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In Ireland the cabinet has agreed to a blanket ban on the licensing of handguns. Criminal justice legislation already being drafted will be amended to include provisions that will ban the granting of handgun licences under any circumstances.
Gun owners who already have weapons will not have their licences renewed, forcing them to sell their guns or face criminal prosecution.
The Government's decision to ban the weapons comes after a period in which their use has grown exponentially in the Republic, reaching 1,900 licences at present. In 2004, the High Court overturned a 30-year-old "temporary custody order" banning the licences.
Figures obtained two weeks ago by John Deasy TD (FG) revealed major inconsistencies in the way gardaí across the State were interpreting laws around the granting of handgun licences.
Some Garda districts have granted no licences for handguns while others in more sparsely populated areas have been much more liberal, issuing between 50 and 100 licences a year.
Speaking last night during a Dáil debate on a Fine Gael private members' motion calling for action on crime, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he would bring forward legislation to deal with the handguns issue.
Informed sources said the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would be amended to ban the guns.
The matter was discussed at Cabinet yesterday where Mr Ahern secured agreement for a ban.
In July, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said there was "a pressing need" for drawing together into a clear law the multiple "piecemeal" rules on the control of handguns here.
He said reasonable people were "entitled to feel alarmed" about a recent large increase in the number of pistols licensed for private use. He made his comments during a High Court case in which a man challenged the Garda's refusal to grant him a gun licence.
Mr Ahern said the increasing prevalence of handguns had not come about as a result of any deliberate policy decision by the Government.
He had previously made clear his concern at the number and type of handguns being licensed.
"My bottom line is this," Mr Ahern continued, "while I recognise that the vast majority of handgun owners are responsible people, as Minister my concern is the safety of the public, particularly at a time of concern about gun crime."
Last night's debate followed the murder last Sunday week of Shane Geoghegan in Limerick. He was killed when members of a gang in the city shot him close to his home in Dooradoyle after mistaking him for a rival criminal.
The Irish Times
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