561. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to review firearms licensing regulations in view of the recent tragedy in New Zealand, particularly in relation to regulations that allow for children over 14 years of age to possess firearms. [13905/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I wish to advise the Deputy that there are stringent controls under Irish legislation on the issue of firearm certificates by An Garda Síochána and the conditions under which firearms can be held. There are severe penalties in place for firearm offences under the Firearms Acts.
Every application for a firearm certificate is considered on its individual merits and an application cannot be granted by a Garda Superintendent unless certain conditions, set out in law, are met. These include, amongst others, that the person can be permitted to possess a firearm without danger to the public safety and that the person has a good reason for requiring the firearm.
New conditions regarding an application were introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. These conditions include the requirement of applicants to provide two referees to attest to their character, and also a requirement on each applicant to provide written consent for an issuing officer to make any enquiries in relation to the applicant’s medical history from a health professional.
Certain firearms are “restricted” under Irish legislation (e.g. such as large calibre handguns) and these attract additional conditions to be met over and above the standard requirements. These conditions include that the applicant has demonstrated that the firearm is the only type of firearm that is appropriate for the purpose for which it is required. Decisions on restricted firearms are made by a Garda Chief Superintendent.
In accordance with Section 2A of the Firearms Act, 1925, as amended, a person over 14 years of age can apply for a firearms training certificate. Such a certificate authorises the person to possess a firearm only while carrying and using the firearm for hunting or target shooting and under the supervision of a specified person over 18 years of age who holds a firearms certificate in respect of the firearm concerned. The Garda Síochána deciding officer in any individual case may impose other conditions in the interests of public safety and security. An application for a training certificate, where the applicant is under 16 years of age, shall be accompanied by the written consent of the applicant's parent or guardian. Furthermore, Paragraph 8 of Statutory Instrument 493 of 2010: EC (Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition) (Amendment) Regulations, provides that it shall not be lawful for any person to sell a firearm to which EU Firearms Directives apply to a person under 18 years of age.
The legislation also provides for the revocation of a firearms certificate, if the conditions which applied to the grant of the firearm in the first instance are no longer met.
A substantial review of firearms licensing, including consultation with the public, stakeholders and the relevant Oireachtas Committee, was undertaken in recent years. A number of measures identified as a result of this review are being progressed by my Department. These include a ban on new licences for semi automatic centre fire rifles and the establishment of a Firearms Assessment and Appeals Authority. The primary function of the Authority will be to determine, on the basis of an objective assessment of all the issues, with safety of the public being paramount, whether particular forms of firearms may be licensed in the State, whether there should be any limit on the number of such firearms and what safety conditions might properly be applied to their licensing.
In accordance with Section 3E of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, the Garda Commissioner conducts an annual review of the operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009. This report is laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
The legislation regarding the regulation of firearm licensing continues to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.