Irish Olympic target shooting

Submission to the Department of Justice on the Review of Firearms Licensing

What target shooting actually looks like.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a review of the Firearms Act being proposed, and we’ve already submitted our comments to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and appeared before them about this (even with the odd funny moment). However, the Department of Justice was also seeking submissions of comments about their proposals, so here are mine. Most of this was the same as for the submission to the Joint Committee, but there are some significant changes here and there (and it’s a bit shorter too).

Here’s the pdf, as the Word->Web translation tends to mess up the formatting horribly…

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Opening Statements

All the opening statements from the Joint Committee hearings.

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Why Santa would be put in jail under the Firearms Act in Ireland

One of the lighter moments from the Joint Committee hearing…

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Is it a weapon or a firearm?

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…):

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So just how complicated is Irish Firearms law? Let me draw you a diagram…

Firearms Law In Ireland
Firearms Law In Ireland

(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 Anything in italics has been repealed and is just there for historical accuracy (there’s only three).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?

Appearing at a committee near you…

So after the submission I sent in to the Joint Committee about the proposed changes to the Firearms Acts, I got invited to appear before them to discuss the submission in person. And the agenda just came out today on the Oireachtas website:

What’s on this week

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…

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

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):

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Submission to the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on the review of firearms licensing

What target shooting actually looks like.

For those who don’t know, a review of the firearms act has been proposed by the Gardai. It has been, to say the least, controversial.

After the frankly appalling meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice to hear these Garda proposals, submissions to the committee were sought from interested parties. Here’s mine for anyone interested (the formatting below is a little mangled by the conversion from the document to a webpage). Others have been posted on the boards.ie thread here.

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To the head of the Dail Committee on Justice…

Sent by email to the head of the Dail Committee that saw this lovely statement by a TD…

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.

For examples:

  • - 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.
If no briefing on the basics of firearms licencing has yet been provided, may I suggest this one? It’s a bit basic and aimed at target shooters, but covers the basics :
http://10point9.ie/how-do-i-apply-for-a-firearms-licence/
 

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.

Regards,

edit:
Responses from the Chairman on twitter:

Apologies if my terminology was not as precise as it should have been this morning. I presume you will make a submission?

there is an open invitation to any person/individual to make submission. See Oireachtas website for guidelines & web address.

anyone who makes detailed submission & requests opportunity to engage in person in public should be facilitated.

Murdering Children

Sean Kenny TD

 

Sent by email today in response to the good Deputy’s comments this morning in a Dail committee…

Re: Murdering Children
Dear Deputy Kenny,
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 you in 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 you think that we want to murder children in Irish schools the way the Taliban just murdered 132 children in a Pakistani school yesterday.

Yours Sincerely,

edit:

Response from Sean Kelly

Hello Mark,

I don’t think you want to murder children, of course I don’t.

I’d also point out that I never once suggested that sporting gun owners or users would ever want to commit such an atrocity.

But that said, as a legislator on the Committee, I must consider the matter of guns being used for things other than sport.
That means I have to consider risk of atrocity. I am sorry if that offends you, as I genuinely do not intend that.

I’d further point out to you that such an atrocity is a key concern of the very Superintendents and Chief Superintendents that sign permits for weapons used by yourself and other target shooters.

As I said, I sit on the Justice Committee, I need to consider all possibilities – it’s my job.

Yours sincerely,

And my reply:

Dear Deputy,
You may not have intended to say those words; but I was watching, live, and say them you did. You specifically asked if the Gardai were worried that an atrocity like Dunblane or the Taliban attack yesterday could happen here, while discussing licenced firearms ownership.

Sir, you might as well have asked if they were worried about a zombie attack, it would have made as much sense.

I refer you to section four of the Act, where it states that a Garda *MAY NOT* issue a certificate if he or she believes the applicant would represent a danger to the public or the peace if issued a firearms certificate. In layman’s terms, the Gardai cannot legally issue a licence even if they wanted to, if they thought it might cause a problem. Even if they signed the paperwork, the licence would be null and void.

I also refer you to the point that we have been active in target shooting in Ireland since at least 1850 (according to the records in the National Botanic Garden’s library) without incident or injury.
You’re discussing the single safest sport in Ireland as though we were drug gang members. It’s wildly inappropriate and offensive. Every last one of us has been signed off on by a senior member of the Gardai at Superintendent rank or above.

There’s worrying about all possibilities Deputy, and there’s worrying about being hit by lightning while being attacked by a great white shark after winning the Lotto and the Euromilllions.

Please, familiarise yourself with the existing legislation as it stands. If no basic brief has been provided to you as yet, allow me:
http://10point9.ie/how-do-i-apply-for-a-firearms-licence/

That’s more intended for target shooting than other applications, but it covers the fundamentals. If even that is too much reading, please just remember this: the Gardai already have enormous powers to refuse licence applications and to revoke licences and repossess firearms if they have concerns over public safety. We already have the most draconian firearms legislation and the lowest rate of firearms ownership in the EU. And nobody gets a firearms licence in Ireland without having a good reason to have one; a safe place to use it; a secure place to store it; a raft of references from doctors and general character references; and a small host of other hoops they must jump through.

Our current firearms legislation just does not cause safety concerns in the mind of any informed occupant of the Clapham Omnibus. Comments like those made in the Committee this morning are offensive and hurtful to law-abiding decent people who do not deserve that kind of treatment.

Regards

It’s finally here…

As I mentioned before in the entries about Intershoot, I’d been worried that with FrankenRifle’s model no longer in production by Anschutz, if any part of it broke at or en route to a match (if you check your travel insurance, you’ll find Baggage Handlers listed under Acts Of God), there’d be no way to get replacements. At home, no worries, a week or three of waiting and I’d have them, but at an international match, unless the manufacturer has it on site in the maintenance tent, you’re pretty stuffed. And after paying the guts of two grand to go to even a small international, that would be deeply suboptimal. So when we learned Calum was on the way, Matt and I decided that while I was out of commission, I’d change rifles. We looked through all the catalogs with the criteria that it had to be something that would be popular so spares were easy, and it had to suit my shooting style. We narrowed it down to the MEC Mark 1 Revolution stock, probably wrapped round a Walther 300XT action:

MEC Mark 1 Revolution

 

Or a Walther LG300 Carbontec:

Walther LG300 Carbontec

 

Or, the model we went with because it was cheaper then the other two and because the stock looked like it could be taken down, the new Walther LG400 Alutec Expert:

Walther LG400 Alutec Expert

 

I got to try the LG400 at Intershoot and we’d seen the stock at RIAC before that, so I knew it’d fit me and I liked the overall design (I’m not a fan of the Walther Anatomic lines – dunno why, but I just don’t like wood on my rifles, I’m not a classicist I guess), so we sat down with the UK walther rep and worked out the details, the order went in and was paid for… and then Calum was born.

You know that plan I had that said I’d be gone for 3-6 months and then return to training? Yeah… about that…

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Calum is now two. He’s walking and talking (like the cast from a 1970s undubbed Hong Kong kung fu movie, but still). And today, the rifle finally arrived. Yeesh. But… it’s finally here! Fanfare please!

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So shiny…

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And all the gadgets and doodads (wow, how many different hex keys do I need? Oh, apparently all of them. Okay…)

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I love that carbon fibre cladding on the barrel. It’s allegedly to improve stiffness and so on. Stiffer than… steel? Er. Okay. But it’s much prettier than any bluing job I’ve ever seen so I don’t care :D

Carbon fibre cladding

 

And all the shininess. This is a major change since FrankenRifle, which to be fair, was showing its age in the worn bits of the paintjob.

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I love that austerity of design. Sod the idea of wooden stuff or ornamentation, we’re going to be functional and metallic and if you don’t like it, go buy a different rifle :D

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Cheekpiece adjustment is nice and easy, and the takedown joint is right there in the middle of the photo. One bolt and the whole buttplate comes off. However, that joint is not as robust as I’d hoped. If I took this rifle apart every day, I think I’d be ordering spare parts rather earlier than I expected :( So for international travel in a smaller Peli, sure, but for domestic driving round I don’t think it’ll work. I’ll have to think about this. I love that pistol grip though…

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Lovely synthetic material, the grip size fits my hand without adjustment (the Anschutz was fine but their largest size wasn’t largest enough and I had to build it up with plastic wood and patience). And that stippled part under the palm of the hand just latches on to you for a really firm grip. The whole thing’s on a ball and socket joint so you can adjust it six ways from sunday as well. Nice bit of design that.

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And it’s a 300 bar cylinder, which doesn’t mean a huge amount I suppose, other than longer training sessions before refilling…

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The buttplate is a MEC Contact III unit, which is a lovely piece of kit I’ve used before. Absolutely nothing wrong with that and the length adjustment is very straightforward.

Once I’d had a look over it with Geoff, I tried the dry-firing mechanism (and that’s a damn useful feature, not having to unscrew cylinders and so on – just cock the trigger and flick the toggle switch. Very convenient mid-match). Damn, but that is one nice trigger. Sooooo much cleaner and crisper than FrankenRifle’s was, and Geoff was impressed with it as well. So only one thing left to do and that was to take it to the range and test it :)

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Damn. Been too long since I was here. And it’s a little messy, but we just had the intervarsities. Anyway…

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:)

First shots into a paper target. The rifle’s not yet set up properly, it’s just roughly in the “big enough to shoot with” sort of area. Lots of fine tuning left to do here, months of work. And I’m not wearing kit, I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans and hiking boots and I’ve not trained for two years. The wobble… oh wow, that wobble… (and my hold is awful as well, boom, boom). Still, it’s not the worst in the world once the sights get about forty clicks up.

The loading is neat by the way. Raise the arm (which is sturdier than it looks and which I think I might reverse later on so it opens by dropping the arm instead of raising it – that’d make it easier to load while in position) and put the pellet in the channel:

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Then just close the arm and that pin guides the pellet to the proper placement. But, nice small feature:

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That little red ring on the piston there only shows up when there’s a pellet in the breech. Doesn’t show up when the rifle’s not loaded:

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That’s a tiny little feature, but the number of times I’ve had to look and double-check mid-match because of stress makes it a nice little feature indeed. Clever!

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Okay, the sights are reasonable at this stage – not accurate yet, but on the scoring area at least and with no kit, I don’t feel able to trust shots enough to tweak further. But still:

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I’m happy enough with that for a start back after two years with no kit and no prep work :)

 

I think I like this new rifle quite a bit :) FrankenRifle will stay around for another week or three yet while settings get copied over and paperwork gets done to swap licences over and then it will make its way to it’s new home at DURC. I’ve a lot of fond memories of that rifle, it was my first MQS, my first international medal, many, many, many hours of training, and it’s nice to know it’s going to go back to where it started for the next shooter to use :)

Of course now the new rifle needs a new nickname…

 

 

 

 

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