I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
A factory has recently been established at Birr for the manufacture of shotguns, mainly for the export market. The law in some of the countries to which this factory will be exporting prohibits the sale of firearms unless they bear a mark indicating that they have been tested in accordance with recognised procedures and that they comply with specified minimum standards of safety. The testing is required to be carried out, either by one of the recognised proof houses in these countries, or by a foreign proof house established by law and recognised by the authorities in these countries for the purpose.
The Birr factory is at a disadvantage because of the lack of a proof house here as their guns have to be sent abroad for proofing. The main purpose of this Bill is to remedy this situation by providing for the establishment of a proof house which will be capable of securing the recognition of the authorities of any country to which Irish manufactured guns are being exported.
Deputies will, I think, agree that the body to which the duty of proofing guns should most appropriately be given is the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. The Institute is already charged with the responsibility for testing commodities intended for sale or for use by the public and it has the necessary technical resources and experience to provide a service of this nature.
Accommodation for the proof house is already available at the Institute and premises there are being adapted and equipped to enable proofing to be carried out. It is the intention, once the Bill becomes law, to lose no time in making the necessary regulations provided for in the Bill prescribing the methods to be employed on the testing of firearms, the mark or marks to be used to designate compliance with the proofing requirements and the fees to be charged for proofing.
Unlike other countries, there are no restrictions here on dealing in unproofed firearms. Because of the dangers arising from the use of guns which may not be up to the generally recognised standards of safety, the power is being taken and it is, in fact, proposed, as soon as the Bill is enacted and the necessary proofing facilities are available, to prohibit, by order, the export, sale or hiring of unproofed guns. Similarly, the power is also being taken to enable me to prohibit the actual use of unproofed guns.
As an example of the effect of an order made under these provisions, which are contained in section 4 of the Bill, the hiring-out of unproofed guns on commercial shoots would be prohibited—or even, if considered necessary, the use of such guns whether hired or not. It will be appreciated that accidents on commercial shoots, especially if they involved out-of-State visitors, could create bad publicity for game shooting in Ireland. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable if, for example, a visitor could not use his own favourite weapon solely because it did not carry an Irish proof mark, even though it carried the mark of a responsible foreign authority. The section, as drafted, will make it possible for my Department to pursue a reasonably flexible policy in such matters.
I hope that the proposals contained in the Bill will be acceptable to the House.