Handgun licences granted after legal appeal
A district court judge yesterday overturned a refusal by a garda chief superintendent to grant a certificate for six handguns to a father and son for their target-shooting hobby.
The chief superintendent had said the guns were not suitable for target practice and it was his view civilians should never be allowed them as they could be the target of kidnappings by criminal elements who wanted to get their hands on semi-automatic weapons normally used by police forces.
However, ordnance expert Seamus O'Dromma, a witness for the father and son, said the weapons were modified to improve the accuracy of their fire and so were designed for target shooting.
He said the guns were specifically designed for target shooting and were not military and police weapons.
Paddy O'Mahony (70) of Ballyraemeen, Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, retired from the Army, and a licensed dealer in firearms, appealed against the refusal of Kerry Garda Supt John Kerin, to allow him a firearms certificate to license a .22 Colt pistol, a .45 colt revolver, and a 7.63mm Mauser pistol, as well as a .45 colt 1911 Gold cup pistol.
His son Patrick O'Mahony, of the same address, appealed against Supt Kerin's refusal to grant a certificate for a 9mm Browning pistol and a .41 Smith and Wesson Revolver .
Both men told the court target they needed handguns of that calibre to compete in international competitions such as the WA 1500 Association, and the higher score Bulls Eye competition.
Both men had undergone training and had training certificates for the weapons. No question had ever been raised about their character.
Judge James O'Connor allowed the appeals, but in the case of the Mauser pistol amended the terms so that it could be used only three times a year.
Killorglin District Court heard how the weapons were modified for static target shooting.
However Detective Inspector Kevin Brooks, head of garda ballistics school, said the hand guns were "fundamentally police combat guns" used by the military or the police because of their proven killing power.
Supt John Kerin said new legislation introduced in 2009 meant good character was no longer enough to be allowed hold a license for powerful, high-calibre, semi-automatic hand guns.
There had to be good reason to possess them, he told Supt Michael O'Donovan, who was questioning.
The Criminal Justice Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009 had imposed extra conditions including good and sufficient reason to possess handguns of high calibre, and that the firearm must be appropriate for its intended use, he told the court.
"Different chief superintendents have different views. My point is these guns are to kill people and to defend people," he added.
"There should be no guns of this type in the hands of civilians. I don't believe target shooting is a good and sufficient reason."
However, Mr O'Dromma said the weapons were designed for target shooting.