Firearms legislation was enacted by the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) in the Firearms Act 1925. The Act was amended on a number of occasions and is now known as the "Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990"
The Act does not distinguish between different types of guns.
In the Firearms Acts 1925 to 1990, "Firearm" means:
(a) a lethal firearm or other lethal weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged;
(b) an airgun or any other weapon incorporating a barrel from which metal or other slugs can be discharged.
The legislation allows for multiple ownership of firearms. However, the owner must have an individual firearms certificate (licence) for each gun.
Each firearm certificate expires on the 31st July and must be renewed annually on or before that date. This date applies to all licences and even though a licence may have been taken out only two months previously, it has to be renewed at 31st July. This leads to a bottleneck and can cause security problems for firearms dealers who may be left holding a stock of firearms awaiting the issuing of licences.
Visitors to Ireland have to go through the same licensing procedures as Irish citizens, showing their European Firearms Pass if they are a EU citizen.
Traditionally, Ireland had the strictest gun laws in the world. A recent High Court judgement found that additional conditions that the Irish Police (Garda Siochana) sought to impose on new and existing firearms licence applicants in 2000/01 were un-constitutional. The Irish police are now appealing this decision to the Irish Supreme Court. They are expected to lose the appeal.
Handguns are not permitted even though they are not illegal - the Gardai (Police) simply refuse to issue licences for same. In 1972 the then Minister of Justice signed a thirty day Temporary Custody Order calling in all handguns and long rifles of a calibre greater than .22 In 1992 the Government released long rifles between calibre .243W and .270W No compensation was ever paid to the owners of these confiscated guns.
The recent High Court judgement clears the way for further legal action against the Minister of Justice and An Garda Siochana for the return of all guns taken in under the 1972 Temporary Custody Order. This legal action is still at an early stage although the Garda Siochana would appear to be indicating a relaxation of their position. This is being helped by the peace process in Northern Ireland.

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