Handgun culture increasing in the State, says Deasy

 

CURRENT LICENSING laws could mean 10,000 legally held handguns in the State over the next five years, John Deasy (FG) told the Dáil.

“I believe society does not want that,’’ he added.

“It is right to bring some practicality and reality into this debate.’’ Mr Deasy was speaking during the resumed debate on the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which bans new licences for handguns, except those used for Olympic sports.

He said that those who argued that there was no handgun culture, or that the Dáil was treating gun and shooting clubs harshly, or that people should have a right to buy and keep as many handguns as they pleased, should explain how the increased proliferation of handguns and the liberalisation of the law would not harm society.

He added: “The onus is on them to convince me, my colleagues, the Garda and the majority of the public, how more of these weapons could possibly be of any benefit to anyone besides their owners.

“I agree with the sentiment that we have arrived at this point, not because of any public policy decision, but because of legal challenges, court decisions which have had the practical effect, intended or not, of liberalising the laws relating to handgun ownership.

“That is why we need to provide clarity and deal with a situation that was never the objective, aim or purpose of this legislature.’’ Mr Deasy said that 579 new licences were issued last year.

“There is a handgun culture which has grown rapidly, as the figures prove,’’ he added.

“Interestingly, the figures from November 2008, when the Minister announced the ban, are much lower, month-for-month.’’ That trend, said Mr Deasy, seemed to have continued into this year. In the first four months, 81 handgun licences were issued, while 215 had been issued for the corresponding period last year.

“It is clear that some superintendents around the country have stopped issuing these licences pending legislative clarity,’’ he added.

Mr Deasy said that gardaí in his constituency had referred him to a robbery in which the robbers left the shotgun and rifle but took the handgun.

The members of the 40-odd gun clubs might be of good character, but the more handguns licensed meant more making their way into the hands of criminals, he added.