Attention Pistol Owners – Important Research

Attention Pistol Owners – Important Research

The Sports Coalition is carrying out research into pistol target shooting in Ireland. This project will provide valuable information that will increase general knowledge about the role of pistol target shooting and provide insights into some of the issues surrounding pistol target shooting in Ireland. Please note that all information supplied in the questionnaire is strictly confidential and no names or references to you are required. It should take no longer than five minutes to answer. We would be grateful if all pistol owners could return the questionnaire ASAP and not later than the 25th MAY 2015.


Questionnaire for Pistol Target Shooting Participants in Ireland

Briefing meeting – May 6th 2015




The Sports Coalition wishes to announce there will be a briefing meeting for Coalition clubs and members following on from the meeting between the Coalition and other sporting bodies with the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner on 29th April.


The meeting will commence at 8pm sharp and local public representatives are being invited to attend.

Hotel Location

Firearms Review Update

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality has issued an interim report to the Minister for Justice and I attach a copy for your information.


It can also be accessed on the link below.  I also set out below a copy of my email to the Chairman of the Committee sent on February 20th and you will immediately note the similarity between what I suggested and what is now recommended by the Committee.  All I can say is that the Committee’s interim report vindicates our stance, as it has accepted virtually every point we have made to date.  Please note that there is no recommendation to ban anything.  Please also note just some of the Committee’s statements:

The Committee was very impressed with the professionalism and dedication and responsibility of the owners of legally held firearms who presented at the Committee and who engaged with the Committee during the visit to Harbour House Sports Club in County Kildare.

The Committee cautions against comparing, in any way, the owners of legally held firearms with those engaged in criminal activity.

The Committee is very concerned about the information contained in the letter dated 5 March 2015 to the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee detailing, among other things, the number of firearms reported lost or stolen from 2010 to 2014. 

The formation of a standing consultative forum which would include all major stakeholders should be considered. Such a forum would ensure that concerns and proposals from stakeholders could be put forward on a regular basis to the authority.

The Committee strongly recommends that the Minister request that the Garda Inspectorate carry out an independent review of the current firearms licensing regime.

We now look forward to engaging with the Minister in relation to the recommendations and the ongoing work of the Committee.

Kindest regards and well done to all.


Des Crofton

National Director – NARGC
Spokesperson for the Sports coalition




Dear Deputy Stanton,

 Firstly, my apologies for the slight delay in forwarding this document, which was due to a longer than expected consultation and debate by the Coalition members on the contents.

 I wish to again thank you and those members of your Committee who took the trouble to travel to Harbour House Shooting Range at Nurney, Co Kildare on Thursday 12th inst.  All appreciate that it is indeed somewhat troublesome for the Committee members to allocate the amount of time required for such a visit from a busy schedule.

 As I indicated to you, no one on the Sports Coalition side, nor indeed I believe in any shooting organisation, (there being two small ones not members of the ‘Coalition’) has any desire to be in conflict with the authorities.  That said, that is precisely where we find ourselves for reasons which are well documented and are not necessary to repeat here.

 There are a number of fundamental issues which the shooting associations believe, based on their separate and individual experiences, need to be addressed concerning the manner in which firearms licensing is administered in Ireland.  Our collective assessment is based on at least 10 years’ experience of problems encountered, but to a far greater extent over the last five years.

The most urgent and critical issue is the matter of the .22 calibre handguns currently licensed, which are now being regarded as restricted and therefore unlicenceable by An Garda Siochana.  If there was any credibility to the Garda position, it would mean that the vast majority of those firearms currently licensed are in fact held illegally by their owners and in such circumstances, given the alleged public safety issues relied upon, they should be removed from the owners’ possession immediately.  Any other position is illogical, incapable of rational understanding and would in fact represent a breach of duty under the Garda Siochana Act.  In that context it is important to note that the current firearms in this category were:

  1.  Agreed between the parties in 2009 as unrestricted.
  2. Listed as unrestricted in the Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines (ANNEX F) pursuant to that agreement.
  3. Offered to firearms applicants by Chief Superintendents and Superintendents instead of centrefire handguns (also pursuant to that agreement).

 Sports shooters have had to expend additional significant financial resources in securing their homes to hold these firearms under licence and range operators have spent tens of thousands upgrading their ranges to meet the Range Inspector’s requirements in providing secure facilities for using the guns, while firearms dealers have had to also improve security at their premises.  There is clearly a difficulty here in terms of both a technical and a political problem.

 But given the facts as are documented, it is self-evident that the licence holders concerned have a legitimate expectation that their firearms licenses for these guns will be renewed.  Under the current Garda policy, they will not.

 The Garda argument has been that guns are stolen from licence holders and used by criminals.  Their statistics simply do not support the proposition that licensed handguns are a source of supply to criminals which gives rise to a serious public safety problem.

 The Gardai have also argued that they are concerned about the concealability of these firearms.

 The Sports Coalition could accept the following as a basis to commence round table discussion on a wider review of the firearms licensing system:


  1. In relation to the .22 handguns which are currently licensed, this matter must be resolved by a new S.I. before the 2015 renewal date.  The terms of resolution could restrict the licensing of such firearms to .22 calibre short firearms suitable for competition under ISSF rules (which include Olympic competitions), but with a barrel length of NOT LESS than 5 inches, and NOT LONGER than 30cm and with a magazine capacity NOT EXCEEDING 10 rounds.


      1. This deals with the concealability issue and you will appreciate this having seen the firearms, almost all of this size, in Harbour House.
      2. The size, calibre and suitability for competition under ISSF rules is prescriptive which is the only basis which will bring certainty to what can and cannot be licensed, and therefore bring to an end the ‘conveyor-belt’ of court challenges.  Lists of suitable guns will not work (as we have seen) because firearms on a list will inevitably go out of production and be replaced by later/improved models.  With a list, there will always be the opportunity for an applicant to convince a court that the particular firearm which he/she sought to licence and which is not on the ‘list’ has characteristics which are the same as, or sufficiently similar to, what is on the list and therefore there is no reasonable basis for a licence refusal.  In other words, our solution would all but eliminate the opportunity for court challenges.
      3. It will defuse a major political problem which is currently set to arise at renewal time in 2015.
      4. It will remove the potential for up to 1,000+ court actions from license holders, firearms dealers and range operators seeking variously to:

 Licence holders – overturn refusals to renew decisions, compensation for loss of firearms and amenity, compensation for expenditure on mandatory security;

Firearms dealers – loss of stock value as there will be no market for existing stock held or for those firearms which would have to be handed in;

Range operators – loss of investment costs and profits.

 (It should be remembered that the existing .22 handguns which were licensed as unrestricted were from a list of firearms designated as unrestricted by an acknowledged agreement between An Garda Siochana, the Department of Justice, The Olympic Council of Ireland and the National Target Shooting Association – please see the numerous copy letters from Garda Chief Superintendents to firearms applicants and the copy correspondence between the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana leading to the compilation of the agreed list, all annexed to the Sports Coalition Submission.  Set against that background, it is somewhat fanciful, as has been suggested by some within the relevant state agencies, that a ban could be achieved without the State having to meet substantial compensation claims.  We have received strong legal advice to that effect.)


  1. We could accept a temporary cap on licensing centrefire semi-automatic rifles with the exception of classic (old – pre 1950) models pending the outcome of a wider firearms licensing review.  In other words, with immediate effect, no new licenses would be issued for this category until a full review is complete.
  2. Medium term:

The establishment of a firearms review board comprising representatives of the main stakeholders (approximately 10/12 persons in total) which would examine the following issues:


Licence holders:

  • Public safety – risk assessment
  • Home security
  • Training of applicants
  • Firearms ‘apprenticeship scheme’ for the future
  • Ammunition type (velocity considerations)
  • Ballistics testing and recording
  • Recording of statistical data
  • Firearms categories versus use
  • Licence refusals and appeals system
  • Penalties for breaches of firearms legislation
  • Administration of the licensing system – independent centralised administration (except for applicant vetting), monitoring etc.
  • Centrefire variations which are unattractive to criminals

Firearms dealers – Criteria, security etc.

(Currently, while there is an S.I. for security standards at firearms owners’ homes, there is still no S.I. for security standards at firearms dealers’ premises and therefore no penalties for breaches by dealers.)

 Range Operators – Re-loading of ammunition, range security and compelability for range attendance.


Centrefire handguns:

In the medium term, we could also agree to allowing those who currently hold licenses for centrefire pistols to change, within calibre, for minimum 5 inch barrel target versions of their firearms.  This would address to a very large extent the issue of any military style pistols licensed and concealability for this category.  There would be no issue of any new licenses being issued and the current cap would be unaffected.  This would require an amendment to the legislation which could in any event be included in whatever amendments are ultimately agreed.

I believe, having consulted my colleagues in the Sports Coalition, the above could be the basis for a permanent solution.  This, or indeed any solution, will in any event only be achieved from round table discussion.  However, because of the distrust with which licence holders view the authors of the Joint Garda/DOJ Report, round table discussions would be virtually impossible without the oversight of an independent chairperson who would also act as guarantor of whatever is ultimately agreed between all the parties.


I believe what is proposed here, having regard to all the circumstances and concerns (perceived and/or real) is reasonable, practical and will deliver certainty.     It will also achieve the removal of conflict from this long standing dispute between the authorities and the end users.  It is important to say that, inevitably,  it will not find favour with every individual affected.  But I and my colleagues take our obligation to show leadership very seriously, and I am pleased to confirm that following discussion, debate and persuasion, it represents the unanimous view of all the associations in the Sports Coalition.

I sincerely hope what I have set out above is helpful to you in your capacity as Chair of the Justice Committee and that the Committee members can see that it represents both a desire and a willingness on the part of the end users to end conflict while addressing any reasonable public safety concerns.

I am available to meet you or other members of your Committee as you deem appropriate for the purposes of teasing out any aspect of what is proposed.

Yours sincerely,


Desmond Crofton
National Director

Spokesperson for the Sports Coalition