State facing 200 cases against new gun laws

Sat, Feb 5, 2011, 00:00

THE STATE is facing a serious legal challenge to the ban on handguns and restrictions on other firearms, with almost 200 gun enthusiasts lodging judicial review cases against new gun laws.

The large number of cases represents an unprecedented level of challenge to any legislation introduced in recent years.

According to the Department of Justice, a total of 175 judicial reviews had been lodged at the end of last year arising from the refusal of the Garda to grant gun licences.

That figure is now believed to be closer to 200 cases.

Those refused gun licences have become dissatisfied at the manner in which their applications were handled by the Garda and at what they see as the lack of transparency in the appeals process.

National director of the National Association of Regional Game Councils Des Crofton said the gun enthusiasts his organisation represented were not being told the grounds upon which they were being refused a licence.

“People who have had firearms for years and years are now being told they can’t have one, but they are not being told why,” he said.

“The local chief superintendents or superintendents refusing the applications won’t give the applicants their file, so when the applicant goes to court to fight it they really have no grounds for the appeal.”

Over 200 people have taken their cases to the District Courts to appeal the licence refusal and have lost.

Some 175 of these have lodged judicial reviews. Mr Crofton said he expected “hundreds more” cases.

Under new laws introduced in 2009 by the then minister for justice Dermot Ahern, handguns were banned and new restrictions were placed on other weapons.

The Government’s decision to introduce the tougher gun licensing regime was prompted by the growing number of handguns being licensed.

The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was enacted in August 2009, banning handguns and making it much harder for people to get licences for other weapons.

Those who apply for a gun licence must show they have good reason for wanting a gun.

They must also demonstrate they are sound of mind, do not have serious criminal convictions and have a modern safe in which to store weapons.

Mr Crofton claims those being refused licences are not being told what requirement they failed to meet.

He also claims restrictions introduced on rifles above a certain calibre are being interpreted by the Garda as a “blanket ban”.

He says many of the judicial review cases before the courts are challenging the Garda’s interpretation of gun laws in all these areas.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said because it was the Garda that granted gun licences, the matter was one for the force.

A Garda spokesman said because there were cases before the courts it would be inappropriate for him to comment.