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Survey reveals gun escalation fears

Almost three-quarters of Irish people think gun crime is going to escalate, a report has found.

As the European Commission called for tighter controls on firearms including stricter licensing, it released findings of a survey which showed 71% of Irish people expect an increase in gun violence in the next five years, compared to an average of 58% across the continent.

Brussels said it wants to use new laws, including possible minimum sentencing, to tackle the threats posed by illegal use of firearms.

It is looking at stricter rules on production, sale, possession, trade, trafficking, storage and deactivation including using serial numbers, common criminal sanctions and tougher licensing laws.

The Eurobarometer survey found that o ne in 10 gun owners in Ireland keeps the firearm for personal protection.

It found that of those Irish people who were surveyed, more than one fifth think gun crime in the country is very high.

And it also revealed that 71% of Irish people want to see a European response to gun crime and two thirds want European authorities to work with neighbouring countries outside the union to tackle it.

More than half of Irish people also called for stricter regulation of firearms.

Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, said plenty of work is needed to stop handguns, rifles and assault weapons ending up in the hands of criminal.

"Every week, we hear of new acts of violence being committed with firearms. Yet the debate about the illegal use and trafficking of guns in Europe is worryingly quiet," she said.

"The American debate on gun prevalence is often more visible, when we should be focussing on the home front."

The Eurobarometer survey revealed that more than 1,000 thousand people are shot dead each year and half a million registered guns which have been lost or stolen in the EU remain unaccounted for.

Two methods being looked at by the Commission are specific deactivation techniques to ensure firearms cannot be used once taken off the street and marking guns with with serial numbers when they are manufactured in order to help trace those used by criminals.

It is also considering minimum sanctions for gun crime including stipulations as to whether the illicit manufacture, trafficking, tampering with markings, illegal possession of a firearm and intent to supply should mean jail.

The Commission said it also wants more information on technological challenges facing gun controls such as online sales of weapons or 3D printing of gun parts.

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