Primary and Secondary Legislation
The possession, use and carriage of firearms in Ireland is governed by the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2012. The Principle Act is the Act of 1925 (“the Act”), supported by seven subsequent Acts and two prior Acts, and by twenty-one subsequent Statutory Instruments and by one prior Statutory Instrument. The Principle Act remains the reference point for persons applying for a firearms certificate, subject to certain amendments. It provides for the grant of a certificate and for a refusal, including grounds on which an applicant is deemed “disentitled” to a certificate. In 2009 the Commissioner of An Gárda Síochána published guidelines as to the practical application and operation of the Firearms Acts, which are available on the website of An Gárda Síochána. The currently regime governing the grant of a certificate was introduced in 2009, when a three-year cycle on certificate renewals came into being on a staged basis and since 2013 all firearms certificates are renewable on a three-year basis. The current cost of a three-year firearms certificate is €80.00.
Statutory Instrument No. 239/1977, Wildlife Act, 1976 (Firearms and Ammunition) Regulations, 1977 provides that the minimum legal requirement for hunting wild deer in Ireland is a rifled firearm delivering a bullet weight of not less than 55 grains and a muzzle energy of not less than 1700 foot-founds of energy; effectively the .22/250. However, the minimum calibre recommended by the National Parks & Wildlife Service and relevant deer organisations is a firearm delivering a bullet weight of not less than 100 grains and a muzzle energy of not less than 2100 foot-pounds of energy; effectively the .243. Rifled firearms in the range .22 to .308 of an inch are described as “Unrestricted”. Calibres greater than .308 are described as “Restricted” and require special authorisation.
Telescope sights with a light beam, or telescope sights with an electronic light amplification device or an infra-red device, designed to be fitted to a firearm, are deemed to be “firearms” under the provisions of section 26 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which amends the definition of firearm set out in section 1 of the Act of 1925. “Silencers” (sound moderators) are covered by the same provision and are subject to endorsement on the firearm certificate for the firearm on which it is fitted. There is currently no prohibition on the use of hand-held thermal imaging devices.
|Shotguns and ammunition:|
these are generally prohibited but the following exemption applies in certain circumstances, amongst other conditions serious damage by deer must be proved, see the Deer Legislation guide)
|Not less than 12 bore. A shotgun may only be used by the occupier and certain others.
Ammunition must be AAA shot or rifled slug of not less than 350 grains. (an FAC is required to possess rifled slug ammunition)
|Prohibitions||Any airgun , air rifle or air pistol|
Application Forms for a firearms certificate are available on the website of An Gárda Síochána (Form FCA1). In the case of unrestricted firearms, application is made to the Superintendent of the Gárda Síochána District in which the applicant resides. Certificates for a restricted firearm must be authorised by a Chief Superintendent. Apart from name, address, photograph and other relevant personal details (including any convictions, court orders or previous refusal of a certificate) the applicant must also provide the name and address of his or her General Medical Practitioner/doctor. The Application form implicitly authorises the Gárda Síochána to make enquiries of the applicant’s doctor where deemed necessary. The Applicant must also provide the names and addresses of two character referees. First-time applications must be supported by proof of competence in the possession, use and carriage of firearms. Completion of the Deer Alliance Hunter Competence Assessment Programme (HCAP) is accepted by A Gárda Síochána as proof of competence. In the case of a firearm intended for use in the hunting of wild deer, a declaration to that effect is contained on the application form and a copy of a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service must be submitted with the application. The application for a Firearms Certificate must be granted or refused within 90 days of submission.
Applications for renewals are effectively treated as new applications, as the same form is used for both first-time applications and renewals.
The fitting of a “silencer” (sound moderator) must be specified on the application for a firearms certificate. Section 7 (2) of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act1990 provides that a Superintendent shall not grant an authorisation for a silencer unless he or she is satisfied that the person who is to have possession of the silencer is the holder of a firearm certificate for a firearm to which the silencer can be fitted, and that having regard to all the circumstances, the possession, sale or transfer concerned will not endanger the public safety or the peace, and that the person has a special need that is, in the opinion of the superintendent, sufficient to justify the granting of the authorisation for the silencer.
Refusal of Certificate
Grant of certificate may be refused in certain circumstances. Under section 4 of the Act of 1925, before granting a firearm certificate, the Superintendent of An Gárda Síochána must be satisfied that the applicant
(a) has a good reason for requiring the firearm in respect of which the certificate is applied for, and
(b) can be permitted to have in his possession, use, and carry a firearm or ammunition without danger to the public safety or to the peace, and
(c) is not a person declared by this Act to be disentitled to hold a firearm certificate.
Section 8 of the Act (as amended) sets out the classes of persons deemed disentitled to hold a certificate. These include:
- a) in the case of a full certificate, any person under the age of sixteen years
(b) any person of intemperate habits, and
(c) any person of unsound mind, and
(d) any person who has been sentenced by any court in Ireland for any crime to penal servitude for any term which has not expired or has expired within five years previously, and
(e) any person who has been sentenced by any court in Ireland for any crime to imprisonment for any term of not less than three months which has not expired or has expired within five years previously, and
(f) any person who is subject to the supervision of the police, and
(g) any person who is bound by a recognizance to keep the peace or be of good behaviour, a condition of which is that such person shall not have in his possession, or use, or carry any firearm or ammunition.
There is no statutory obligation on a Superintendent to grant a certificate. Refusal of certificate may be amenable to judicial review. In most cases a negative decision will be referred to the District Court.
People not normally resident in Ireland who wish to import a firearm for purposes of hunting deer must be in possession of an Irish firearm certificate for non-residents relating to the firearm. In addition, visitors from a member state of the EU must be in possession of a valid European Firearms Pass (EFP). Applications from non-residents must be made on the prescribed form (“Firearm Certificate Application – (Non-Resident)”), available on the website of An Gárda Síochána. Residents of EU Member States in which the European Firearms Pass (EFP) is available must send their original EFP; in any other case, any other permit, licence, authorisation or other document, duly issued by an appropriate authority or body outside the State, which the issuing person considers acceptable. A valid Irish deer hunting licence must accompany the application. Application is made to the Superintendent of An Gárda Síochána where the applicant intends to hunt. Firearm Certificates for non-residents are valid for one year from date of grant. The current fee is €40.00.
European Firearms Pass (EFP)
The European Firearms Pass (EFP) is provided for by the European Firearms Directive of 1991 (Directive 91/477/EEC), as amended by Directive 2008/51/EC. The Directives are given effect in Ireland by sections 7 to 11 of Statutory Instrument No. 362/1993, European Communities (Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition) Regulations,1993. The EFP is a locally-issued firearms licence in a common format that allows citizens of the European Union (EU) to travel with one or more firearm(s) mentioned on the licence from one member state to another. For certain purposes, other documentation may be required, depending on the current states’ laws and the reason for the movement; a transfer may be temporary (e.g. for a deer-hunting visit) or permanent (on a sale). An applicant for an EFP must already hold a licence from the member state in which he/she holds the firearm. Article 1 of Directive 2008/51/EC provides that the EFP shall be issued on request by the authorities of a Member State to a person lawfully entering into possession of and using a firearm. It shall be valid for a maximum period of five years, which may be extended. It shall be non-transferable and shall record the firearm or firearms possessed and used by the holder of the Pass. It must always be in the possession of the person using the firearm and any change in the possession or characteristics of the firearm, as well as the loss or theft thereof, shall be indicated on the Pass.
Application for the EFP is a simple matter of making written application to the local Superintendent of An Gárda Síochána, setting out the relevant information, including applicant’s name and address, details of firearm or firearms concerned, details of firearms certificate r certificates, and reason for the application, e.g. intention to shoot outside the jurisdiction of the issuing authority.
Discharge of Firearm on a Public Road
Section 10 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act, 1851, which remains in force, makes it an offence to discharge a firearm on any public road, or within sixty feet of the centre thereof. The stipulated distance of sixty feet is referred to in the Commissioner’s Guidelines of 2009, in the context of shooting of foxes, The 1851 Act makes it an offence to “slaughter any beast, or leave any dead beast, or skin or permit to be skinned any beast, on any public road or within thirty feet of the centre thereof, save within any house or enclosed yard”.
Section 8 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 provides that a person who discharges a firearm being reckless as to whether any person will be injured or not, shall be guilty of an offence, whether any such injury is caused or not, shall be guilty of an offence.
S. 9 (1) of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 makes it an offence to carry a knife (“or any other article which has a blade or is sharply pointed”) in any public place. Defences are available under s. 9 (2) & (3) of the 1990 Act, if an accused person can establish that he or she has “good reason or lawful authority” to carry the knife, or carries it for use at work or for a recreational purpose (such as deer hunting, for use in gralloching or handling the carcase).