Gardai order audit of country’s gun owners

13 June 2010
By John Burke, Public Affairs Correspondent

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has ordered an audit of the country’s gun owners, amid concerns over the ‘‘large number’’ of unregistered firearms across the country.

Firearms groups were informed about the audit on June 2, the same day that 12 people were shot dead in Cumbria by taxi driver Derrick Bird. The audit will be conducted in ‘‘early July’’, according to correspondence seen by The Sunday Business Post.

It will be carried out by garda superintendents in each district nationwide, under legislation originally devised to tackle organised crime gangs.

The nationwide audit is aimed at people who own licensed guns, but may have lapsed in re-licensing some or all of their firearms.

Anyone found in possession of an unlicensed gun faces the prospect of their ‘‘firearms being seized or may even render them liable to prosecution’’, according to the correspondence.

The audit will follow National Firearms Awareness Day, which is designated for this Wednesday, when gardaí will be making themselves available at garda stations nationwide to advise on how to obtain permits under the new three-year licensing system.

Prior to the new licence system being launched, there were more than 230,000 firearms licensed in the state, of which more than 177,000 were shotguns.

‘‘Large numbers of firearms owners have still not yet re-applied for their new three year firearm certificates,” according to the letter from the gardaí to gun groups. All old gun licences expire at the end of this month.

The government is engaged in a dispute with gun groups over the new licensing regime, as well as recent garda decisions over the issue of permits for certain handguns.

The state last week said it would oppose a High Court application by a pistol shooter, Patrick Herlihy, who has challenged a District Court judge’s refusal to grant him firearms certificates for six pistols – the judge refused to grant certificates for the guns on the grounds of their lethal nature.

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