A Midlands gun and tackle shop owner has successfully appealed the chief superintendent’s decision not to grant him a certificate for a Heckler and Koch 9mm pistol.
The firearms dealer, whose address cannot be published by court order, already has certificates for three shotguns, one revolver, one rifle, and three restricted rifles for his own use.
However Chief Superintendent Willie Ryan refused his application to hold the pistol on the basis that there are other similar but less powerful weapons he could use for target practice.
He told the court it was a very powerful weapon which in the wrong hands could be a greater risk to the public than other guns.
This was disputed by the man’s legal team who argued that it is actually more difficult for untrained people to use this pistol.
The man is allowed to sell and hold weapons of a higher calibre at his shop and often has to check H&K pistols which may be faulty.
He has a gun licence for 40 years and has been a member of various game, pistol, and rifle clubs in Ireland and the world.
He described shooting as his sport and wanted the pistol for his own competitive shooting practice and to help prepare for big game shooting abroad which he hopes to do when he retires fully.
While rifles are used for shooting big game, he told the court he would be obliged to carry a pistol as a sidearm in the event of having to humanely kill a fallen animal.
Inspector Jarlath Folan insisted that the H&K pistol is designed solely for use as a military/police weapon and evidence was given by a Garda ballistics expert that they are designed “solely for taking human life”.
He suggested that an Olympic pistol would be just as suitable for the man’s sport but would be less dangerous as it carries fewer rounds, cannot be carried cocked and ready to aim, and cannot have a bullet in the chamber while holstered.
However the man said Olympic pistols are used for shooting paper targets and would be dangerous if used for large steel targets as the bullets would ricochet off the steel rather than knock them down.
“Anyone can shoot paper targets, there’s no challenge in it,” he said, adding that he gets satisfaction from seeing the steel-plate targets fall. They are used to simulate shooting large animals.
There was significant discussion of the physics of different firearms and of the legislation surrounding their use.
Barrister Mark Harty said it was “unfortunate” that chief superintendents feel they’re obliged to control the proliferation of guns.
Judge Clyne agreed and said that if the State wanted to get rid of handguns, they should have been banned completely in the recent changes to legislation.
He said it was undisputed that the man before him was of the highest integrity and said all firearms are dangerous in the wrong hands.
“It seems invidious that you can have a pistol and other guns of higher strength under your control yet you as a dealer cannot use one,” he said and granted the appeal.