Significant drop in the number of stolen firearms

Reduction due to better compliance with gun storage laws, says Government

Particularly significant is the drop in thefts of handguns, from 12 in the period 2010-2013 to just one in the last three years. Photograph: Johnny Green

Particularly significant is the drop in thefts of handguns, from 12 in the period 2010-2013 to just one in the last three years. Photograph: Johnny Green

 

The number of legally-held firearms stolen during burglaries has fallen significantly in recent years, according to figures obtained by The Irish Times.

The drop is thought to be a result of increased adherence to Garda guidelines on secure gun storage as well as increased awareness about gun security in the home.

Last year 94 licensed firearms were reported stolen including 78 shotguns, 14 rifles and one pistol. A further 62 guns were lost by their owners.

In 2015, 121 firearms were stolen while the figure for 2014 was 152, according to the figures that were provided by the Department of Justice in response to a query from Labour’s justice spokesman, Seán Sherlock.

The Garda used to disclose the numbers of stolen firearms in an annual report but has not done so in the last three years.

According to the previous figures, an average of 280 firearms were stolen every year between 2010 and 2013, with 355 taken in 2013 alone. However these figures overestimated the issue as they were compiled under an old reporting system which characterised gun safes, scopes and other firearm components as individual guns.

Nevertheless the 2016 figures represent a significant fall-off in the number of stolen firearms. Particularly significant is the drop in thefts of handguns, from 12 in the period 2010-2013 to just one in the last three years.

Robberies or murders

Stolen handguns are seen as particularly likely to be used in robberies or murders. One such gun was used in the murder of Paul Corbally and his brother Ken in Clondalkin in 2010.

A Department of Justice spokesman put the decrease in stolen guns down to legislation introduced in 2009 that is finally beginning to show results.

The 2009 legislation increased the level of security gun owners must have in place when storing their firearms.

The new measures included a requirement for owners of multiple guns to store them in different safes while individual shotguns must also be disassembled and the parts stored separately in a home.

“While this legislation was introduced in 2009, the full effect of its intentions are now being felt through its consistent application over the intervening years to 2016, coupled with an increased awareness and compliance among firearm certificate holders with their legal responsibilities to securely store their firearms,” the spokesman said.

He said there has also been increased interaction and co-operation between gun owners and gardaí. In many instances gardaí must visit a gun owner’s home to inspect the security arrangements.

Public awareness

A public awareness campaign by the Garda about gun security may have also contributed to the reduction in thefts, he said.

“Obviously the recent trend showing a reduction in thefts of licensed firearms is welcome but to continue this downward trend, it is imperative that all licensed firearm owners continue to ensure that their firearms are stored securely and in accordance with the legislation.”

There are about 200,000 legally-held firearms in Ireland. The laws on firearm possession have been gradually strengthened over the years, often to the anger of groups such as the National Association of Sporting Rifle and Pistol Clubs and the Wild Deer Association of Ireland.

These groups dispute the links drawn by gardaí between stolen guns and crime and have lobbied against government proposals to ban all handguns and many types of rifles. Currently handguns are legal only in very limited circumstances.