Former TD John Deasy has called for a ban on the issuing of new licences and the renewal of existing licences for handguns until there is a clear picture of how many such licences exist.
Mr Deasy told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that the current levels of licences for handguns were the beginning of handgun culture in Ireland.
There had been a threefold increase in licences since 2015, he added.
In 2003, there were zero handgun licences in the country, but following legal action there was a legal lacuna and some gardaí began to issue licences, he said. Within five years the number of licences had risen to 1,800.
People were buying large calibre weapons "as accessories" he claimed.
There are also huge discrepancies around the country with some regions not issuing any licences with others issuing them freely, he said, adding: "There was no centralised system."
"It was an entirely subjective system with the decision left to local Superintendents. There was a gap in the law."
When details were revealed in an article in The Irish Times, the Government acted and licences were halved, he said, but in recent times the numbers have crept back up again, and by September 2021 the number of licences for handguns in the country was at 2,600.
Nobody is clear on what is happening as information is scant, Mr Deasy said.
While the calibre of the hand guns being licensed at present was lower in many instances, he said, the figures spoke for themselves. His fear was that young men would use hand guns to settle disputes rather than their fists.
There was no information on who held the licences or where they were in the country, he said, adding there was a need to keep a handgun culture out of Ireland.
"Look at what happened in Uvalde and in Buffalo. Look at our society, there are things we need to preserve in Irish society."
Members of the Dáil were in the dark on the issue, Mr Deasy said, adding the Department of Justice need to get details on the matter as "this is happening under their noses."