A case in which a man pointed a replica Kalashnikov AK47 rifle out of a car window to induce fear in a number of people at a shopping centre car park has been adjourned.
At Galway District Court yesterday Judge Mary Fahy adjourned the case until July 13 to allow time to fully consider the evidence as it was the first time such a case had been brought before her. Arturas Pancerovas (27 ) with an address at 2c Leitir Burca, Ballymoneen Road, pleaded guilty to possession of an article with intent to cause fear in another at Dunnes Stores, Westside, on October 29, 2007.
Inspector Pat McHugh told the court that at 12.49am gardai received a 999 call which reported a person pointing a gun out of the window of a silver Mercedes which had pulled into the car park of Dunnes Store in Westside. The car was found in a premises in Furbo and gardai were then able to track down the defendant at a garage where he works. Pancerovas brought gardai to his house and he handed over the replica AK47 machine gun which was then sent for forensic analysis. Inspector McHugh said that the replica, made of die cast metal, was the “same weight and design” of a real Kalashnikov AK47 but that it was “not designed or capable of firing ammunition”.
“If the replica was brought in here you would not know the difference,” said Inspector McHugh.
The court then heard that during questioning the defendant, a Lithuanian national, told gardai that he and a friend went to get drink. Pancerovas said that there had been a number of people in the car park who had mistaken him for being Polish and he had taken offence to that and shouted “mother f**kers” at them. He had bought the replica gun for €150 in a shop in Sligo a number of months before the incident.
“This is the first time I’ve ever come across this type of charge. It raises a number of issues. Why did he buy it and why was it in the car?” asked Judge Fahy.
Defence solicitor Olivia Traynor said that her client had bought the replica gun because he “thought it was cool”. She added that there was no intention to use it to commit a crime and the defendant had never taken it out of the house before. Ms Traynor said that when he and a friend went to get drink he just put it in the car.
Inspector McHugh then informed the judge that the defendant had two previous convictions for theft in April 2005, for which he received a four-month suspended sentence. He also made an application for the forfeiture of the gun.
During the court case Inspector McHugh commented that a number of shops have been selling imitation firearms and this has caused a number of problems in Galway as “nobody knows if it [the gun] is real or imitation”. These difficulties have not gone unnoticed by the Minister for Justice, Quality, and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, who has been strongly pushing for stricter controls for the sale and importation of realistic imitation fireams (including devices known as airsoft ). According to a Department spokesperson new restrictions and greater powers to ban the sale of such devices in shops around the country will be brought through the Dail by July 2 and are expected to become law by the summer recess.
Eight new sections (9A to 9H ) are to be added to the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990. These sections will make it an offence for a person to possess a realistic imitation firearm in a public place. A “realistic imitation firearm” is defined as a device that appears to the ordinary observer so realistic as to make it indistinguishable from a firearm. The use of realistic imitation firearms such as airsoft devices will also be restricted to certain places which are authorised by the local Superintendent.