Feb 24th 2023
We here at FUNI have been asked over the last few weeks as to what is the position of Night vision devices in Ireland, as to their ownership, what types are legal and what is the current situation with ownership and possessing such? As well as what is happening with the Junior Minister James Brown extending the Firearms Expert Committee to look at the licensing or further restricting of these devices in the future?
Well let’s start with the law as it currently stands. Night vision, lasers and thermal sighting devices are covered under the Firearms and offensive weapons act 1990.
Specifically (i) telescope sights with a light beam, or telescope sights with an electronic light amplification device or an infra-red device, designed to be fitted to a firearm specified in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (e), (NOTE this was updated to include Thermal devices too in later years)
Night vision devices are treated like silencers as “firearms” in their own right under the legislation and can be held on authorization by your local Garda Superintendent. This is what the “sights” box is for on your firearms application form. Not for as many mistakenly believe for normal riflescopes or red dot electronic sights. Note also is says in the paragraph “Designed to be fitted to” a firearm, or in more normal parlance “Weapons mountable” So this means if you have a pair of Night Vision [NV] binoculars, thermal spotting scope or NV hand held monocular be it hand held or helmet or head mountable. You DO NOT need an authorization to use this device while out hunting.
You DO need a Supers authorisation if this is a dedicated scope that you have mounted onto your rifle or shotgun. More than likely also if it is a “Clip on” monocular that you can mount the NV device to the rear or front of the scope to give your day scope NV capability. There is also another set up that could circumvent this too, but we are not going to say how it is done, save to say looking at any footage of Ukrainian troops or American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan with helmet mounted NV monocular and red dot sights might be of interest too.
This legislation was drawn up in the 1990s, when the author could remember NV scopes of any shape or form costing up in the 3 thousand Pounds/Punts/Dollars/Deutsche Mark starting price upwards. It was at the cusp of the Russian surplus and Russian manufactured equipment was just entering the European market. So the chances of anyone in Ireland buying such was very much on the slim to none line of things.
As usual, the law didn’t take into account the leaps of technology to leave it spluttering in its dust cloud. The Russians produced reasonable quality Gen “2 improved and Gen 3 scopes for about a quarter of what western NV manufactures were selling for. While not the best compared to Western units. It is robust equipment that is designed to work, and once you get used to seeing everything in green and black and so it found many takers in the UK and Europe and Ireland. While still around the 1,250-1500 mark. It has dropped even further in price by the Chinese making reasonable and cheap copies of the Western scopes and monocular and selling them on Aliexpress, Wish etc. for about 450 euros!
So why the fuss now about NV in Ireland? Well, it seems our customs and Revenue have intercepted a few pretty state of the art NV scopes coming in from the UK, NI in the mails and pointed this out to the Gardai. Now; it seems there are few corresponding authorizations to the people purchasing these devices. It is unknown at this time any concrete facts and figures as to how many or whether the above is what actually happened. Save to say it was enough for Minister Browne [FF] Wexford to ask the Firearms Examination Committee to look into this situation and whether further ministerial meddling…er…attention is required in this area of the Irish legislation.
It also seems to have left the Gardai working at the coalface with this with no idea as to what is the policy now. As I enquired off my local firearms officer as to what is going on and was he aware of this recent movement on NV? There is apparently a Garda advice circular going about by Garda email:
“That all further applications are to be ceased and that these devices are to be treated as a restricted firearms application decided by a chief Superintendent and pending talks with the Dept. of Justice[DOJ} are not to be issued.”
If this is true, it would violate the statue law as laid down by the Firearms and offensive weapons Act 1990, as it is a Superintendents authorization not a chiefs and to classify NV as a restricted firearm, as this classification only came in in 2006 /08 under the Criminal Justice Misc. provisions act is smelling of “making it up as they go along” law.
Especially if another division, so far, UN named or traceable came up with this helpful circular:
Furthermore, it seems many gun dealers have received a letter from the DOJ stating that there are to be no more sales of NV to anyone not having a firearms cert without the appropriate authorization on it.
This begs one question? WHAT does the NV authorisation look like on your Cert? We all know it is an “S” for silencer, but what is it for NV? So how would a dealer know when you rock up to buy a NV unit that you are authorised? That’s even if you could be bothered buying one at a steep mark-up at an Irish gun dealer when you could comfortably order one online from China or Ebay in Europe or even from Ukraine, that now makes battle tested NV and thermal units at very reasonable money.
Remember too, it has to be a weapons mountable device. IE it has to have some attachment point device to mount it to a firearm. Without that it is a monocular that could just as easily be used for spotting or observation of whatever at night.
So to conclude. Where does this leave us in this situation?
Well, if you do have one mounted on your firearm without the authorisation, I’d suggest removing it from that and keeping it separate from the gun if you are out and about at night with it or at home even in the gun safe. Until we can get further clarification from either the mainstream shooting organisations, the Dept. of Justice or the Gardai as how they are proceeding with this issue just be very careful with such equipment being on or near your firearm.
However which way our powers that be wish to proceed, it is going to be messy no doubt for us licensed gunowners, and impossible to enforce unless the person is caught “in Flagrante” with the NV mounted on a firearm, which could be nigh on impossible with a clip on device or other systems.
Also, I would like to hear from you out there if you have NV and have recently or been a long time licensed user of such what has your experience been of this situation in the last 6 months?
Stay safe out there, and take someone shooting and grow the gun owning community in Ireland.
Firearms United Ireland.