In response to yet another mass shooting in the US, a quick note about one of the many ironies of life in Northern Ireland: we have extremely high levels of *legal* gun ownership.
But legal gun ownership in NI is very tightly controlled. And successfully too.
It really isn’t rocket science.
As I understand it* applicants for a firearms certificate simply have to…
- Prove why they want a gun: Be it for agricultural reasons, target shooting at a club, clay pigeon shooting etc.
- Prove they are capable of being a safe owner: Including any medical issues or relevant criminal record.
- Prove they can store the gun/s safely: One of the main considerations is that a proper gun cabinet must be installed and used at all times except when the gun is being used for the reasons on its certificate.
The process of confirming all this to the satisfaction of the authorities (PSNI, in our case) is FAR from simple or quick. Oh, and it’s an ongoing process. Meaning a person can lose their certificate at any time.
The type of gun certificate holders may have is limited too: largely, it’ll be small target/ ‘pest control’ rifles and standard shotguns for clays etc.
The GB ban on legally-held handguns didn’t make it to NI, however pretty much any handgun held must be demonstrably for use in a recognised target club or be – of course – a Personal Protection Weapon.
(The issue of “PPWs” – like firearms legislation itself in NI and the varying attitude of political parties to legally held guns in NI – is too huge and complex to tackle in brief* here.)
And yet, all in all, our firearms certificate system works.
It’s all administrated by a single PSNI department, led by legislation, and most of all really isn’t rocket science.
That America continues to be, apparently, unable – with horrific results – to introduce even some common sense controls is a terrifying testament to the power over financial interests over human lives.
To finish off with a heart-breaking summary published by one US Twitter user: I can’t believe mass shootings keep happening, I mean we’ve tried literally nothing.
If we can get it right, anyone can.
*Again, the legal firearms system in NI is a vast subject so I’ve used an extremely broad brush here. Apologies also for any outdated info. For more accurate details: the relevant legislation and latest PSNI information can be found online. Also, this 2012 The Detail report is essential reading.
Conor Johnston – @CJohnstonNI – writes about subjects including culture, identity and media.
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