Irish Shooting Politics

March 31, 2009

The perils of legal action

Filed under: Politics — Mark Dennehy @ 1:53 am

I thought perhaps there were a few points which should be noted regarding taking legal action in the service of the interests of the shooting community. The first which I should like to mention is not actually in regard to the law itself, but to those taking the hypothetical legal action in question. Specifically, it is to their right to take such an action. Now, any person in the state may avail of the courts, this principle is beyond question; but when one seeks to take legal action on behalf of another, things become more complicated, not merely legally, but morally as well. Is it right for one person to seek to pursue a course of action on behalf of another? Surely if the other would benefit, then yes? True, if the course of action is successful, the other person benefits – but the question of risk is rarely examined by those cheering for legal action in our more shouty and frustrated public meetings. Consider this – I have a tip on a horse in a race and judge it to be a sure thing. I bet your car on the outcome of the race, without asking you first. Is this morally right? Of course not, because a horse race is a risky thing and you might lose your car, and you were not given the right to choose to risk it, you were not shown the tip nor its source so you might judge that risk, and you were not even informed you were undertaking that risk, leaving you no opportunity to make contingency plans in the event that the tip was incorrect.

Legal action is somewhat like that. It is far less arbitrary than a horse race perhaps, but it is still a contest, an adversarial system, and should one side falter, the judge does not award points for effort. If I were to risk your firearms license on my judgment of the strength of a lawsuit without asking your opinion, you might feel somewhat irked at this breach of ethics; and if I were to lose due to poor preparation of the case or poor selection of which case to take, then you might well feel more strongly than merely being irked.

Thus we are brought to a brief quote from the meeting in Abbeyleix recently:

Paddy outlined the history of the return of Pistols, he said that it was not out of the goodness of anyone’s heart but as a result of the high court case taken by Frank Brophy, the case was won in 2004 and every case to date save for the case in Donegal to which the Minister is so fond of referring.

Leaving aside the unintentional irony in the juxtaposition of citing Brophy v Kehoe while seated beside Declan Keogh, who was publicly berated by Brophy in the Irish Shooters Digest for attempting to take undue credit for the return of pistols; we move to the last clause of O’Mahony’s statement, that one anomalous case in Donegal, Mc Carron -v- Kearney.

Just before we make our point though, there’s a correction to make – every case to date certainly has not been won, results from a very quick search made at the time that was discussing the McCarron case turned up another:

Goodison -v- Sheahan: 9mm Glock applied for, cert refused on the grounds of unsuitability, refusal was upheld but it was noted that the applicant should re-apply with more information indicating that the pistol was suitable (ie. what matches, that sort of thing)

Having made that correction, let us now consider the salient point – despite the fact that many, many cases have been taken and won by the NARGC legal team, a judge can still go against precedent and the case can be lost; and that one loss has proven sufficient for the Minster to feel a total handgun ban was in order.

When the risk is so high, when even the best-funded legal team in the shooting community can lose a case with such enormous repercussions for so many other shooters (many of whom had no say in the selection of the case to begin with), how can Keogh and O’Mahony honestly say that they should take legal action on so lightly, without a national mandate, without a fair process by which all shooters who take the risk can have a say in whether or not a case should go forward, without going through established structures, and without knowing such basic facts as how many times these cases have been lost or won in the past?And that’s not even mentioning the financial risk!

Taking legal action like this against the state is like playing Russian Roulette – it doesn’t matter how often you win, losing just once is still going to ruin your whole day.


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