Today the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality issued the following statement:
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has this morning agreed to seek a range of academic perspectives as part of its on-going consideration of a recent review of firearms licencing issues. The Committee hopes that the input of experts, with independent analysis of the current trends in Ireland and optimum policy in other jurisdictions, will assist the Committee as it considers this complex policy area.
The Committee has also agreed to write to the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald to ask her to consider requesting the Garda Inspectorate to independently assess the procedures and practices related to firearms licencing and the proposals contained in the Firearms Review, which was published by the Joint Department of Justice and Equality / Garda Síochána Working Group last November.
Following a call for public submissions, the Committee hosted a series of meetings in December and January with both the Working Group and representatives of shooting clubs with concerns around the Review’s findings. A delegation from the Committee also visited Garda HQ and Nurney Firing Range last month to hear at first hand the differing perspectives on the issue.
Committee Chairman David Stanton TD says: ““Having issued a call for public submissions and hosted valuable discussions on the Review’s findings in Leinster House, the Committee understands that there are differing perspectives on the holding of firearms and firearm licensing. The visits to Garda HQ and the Nurney firing range last month– and the detailed briefings received – helped to further inform the Committee in shaping our own response to the Review. “This an extraordinarily complex and emotive policy area, and the Committee remains intent on charting a balanced and proportionate course as it weighs up the strong arguments on both sides. We are acutely conscious that any policy decisions taken in this area must be underpinned by reliable statistics and an understanding of best practice in other jurisdictions. With this in mind, the Committee is now seeking advice from leading academics working in the area, and may decide to invite them to engage with the Committee at future public hearings. The Committee also agreed to ask Minister Fitzgerald to give consideration to engaging the Garda Inspectorate to conduct an independent analysis of the issues at hand.”
Well, if you were watching RTE tonight, you pretty much know why a hundred thousand or so people in Ireland are feeling fairly annoyed at the use their TV licence fee has been put to tonight.
The full debacle is up on the RTE player here if you really want to torture yourself more:
But instead, I’d recommend writing an email to email@example.com. Here’s mine in case it’s of any use to you:
I wish to make several complaints regarding the above Prime Time
report, on the grounds that it violated the Broadcasting Act 2009,
Section 39(1)(a) and 39(1)(b). My specific complaints are:
There were some interesting moments from the Joint Committee presentation, so I thought I’d extract them from the several hours of footage and post them up here as I went. Here’s the first, my own personal bugbear (and please note the Deputy accepting the point at the end, because the Examiner missed that bit…):
(You’re probably going to have to click on that to read it, but it’s a large image; here’s the pdf if you want it)
Everything in black is an Irish Act (primary legislation). Red is an EU directive. Blue is an Irish Statutory Instrument (secondary legislation). Anything in italics has been repealed and is just there for historical accuracy (there’s only three).
I’ve tried to keep the Acts as close to an accurate place on the time index as I can, but with the SIs I just tried to keep them readably closely associated to their respective acts.
I’ve omitted minor Acts (like the various finance acts bar the most recent one pertaining to us) which make only minor rules that wouldn’t affect most of us day to day.
Everything in the green box must be read together to form the Firearms Act, as amended.
And ye wonder why the legislation side of things has eaten so many manhours in the last decade?
The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality will meet on Wednesday 21 January 2015 in CR2 LH2000 at 10 a.m. to consider the following:
Hearings on submissions received in relation to the review of firearms licensing Session A: 10 a.m.
[Mr. Nicholas Flood; Mr. KJE Balinski-Jvndzill; Representatives from the Wild Deer Association of Ireland; Harbour House Sports Club; National Target Shooting Association and National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) will be in attendance]; Session B: 2.30 p.m.
[Mr. Phillip Slattery; Mr. Mark Dennehy; Mr. Jeff McCann; Dr. Albert Jordan followed by representatives from the Irish Firearms Dealers Association; National Rifle Association of Ireland; and National Association of Sporting, Rifle and Pistol Club will be in attendance]
(Funny side note, Dr. Albert Jordan is the guy who first taught me how to shoot twenty-odd years ago. Small world).
Would have mentioned all this earlier, but I had to prepare an opening statement with a short deadline (of about forty hours, including the time lost by not seeing the invite, the will-I-won’t-I decision making time and trying to talk to a few of the other groups about what they were covering to avoid duplicating effort, and , you know, sleeping, eating, working and toddler-related stuff). So, sortof a rush. And apparently the powerpoint system in there doesn’t work so well, so my original plan to just show this image wasn’t a runner…
Oh well. It would have been memorable. (And given them a break from the 200+ submissions they’ve received).
So here’s my actual opening statement (and here’s the pdf in case the formatting is mangled by the whole document->blog post conversion again):
Dear Deputy, I’m a licenced firearms owner, who owns two rifles and a pistol. I have used them to represent my country in Olympic target shooting and I have medalled for Ireland in a minor international match. I have been shooting for a little over twenty years now. I have personally trained about a thousand people to shoot safely. I’m a licenced international judge for target shooting. I have written one part of the current Irish Firearms Act and edited most of the rest of it. I’ve helped run two clubs and the national governing body for Olympic rifle shooting in Ireland.I have never broken a law in my life. Never been in trouble with the Gardai. I’ve met and worked with some of the Gardai you spoke with this morning.I also have a son who is two years and eight months old.
And I was watching the Dail Committee this morning, broadcast live on the internet, as were hundreds of other licenced firearms owners like myself, all of whom were, like myself, personally signed off on by Superintendents and Chief Superintendents in the Gardai as being safe to own our firearms and not a threat to the public or the peace.
I would like to know, and I’m sure the other licenced firearms owners would be interested as well, why, when a TD honestly asked if we would be murdering children in Irish schools the way the Taliban just murdered 132 children in a Pakistani school yesterday, he wasn’t informed that:
a) We are people who have been signed off on by senior Gardai as being safe to own firearms – something the Gardai are not legally permitted to do if they believe that we would be a danger to the public or the peace;
b) We are honest, decent people who spent most of last night hugging their children a little tighter because we watched the news; not psychotic murderous deviants with an urge to visit incredible suffering on people;
c) That even asking that question was deeply offensive and defamatory to a huge number of law-abiding, tax-paying voters.
I would also appreciate it if you could ensure that before the next meeting to discuss this topic, that the TDs who will be in attendance are given a basic briefing on Irish firearms legislation as it currently stands because the questions asked today showed a complete lack of knowledge of even the rudimentary basics of that legislation.
- we do not use assault rifles in the Olympics and they cannot be licenced in Ireland. No fully automatic firearm can be licenced anywhere in the EU as they are category A firearms and are only held by police and the army.
- the magazine in a shotgun is a fixed part, not a detachable one; changing it is not a trivial operation and doing so to give a larger magazine would void your licence leaving you breaking the Firearms Act by possession of an unlicenced restricted firearm, the penalty for which is up to seven years in prison and twenty thousand euro in fines. If proven you had this to endanger another person, that sentence goes up to life in prison and whatever fine the court cares to apply. Saying that you can just change the magazine is like saying that a driver can “just” drive down Grafton street at sixty miles an hour running down pedestrians during Christmas shopping season. It might be technically possible, but we do not lock up every person who applies for a driving licence on the basis that they might do so. Our system of laws does not punish people for possible future crimes they may commit.
And this final point seems minor, but language shapes thought Deputy, so I would ask that you please take heed of this point:We do not have weapons. We have firearms. A weapon is something that has been used to harm a human being (as in “we discovered the weapon at the scene your Honour”). The Gardai have rather strong views on weapons, so they don’t licence them and would arrest anyone looking for such a licence. The Gardai issue licences for firearms, which we use as tools for specific jobs – farmers to control vermin, target shooters for sport, vets for humane dispatch, hunters for hunting food, airport officials for scaring birds, race officals for starting races and so on. We don’t have emotional connections to our tools, though we do appreciate good tools if they let us do a job better. But these are not fetishistic objects, they are just equipment to do a job. It is the job itself that we pay attention to, not the tools.