Q I have had a shotgun for years and the only real use it's had is for scaring crows after I've sown corn. I've always had a licence for it and no issues getting this from the local Garda station.
The other week I lent the gun to my neighbour who has borrowed a few times in the last couple of years since he started doing a bit of tillage. He's used a crow banger and he has asked to borrow my gun when pigeons have been a problem.
My issue is that last week I got a call from the Garda station.
The field my neighbour was using the gun in is near a built-up area and it seems that his son took the gun with his friend and they fired a shot that hit a house near the field. No one was hurt, but the owners of the house called the Gardai and they want a statement from me. My neighbour didn't mention it when he returned the gun, but I'm worried I could be liable as the gun owner?
AFor the benefit of readers, I will first look at how you get a Firearms Certificate in Ireland. You must have a valid Certificate to hold/possess a firearm. Each application for a Firearm Certificate should be made to the applicant's local Garda Station. Once granted, it is valid for three years unless it is revoked. It is likely you have an unrestricted one usually granted to farmers and is used solely for the purpose of shooting vermin, crows etc.
Before granting a Firearms Certificate, a Garda superintendent must be satisfied that the applicant complies with certain conditions and that the applicant can continue to comply with such conditions
These conditions include: nthe applicant has a 'good reason' for requiring the firearm
nthe applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearm or ammunition without danger to the public safety or security of the peace
nthe applicant is not a person who is disentitled to hold a firearm because, for example, of intemperate habits
nthe applicant provides secure accommodation for the firearm and a member of An Garda Siochana can inspect the accommodation
nthe applicant complies with such other reasonable conditions specified in the firearms certificate.
On the application form for a Firearms Certificate, particularly for those farmer applicants seeking an unrestricted Firearms Certificate to shoot vermin, crows etc on their lands, they must specify the land on which it is proposed to use the firearm.
The firearm can then only be used on this land and not on any other land. Otherwise the Certificate can be revoked.
You say you have been letting your neighbour borrow it for the past few years.
It is illegal for any person to use, carry or possess a firearm without a valid certificate.
You, as the holder of the Firearm Certificate, should not have allowed your neighbour to borrow it. You say it has been fired near a built-up area.
As outlined above, the conditions attaching to your Certificate will most likely specify the land on which it can be used and therefore, in addition to your neighbour not being permitted to use the shotgun, he used it in a location that was not covered by the certificate.
Your neighbour's son took the firearm without your knowledge. Again, it is illegal for him to use a firearm.
Even if he had a Firearm Training Certificate, he cannot use the gun without the supervision of a person over 18 who actually holds a certificate for that firearm.
Firearm Certificates can be revoked if the Superintendant believes you are a person that cannot hold a firearm without endangering public safety or security or peace.
Unfortunately for you, your behaviour in allowing your neighbour to borrow your firearm will most likely result in your Firearm Certificate being revoked. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with specific advice after reviewing your certificate and the conditions thereof.
You should speak with your solicitor immediately to get specific advice before making a statement or indeed doing anything else.
Deirdre Flynn is from a farming background and practices as a solicitor at Deirdre Flynn Solicitors, 4 Ivy Terrace, Tralee, Co Kerry
The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.