Meetings with gun groups to begin

Junior Justice Minister James Browne says there is “no hidden agenda” as he prepares to meet with gun owner groups next month to engage with them ahead of any proposed policy or legislative change to firearm licensing in the State.

The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for Law Reform is set to begin meeting with representative bodies in June, the “first step” he assures in what he expects to be a long and open process.

According to figures published by An Garda Síochána, in 2020 there were 208,835 active gun licences in Ireland.

An expert group was commissioned to make recommendations on a range of topical gun-related issues including who should have access to firearms and it advised that the current licence system be replaced with different types of firearms certificates.

The Firearms Expert Committee (FEC) recommended that first-time applicants for all firearms should be required to undertake appropriate training on an authorised range, as well as the introduction of a provisional firearms certificate.

Furthermore, the changes would allow gardaí to routinely condition the licences of first-time applicants or applicants seeking to use new calibres of firearms, requiring them to use the gun under supervision, as is the case in Northern Ireland.

“They’ll begin in June, the meetings with gun ownership organisations,” confirmed Minister Browne, speaking to The Anglo-Celt on a visit to Cavan last week.

He said the government is “not really compelled” to anything the FEC recommended, and had set up the expert review only to “bring together ideas and put forward some advisory recommendations".

Earlier this year Minister Browne launched an online consultation platform, while “open submissions” are being sought from gun groups asking their view on the recommendations, or as Minister Browne suggests, “what they’d have liked to have seen in there”.

Speaking to his rural roots, growing up on a farm, next to a mart and around guns and hunters, Minister Browne denied there is a “hidden agenda” behind the process, which started last year as per commitments under the Justice Plan 2022.

“There is no hidden agenda here. This will be a very open process,” assured Minister Browne, who is well aware of negative online commentary signalling the contrary. “I’ve seen commentary out there that this is somehow a done deal. It couldn’t be further from it. That’s why this, as I say, even the committee that was set up was set up purely as an advisory committee, the first step in a very long process. So everything I will be doing will be very much open. I grew up in rural Ireland, there is no hidden agenda here.”