Important Firearms Update

We are pleased to publish the following guidance which we have sought from our legal advisors, William Egan and Associates Solicitors.  We ask all affected shooting people to follow the advices as outlined.  In the event of any uncertainty or query please contact NARGC National Director Des Crofton through this office or William Egan & Associates at 01-6765777.  We would be happy to advise and assist all affected sports shooters irrespective of their membership status.

FIREARMS UPDATE

INTRODUCTION

In 2004 the National Association of Regional Game Council’s (NARGC), through the initiative and innovation of its Director Des Crofton pioneered, promoted and financially supported, on an unconditional and unlimited basis, two landmark High Court Judicial Review challenges which resulted in:

The granting of a firearm certificate to Nicholas Flood, a world ranking target shooter, for a .308 Rifle and;
The granting of a firearm certificate to Frank Brophy, a well known all round shooting enthusiast, for a Vostok target pistol.

These two landmark cases in a matter of months overturned an unlawful Government Policy, the effect of which was that for over 3 decades, no handgun was licensed within the State for target shooting, nor was a rifle with a calibre in excess of .270 licensed either for hunting or target shooting purposes.

As a direct result of these legal challenges made by the NARGC and instructed and directed by its Director Des Crofton, target shooting became a vibrant and popular sporting activity engaged in by a significant number of our citizens of good character.  In 2009 a crude attempt was made to cull target shooting with handguns and in the majority of Garda Divisions an attempt was made to in effect ethnically cleanse target shooting with centre fire handguns to the point of extinction.  NARGC, consistent with the historic role played by it in 2004, which resulted in the National development of target shooting from that time, again through its Director Des Crofton, stepped into the breach and again pioneered, promoted and financially supported, on an unconditional and unlimited basis, a series of Test Cases, the purpose of which was to expose what was in the NARGC’s mind an unlawful and deeply flawed licensing scheme, which if left unchallenged could spread and negatively effect all firearm certificate holders, including hunters and clay shooting enthusiasts.  The first 3 Test Cases supported by NARGC have now come to a conclusion.

UPDATE ON TEST CASES AND IMPLICATIONS

It is as a direct consequence of the unique support role of the NARGC that we are in a position to formally confirm that after the commencement of the 7th day of Hearing in the High Court of the first 3 Firearms Licensing Test Cases, that the State when asked by Mr. Justice Hedigan

“do the authorities wish to continue to stand over the system currently in operation as it has emerged in the evidence that we have heard over the last few days?”

failed to come back and respond to the Court and stand over the licensing system.

The Respondents in the cases, which included Divisional Chief Superintendents and the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, instead submitted to formal Court Orders quashing the decisions refusing restricted firearms certificates in not just the 3 Test Cases but also in respect of each of the 168 Judicial Review cases.  The effect of the quashing of the unfavorable licensing decisions was an acceptance on the part of the State that the licensing scheme was legally flawed, not just in respect of the Garda Divisions concerned with the Test Cases, but in the case of another 18 other Chief Superintendents covering 19 Counties in all.

This communication is not intended to be a commentary on the detailed evidence advanced in the Test Cases and is intended only as an update on the current factual situation.  A detailed commentary will follow in due course.

The practical effect of the Court Order is as follows:

Category 1 Persons.

(1.) All persons who pursued a District Court Appeal and also a Judicial Review             application (168 in total), will have their applications for restricted firearm certificates reconsidered by the appropriate licensing authority, who is either the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana or his lawful delegate, (that being an officer of a rank not below Chief Superintendent) with a full right of appeal against any further unfavorable decision to the District Court.

Category 2 Persons

(2.) Any person who does not fall into category 1 and who was the subject of a           refusal to grant a restricted firearm certificate by a Chief Superintendent and who did not appeal the decision to refuse, is acknowledged under the term of  the settlement negotiated, to be entitled to re-apply for a firearm certificate.  Many hundreds of pre-existing firearm certificate holders will fall into this category and this was a crucial element of the settlement, the objective of which was to serve the interest of all recreational Target Shooters and not just Clients of William Egan & Associates Solicitors.

Category 3 Person

(3.) Category 3 persons are a small number of persons whom the offices of William Egan & Associates represent, but also include individuals who have retained the services of a different Solicitor, but on whose behalf Judicial Review applications had not been pursued either by ourselves for our Clients (for whatsoever reason) or by their own Solicitors.  We are presently considering the legal positions of such persons, who as matters stand, are in a less advantageous position than those persons who belong in categories 1 and 2.  Suffice to say that these offices and the NARGC are committed to ensuring that category 3 persons are treated in exactly the same manner as category 1 & 2 persons.  In other words both us and the NARGC will continue to press for the refusal to be expunged from the record, and that category 3 persons have an application considered afresh in accordance with law as is the position with category 1 and 2 persons.  For those of our Clients who fit into this category of persons, we will be writing to them individually, and we will shortly publish particulars of the service we propose to provide to all persons who fall within this category, to ensure equality of treatment of all applicants.  Protection of the interests of this category of person may well require the pursuit of further legal action.  Given the fact that the State has lost every legal challenge it has faced in the NARGC supported cases, it would not be unreasonable to expect that any further legal action as may be required to protect and vindicate the interests of category 3 persons will be brought to quite a swift conclusion.

Category 4 Person

(4.) Persons heretofore holders of a firearm certificate in respect of a restricted handgun as of the 19th of November 2008, and who did not apply for a firearm certificate under the new licensing regime, continue to be eligible to apply for a firearm certificate for their restricted handgun.  Their applications need to be carefully constructed to optimize their prospects of securing the grant of a restricted firearm certificate.

Generally speaking the net effect of the Test Cases is that every person who unsuccessfully applied for a Restricted Firearm Certificate will be entitled to a reconsideration (amounting to a fresh consideration) of his or her original application (appropriately updated to reflect current circumstances).

The only category of persons who may not enjoy the benefit of the terms of this settlement are a small number of people who proceeded to prosecute a District Court Appeal, but who lost those Appeals and who did not challenge by way of Judicial Review the negative decision of the District Court.  Our offices do not represent this category of person.  While they are not included within the terms of this settlement, we do not rule out the prospect of their being in a position to re-apply.  An evaluation of their prospects for successfully re-applying will have to be conducted on a case by case basis.

The basis upon which the decisions of the licensing authorities in the 168 cases were quashed, was that there had been a failure by the licensing authority to provide a reasoned decision in accordance with the Statutory requirements, and/or in accordance with the requirements of Constitutional Justice.  Specifically, it has been acknowledged in the Court Order in the 168 cases , that the pro forma recitation of the statutory language in Section 4 of the Firearms Act 1925 as amended did not amount to compliance with the obligation to state the reason for the decision to refuse.

In other words, when people received their letters of refusal, it has been acknowledged that the reason for the refusal was insufficient to allow them understand why in fact they had been refused.

In the cross examination of the two Chief Superintendents in the first two Test Cases, it became apparent that there was never any genuine issue of concern with the applicants in terms of their personal possession, use and carriage of the firearm, and in net terms the only bona fide issue of concern which the Chief Superintendents had in respect of licensing the restricted firearm, was the potential use of the firearm in the hands of a third party.

We are now seeking to establish with the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana whether he personally will effect the reconsiderations of the applications, or whether the Commissioner has a lawful delegation in place, authorizing some other Officer of Rank not below Chief Superintendent, to conduct the reconsiderations.  As soon as the High Court Orders are perfected, and we know who the appropriate licensor is, our offices will write to each of our Clients, on a strictly private and confidential basis, setting out what we consider will be the particular requirements in the representation of individual cases, and advising how best to make such a presentation.  In this regard, we would anticipate that a submission will have to be prepared which elaborates on the original application and which provides updated information to the licensor.  This service will be provided to our Clients at no cost.

Important Warning

Under no circumstances should any Client of our Offices, or indeed we would suggest any other person who is covered by this settlement, engage directly with any member of An Garda Siochana in relation to the resubmission of an application or the reconsideration of an application currently the subject of an appeal.  Any such communication may significantly prejudice an individual’s prospects of being successfully licensed for their restricted firearm.

Further updates will issue as appropriate.  It is envisaged that a meeting may be arranged by NARGC in conjunction with our Offices at which further detailed information concerning the implications of the collapse of the licensing system can be explained and queries discharged in a question and answer session.

It goes without saying that the events of this week are an enormous victory for Target Shooters and Firearm Certificate Holders generally.  There must be fairness and transparency in any public administrative function.

ISSUED ON THE 2ND OF FEBRUARY 2012 BY

WILLIAM EGAN & ASSOCIATES

SOLICITORS

101 LOWER BAGGOT STREET

DUBLIN 2

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