Irish Olympic target shooting

Letter to the Minister

As sent today:

Minister,
I write with a deep sense of alarm at your proposed Criminal Justice
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009. I have studied your published
Bill in depth since its release, and am familiar with the general area
of the Firearms Acts, having been a target shooter for many years now.
I have just read your issued press release regarding this Bill, and I
must protest in the strongest possible terms this proposed piece of
legislation. It is grossly unjust and ineffective, and will not achieve
the aims you have set out for it.

To begin, I wish to point out that there has been NO alarming growth in
the number of handguns in this state since 2004. In fact, per capita,
there are currently far fewer handguns licenced since the most recent
comparable year, 1972. Further, the available statistics you have
provided on handguns are distressingly poor – for example, it is much
reported that some 30-odd handguns were stolen over the last few years,
but on examination we discover that these were listed as stolen prior
to 2004 – I have not yet heard an explanation from your office as to
how pistols could have been stolen from their licenced owners before
those pistols were licenced to them!

I must also protest at this ridiculous comparison you have repeatedly
drawn between firearms legislation here and the situation in America.
We have, simply put, a body of law regarding firearms in this state
that is amongst the most rigorous and restrictive in the entire EU. We
class as firearms items which no other EU state classes as firearms
(for example, olympic airguns are classed as firearms nowhere else in
the entire world). How you can state we will wind up with a “handgun
culture” here when we have such a body of law and so few firearms per
capita is beyond reason.

Further, I must protest in the strongest possible terms your libelling
of the Garda Siochana in your press release. To state, as you have
done, that you must act now before a ‘bloody shooting’ is to imply
directly that one or more Garda Superintendents have acted in breach of
the law by issueing licences to people in strict violation of Section
4(2)(b) of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, which clearly states
that no firearms licence may be granted by a Superintendent unless
the applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearm
and ammunition without danger to the public safety or security or the
peace.

I must also protest the concurrent libelling of shooters in general by
this statement. All 200,000 of us have undergone rigorous background
checks andmust comply with a significant body of legislation in order
to obtain and keep our firearms certificates; to accuse us of being an
atrocity waiting to happen is monumentally insulting.

Further, I must point out that the Bill as written, if enacted, would
not lead to anything resembling a comprehensive or effective firearms
code. It will in fact fail completely to regulate that which you seek
to control (namely the criminal abuse of guns). It does not fund the
Gardai to enforce existing legislation; it merely impacts on those of
us who take it upon ourselves as law-abiding citizens to adhere to the
law of the land. And by definition, *we are not the problem here*.

Section 27 of the Bill in particular should chill any observant reader.
In this, you as Minister are seeking direct operational authority over
individual Gardai without going through the chain of command. This is
not something which merely affects shooters; this directly affects
every citizen in this state and it is monumentally wrong to seek this
redaction of the seperation of powers in a modern democracy.

As to the ban on personal importation of firearms and/or ammunition,
I can find no rational justification for this. It imposes serious
financial penalties on all shooters in Ireland as domestic firearms
dealers charge up to four times the price for ammunition and several
hundred euros more for firearms than their counterparts even as close
by as Northern Ireland. This is nothing more than a state-sanctioned
monopoly, and I cannot see how it serves the public or in any way
protects the peace.

As to the mechanics of the handgun ban itself, the Bill is woefully
ill-written and ill-advised. You are unfairly rewarding those who
in effect said “To heck with public policy” and purchased handguns
by permitting those handguns to be kept; while punishing those who
waited for legislative and judicial oversight by forbidding them from
purchasing handguns. Even the exemptions afforded the Olympic sports
are ill-phrased and worse, sexist. For example, 50m pistol is shot
by Men in the Olympic Games but not Women – the Women’s event occurs
in the World Championships because of commercial pressures on spaces
and sports in the Olympic programme. As the Bill referrs to Olympic
shooting instead of ISSF shooting (the ISSF being the governing body
for Olympic shooting), you have in effect banned women from a sport but
permitted men to take part in it.

This Bill must not stand. It does nothing but damage the sport enjoyed
by hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland with no benefit for
the remainder of the population who seek protection from the crime
problem posed by drugs in this country. It is an unjust, unfair and
unsupportable piece of legislation and I urge you most strongly to
withdraw it.

Yours in Sport,

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