Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (453, 454, 455)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

453. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she or the Garda Commissioner has commissioned an independent risk assessment in accordance with accepted best internationally recognised standards to determine the actual risk associated with lawful firearms' ownership having regard to the legal requirements that apply to firearms licence applicants in this jurisdiction; if no such risk assessment has been undertaken, her views on whether this should be undertaken before any new legislative proposals are considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24701/14]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

454. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will meet representatives of various sports shooting associations regarding the maladministration of the firearms licensing laws by the Garda Síochána and whose arguments have been supported by almost 600 court judgments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24702/14]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

455. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality having regard to the widespread disquiet among sports shooting organisations at the manner in which the Garda has administered the firearms licensing code over the past four years, the enormous number of court judgments against the Garda arising from their members' complaints and the importance of the integrity of the firearms licensing code for public safety, if she plans to include an examination of the way the Garda conducted the administration of the system in any of the statutory reviews into the Garda and its operations which are planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24703/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 453 to 455, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, in light of public safety concerns highlighted by the Garda Síochána and difficulties in the interpretation of the legislation expressed by members of the Judiciary, my Department is currently examining key policy, legislative, administrative and other issues relating to firearms licensing in conjunction with the Garda Síochána. I expect to receive and consider a report in relation to these matters in the near future. When I have considered that report I will consider what further action is necessary in relation to the firearms licensing system, including the proposal from interest groups for an examination of relevant administrative issues by the Garda Inspectorate.

Officials of my Department met key interest groups in late 2013 and early 2014 who set out their concerns in relation to a range of issues regarding firearms licensing at that time. These interest groups have also communicated their views directly to me, as well as to all Oireachtas members. Further consultation with relevant stakeholders will take place when I have considered the report and before any decisions are finalised in relation to proposals for change to the firearms licensing system. I will decide on the nature of the consultation and what meetings are appropriate at the time I am considering the report.

In so far as a risk assessment is concerned, I am advised that the draft report has regard to recent relevant EU Commission reports and developments in other jurisdictions in relation to public safety. However, I should say that it is difficult to see how any risk assessment could foresee the tragic events in Dunblane, Scotland in 2006, Utoya, Norway in 2011, Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012 or Santa Barbara, California in May 2014. Mass shootings are happening with increasing frequency and a common theme is that the firearms used are legally owned. I think it is only right that we consider options now, rather than endure a similar tragedy here, when people will rightly ask why we as legislators did nothing to prevent it.