What are the gun laws in Ireland? How does gun legislation in Ireland impact the rates of gun violence there? We take a closer look.

Given the horrific mass shooting of five Capital Gazette employees in Annapolis, Maryland, no doubt conversation will once again turn to America's gun laws and how easy it is to purchase weapons.

We thought it would be a good time to explore the gun laws in Ireland, which are much stricter than those in the US and their impact in terms of gun violence.

Read more: Irish American killed in Capital Gazette newspaper mass shooting

Gun laws in Ireland

Ireland, according to GunPolicy.org, has some of the most restrictive firearm legislation in all of Europe.

In Ireland, those wishing to purchase a firearm must be 16 years of age or older and must have been living in Ireland for at least six months in order to apply for a firearm certificate.

(That minimum age of 16 - two years younger than America’s limit of 18 - is the only way in which they are less restrictive.)

Applications for a firearm certificate are made via local Gardai (police), to whom you must demonstrate a ‘good reason” for wanting one, such as hunting or protecting flocks as a farmer. As John Spain wrote in a previous article on IrishCentral, “well over 90% of guns held here are shotguns and sporting rifles used for hunting or controlling vermin. These weapons are usually single shot and never automatic.”

Read More: Could US gun control benefit from a good Irish boycott? 

In addition to a reason for applying for the certificate, you must also show proof of identification and age, competence with the firearm, and secure storage for the weapon and ammunition when not in use. A background check then takes place, during which Gardai will contact two people the applicant has selected as character references. They also reserve the right to contact doctors or psychologists regarding the applicant’s mental health history. The maximum legal time between application and approval is three months.

The license or certificate has to be renewed every three years. A separate certificate is required for each gun.

Most other firearms are considered restricted and a special restricted license - with an accompanying justifiable reason - must be applied for. For example, if someone wants a handgun to do target shooting, they must belong to a Gardai-approved target range or shooting club. Almost no handguns (pistols or revolvers) are allowed in private possession outside of gun clubs. Per GunPolicy.org: “Where application is for a restricted firearm, the applicant must have 'good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm' and must additionally demonstrate that 'the firearm is the only type of weapon appropriate for the purpose.'”

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According to the Restricted Firearms and Ammunition Order 2008, firearms prohibited in Ireland are: automatic firearms and their ammunition. Restricted firearms include military-style semi-automatic firearms, semi-automatic firearms which resemble automatic firearms, shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than three cartridges, long guns over .308 (7.62mm) caliber, and rimfire rifles holding more than 10 rounds.

How many guns are legally owned in Ireland?

According to recent statistics, out of 100 people, there are nine guns owned in Ireland - including an estimated 150,000 unregistered or unlicensed firearms. This contrasts greatly with statistics in the US, where there are 89 guns for every 100 inhabitants.

How do the levels of gun violence compare in Ireland and the US?

These figures also contrast significantly. While gun violence does exist in Ireland, there were no mass shootings in the 30 years from 1993 - 2013 documented in the above comprehensive study by the American Journal of Medicine. In the US, there were 78 mass shootings in the same time frame.

The same study also looked at rates of deaths caused by firearms per 100,000 people. In Ireland? One. In the US? 10.2

Read More: Irish American politician says Massachusetts proves strict gun control works 

Should the US adopt similar gun laws to Ireland? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

* Originally published in March 2018.

A gun shop in Maine. iStock