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Conor McGregor Might Be in Trouble With the Dublin Police for That Gun Photo

The featherweight champion learns his first lesson in the pitfalls of fame.
January 8, 2016, 8:20pm

Image via Instagram

Well, Conor McGregor, you wanted to be famous. You wanted the money and the cars and the power and the championship belt and the clothing and the jewelry and the recognition. You wanted it all. And for your sins, your wish was granted. The world is now yours.

Of course, the downside to all that attention you're now getting is all that attention you're now getting. Sure, attention from fans and movie producers and talk-show hosts is pleasant, but what about hounding, consuming attention from the celebrity press? And how about unwanted attention from the cops? Gone are the quiet, easy, unnoted pleasures of the average anonymous citizen, Conor, replaced by life under a microscope.

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Yesterday, McGregor, the UFC featherweight champion and the next man in line to face lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, posted a picture on Instagram of what appears to be him sitting in the front seat of a white BMW, wearing a balaclava and pointing what looks like an automatic rifle at the camera. "Put the fight game in the bag and step away from the vehicle," the photo caption reads. Just another bit of clever self-promotion and self-aggrandizement from MMA's undisputed champion of both. Just another day in the life of Conor McGregor. Nothing to see here.

Well, not if you're the Dublin city police, apparently, who told the Independent earlier today that they are aware of the McGregor gun photo and looking into it. A garda (police) spokesman said, "We are investigating the circumstances under which the photo was taken. Gardai from Crumlin [McGregor's hometown] are investigating."

Most likely any legal controversy that may be brewing here is much ado about nothing. The gun McGregor is holding (if that is, in fact, McGregor) is probably a replica, the same Airsoft pellet gun he's been seen holding and firing at targets in his home in other Instagram posts. While there is no right to own firearms in Ireland, Airsoft rifles have been allowed there since the passage of the 2006 Criminal Justice Act Part 5, which amended the country's strict Firearms Act to distinguish between low muzzle-energy firearms like, say, Nerf launchers and actual deadly weapons. Since the passage of that law Airsoft devices have fallen under the definition of "projectile toys" established by the European Union. Which means as long as you're shooting your pellet gun on a regulated course, you're okay in Ireland's eyes.

The problem for Conor McGregor is that he wasn't on a sanctioned Airsoft course when that photo was taken. And in Irish law that's where things get murky, no matter if the gun you're holding is just a toy. According to the country's Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 it is an offense to possess a "realistic imitation firearm" in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. A "Realistic imitation firearm" (RIF) is any device that appears to any ordinary person so realistic as to be indistinguishable from a real firearm.

People found guilty of violating this section of the Criminal Justice Act are subject to a fine not to exceed €5,000 or imprisonment for up to a year. Rumor has it that McGregor made approximately $16 million for his win last month over Jose Aldo, so €5,000 would be nothing to him, but no one wants to go to prison. Not for playing with a toy. Not for trash-talking your opponents. Not for getting cute.

Yes, you'll say, but McGregor wasn't actually doing anything dangerous. He wasn't pointing a real gun and he wasn't firing a pellet-gun, so any reasonable criminal justice representative would have to laugh off any talk of possible charges here, right? Well, the problem is that under Irish law pointing a firearm at someone is the same as committing an assault, no matter if that firearm in a replica or a toy. The intention in the thing. Which I realize is a bizarre concept for Americans to try and get their heads around in an age when you can legally walk the streets of Texas holding semi-automatic weapons, armed militiamen can take over a government building in Oregon with impunity, the NRA is putting pistols into the hands of priests and elementary school teachers, and President Obama has to beg Congress to pass any gun-control legislation, no matter how toothless. To us, this Conor McGregor PR flap is doubly, even triply, ridiculous: a true tempest in a teapot.

But, Conor McGregor, you're not in America, so the issue for you isn't really about guns, is it? It's about fame—longed-for, pined-for, suffocating fame. Here you thought you'd just found a new and clever way to mock your fellow featherweights and keep the McGregor PR machine rolling, but it's not like it used to be, is it? Back in those innocent days when you were still up-and-coming and not yet the king of the world? Back when the press and the paparazzi and Hollywood didn't care about you yet but neither did the cops? There's your trade-off. Fame and fortune are now yours. The freedom to screw up, though, may be gone for good.