes to other statutes including the Bail Acts and the Theft and Fraud Offences Act 2001 and the Criminal Justice Act 1984.
The full text of the Act is available on the Oireachtas website www.oireachtas.ie
24 July 2009