Having just returned from Ireland, I’ll have some columns on the neat things about Ireland that I found so intriguing. This column will deal with guns and police. Or, in Ireland, the lack thereof. Ireland has pretty restrictive gun laws and essentially only permits sporting weapons, although some handgun permits exist. Their gun ownership is estimated at about 5 guns per 100 citizens. In the USA, it’s more like 36 guns per 100 citizens. Big difference, but then Ireland has been getting invaded for some 2000 years with little or no opposition, so maybe they ought to arm up.
What I found more interesting is that there isn’t a “garda” (or policeman) on every street corner, or street, or hiding out at the local donut shop. We travelled all over the country and could only recall seeing a garda on a very rare occasion. Sure, there were plenty of garda at the Aviva stadium where Georgia Tech won its thrilling game over Boston College, and at major outdoor public events there were garda present directing traffic and so forth. But here is where the number gets interesting. In the U.S., according to the FBI, there are about 1.1 million officers against a total population of some 318 million. Works out to a cop for every 289 of us.
In Ireland, they have 12,716 gardas. With a population of 4.6 million Irish, that works out to a garda per every 361 Irishman. Yet that difference, although significant, doesn’t match what I’ve seen on my visits. You just don’t see garda hanging out on every street corner, running LPRs, driving stealth cars and such. In fact, they tend to drive very economical little cars, but so does everyone else.
Crime data is like politics, everyone has an opinion and a fact to back it up. One prominent source I read said that Ireland had 81,274 total crimes vs. 11,880,000 for that same year in the U.S. We are #1 in the world in crimes, Ireland is #50. Gun crimes, Ireland ranked 86th, the U.S. ranked 1st. (www.nationmaster.com)
The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is simple. It rains all the time. When it’s not raining, you have to slog your way to the pub to get something to eat, so who has time for crime? Plus Irish people are the friendliest folks I’ve ever met. They don’t give you directions somewhere, they take you there. Then they want to buy you a beer. And you are expected to buy them a round, or two, or three, as well.