LETHAL AIRGUNS

 

The following was issued as a Press Release by GCN on 9 March 2005

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The death of Andrew Morton, the two-year-old from Easterhouse, Glasgow, who was shot in the head with an airgun pellet, has once again shown in the most tragic way possible that airguns are lethal weapons.

Airguns are not toys.  They are dangerous weapons that have become increasingly sophisticated over the years.  Legislation must take that into account.

Despite a recent increase in the minimum age for purchasing an airgun, they are still too easily available, and too many are already owned and used by those who have no good reason to keep them.  With such lack of control it is predictable that some people, especially young boys, will consider it fun to take potshots at property, pets and people.  Too often they are being used by children, targeted at children or fired in areas where children are playing or walking.

In its response to Andrew Mortonís death the Home Office has commented that enforcement of legislation is the key and that it is now an offence to be in possession of an airgun in a public place without good reason.  This misses the point.  The new legislation did nothing to tighten controls over airguns within private property.  The shot that killed Andrew was fired from a flat, so the offence that led to Andrewís death could only be dealt with after it had happened.  That is too late for victims.  The Government needs to introduce tougher measures to prevent airgun crime and that should mean a restriction on ownership.

For years the Gun Control Network has been campaigning for tighter controls over airguns.  We have proposed that all lethal guns should be licensed, irrespective of their firing mechanism.  We believe that lethality should be clearly defined and suggest this include anything of 0.5 Joule or greater.  Everything lethal should be included in a licensing system which requires a good reason to own any gun.

Gun Control Network urges the Government to act now and tighten the controls over airguns.  As we show below the incident that led to Andrew Mortonís death was not an isolated one and the danger signs have been there for a long time.  Neither was Andrew the first child to die from an airgun pellet injury, and unless something is done urgently it is inevitable that there will be more tragedies.

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Andrew Mortonís death did not result from an isolated airgun shooting

GCN continually monitors media reports of incidents and court cases involving guns, which we include on our website.  Many of these concern airguns, and the list below shows that in the past four months there have been a significant number of reports about these weapons being used in a way that has put members of the public at risk, with injuries occurring in a number of instances.

Many of the shots have been fired from private property where there are currently no controls over airguns.

It was only a matter of time before a pellet hit another especially vulnerable victim and claimed his life.

South Wales Echo, 2 March 2005

A sniper targeted four bus passengers, including two children, waiting at a bus stop in Pentrebane, Cardiff.  When police arrived they were seen to confiscate an air rifle but witnesses were surprised that no one was arrested.  It is believed that the shots came from a block of flats.

Sunderland Echo, 1 March 2005

A six-year-old boy almost blinded a 12-year-old girl from Pallion when he shot her in the eye with a ball-bearing gun.  The victim was playing with her friend when the boy aimed the weapon and fired at her face.  The police described it as "an unfortunate accident".

Sheffield Today, 1 March 2005

A pensioner was shot in the head as she walked home from a Sheffield bus stop.  The pellet was fired from a ball-bearing gun.  The victim fainted with fear when she felt the blow and saw blood streaming from an inch-long gash.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 22 February 2005

Three shots were fired at a church in Huddersfield during an evening service.  The shots, thought to be from a high-powered airgun, broke double-glazed windows.

BBC, 22 February 2005

Three people suffered injuries after being shot at with airgun pellets in Gloucester.  One man needed treatment in hospital for wounds to his knee and elbow, another was shot in the leg and medical staff have been unable to remove the pellet.

BBC, 21 February 2005

A woman cycling along the A435 at Portway near Redditch was fired at from a passing car and injured by a pellet.  She heard a cracking sound as she and a friend were overtaken by a silver coloured Peugeot.

Pendle Today, 18 February 2005

Roger Baldwin discharged an air pistol through his window, which overlooked Colne cricket ground, during a match. A pellet hit the ground near to the bowler, who had started his run up.  He has been given three years' detention. 

Cambridge News, 15 February 2005

At least five people have been hit by airgun pellets in a series of shooting incidents in the Barton Road area of Cambridge.

Eastbourne Today, 8 February 2005

Eastbourne Buses will not reinstate evening bus services to the Shinewater estate which were suspended because of attacks on buses, including one in which a teenager shot at a window with an air rifle.

BBC, 5 February 2005

A firefighter was shot at with an air rifle whilst tackling a blaze in Stockwell, south London.  He was hit close to the collarbone but escaped serious injury.  A gang of six youths was being sought.

Express & Star, 4 February 2005

Arron Ellis, 16, twice opened fire with an air rifle on pupils at Wodensborough Technology College in Wednesbury.  He shot and injured five children on a playing field in one attack in November 2004 and hit and injured a boy in December 2004.  He admitted two charges of common assault and asked for four identical offences to be taken into consideration.  He has been given an eight-month detention and training order (Express & Star, 3 March 2005).

Manchester News, 4 February 2005

A Wythenshawe schoolboy was shot in the face with an airgun in an unprovoked attack as he waited for the bus home.  The victim has blurred vision in the injured eye.

icBerkshire, 3 February 2005

A schoolboy on a trip to the theatre in London was hit in the leg with an airgun pellet.  The incident took place during the interval when the pupils and staff were outside on the South Bank.  The pellet was removed in hospital the next day.

Sheffield Today, 1 February 2005

A mother was terrified when she was hit in the face by a youth firing a pellet gun whilst making a phone call in Gleadless Valley.  A gang of around 20 youths had been firing paint bombs at the phone booth before she was shot at.

BBC, 1 February 2005

In the past two months five people in Fareham and Gosport have been hurt by being hit by plastic ball bearings fired from a moving car.  Police believe the attacks are connected and have been carried out by a person or group in a small silver hatchback.

BBC, 1 February 2005

A 68-year-old man was shot in the chest with an airgun as he walked past three youths in an alley in Greenhithe, Kent.  He was treated in hospital for a cut but doctors told him he could have died had the pellet hit his heart or lungs (This is Local London, 9 February 2005).

Manchester News, 24 January 2005

A milkman sorting out crates in Cheadle was shot in the face with an airgun.  The pellet, fired at pointblank range, lodged in his cheek.  Five teenagers produced the pistol and fired without warning.

BBC, 21 January 2005

A man and a teenager were arrested after a bus was shot at, probably with an airgun, in Stoke-on-Trent.

BBC, 20 January 2005

A man was arrested following reports of a number of people, including a 14-year-old boy and his friend on their way to school, being shot in Telford with an air rifle.

icCoventry, 18 January 2005

A commuter driving on the A46 at the Marraway Island was threatened by another motorist who pulled up alongside and pointed a handgun at him through an open window.  An 18-year-old has been arrested and two air pistols recovered by police, one from a car the other from the arrested youth's home.

Leeds Today, 17 January 2005

An air rifle was fired from a car at players during a brawl at an amateur Rugby League game in Pontefract.  Chequerfield fans had invaded the pitch during a match with Bradford West Bowling.  The trouble started when members of the crowd chanted racial abuse at a West Bowling player.  The match was abandoned and the club have now been thrown out of the competition (Guardian, 25 January 2005).

Eastern Daily Press, 11 January 2005

A married couple walking into Norwich city centre were shot at with an air rifle from a block of flats.  They suffered minor injuries and were left shaken by the experience.

BBC, 9 January 2005

An air rifle was fired randomly from a block of flats in Borehamwood.  Three people were hit by pellets.  A woman in her 50s has been treated in hospital for a head injury.  The Borehamwood & Elstree Times (January 14 2005) reported that a fourth victim, a man in his 50s, had been shot in the shoulder and found an airgun pellet lodged in his jacket.  They also reported damage to windows and a front door in the area.

Shropshire Star, 4 January 2005

A coach driver escaped injury when a missile was fired through his windscreen as he left a Telford depot.  It is believed that an air rifle pellet shattered the windscreen.

Eastern Daily Press, 30 December 2004

In a report on a recent spate of vandalism and anti-social behaviour in Mattishall the paper described how air rifle pellets were fired at the surgery, shattering a window.

Edinburgh Evening News, 27 December 2004

A teenager fired an airgun pellet into the cab of a bus being driven through a housing estate in Dalkeith.  The pellet narrowly missed the driver.

Doncaster Today, 23 December 2004

Two 12-year-old boys were shot in the face with BB guns at a school in Balby.  Four boys were arrested after the incident.

Stockport Express, 21 December 2004

A grandmother who was shot in the face with an air rifle as she waited as a bus stop in Stockport on her way home has supported calls to halt the underage sales of the weapons.

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle), 18 December 2004

A teenager is almost completely blind in one eye after being shot with an airgun by a 16-year-old youth in Ryton.  The youth was convicted of grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to 14 months in a young offenders institution and made the subject of an anti-social behaviour order for two years (Evening Chronicle, 20 January 2005).

Rochdale Observer, 17 December 2004

A four-month-old baby and her parents were lucky to escape serious injury when their car was hit by an airgun pellet in Rochdale.  The back window of the car was completely shattered.

Grampian TV, 6 December 2004

A teenage girl was shot with an airgun on the doorstep of her home in Elgin.  She was hit in the chest as she went to put rubbish in a bin.

Epping Forest Guardian, 2 December 2004

A bus was attacked with what was probably a pellet from a ball-bearing gun in Nazeing.  Glass door panels were shattered.

News and Star, 2 December 2004

A 13-year-old boy from Dudley needed emergency surgery to save his sight after being shot in the eye by a 7-year-old brandishing a ball-bearing gun.  He is now back at school after spending several days in hospital.

Daily Record, 30 November 2004

John McGuire, who was thrown out of a Chinese restaurant in Paisley for racist abuse returned armed with an air rifle.  He threatened to shoot members of staff.  He later pointed the gun at police.  Sentence was deferred after he admitted shouting racist abuse and weapons charges.

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough), 27 November 2004

A 15-year-old boy has admitted a charge of unlawful wounding after an incident in which a 13-year-old girl was shot with a loaded air pistol.  The pellet entered her face close to her eye.  The boy was clearer of deliberate shooting as the jury at Teesside Crown Centre accepted his plea that he did not know the air pistol was loaded and would not have pulled the trigger if he had known.

Northampton Today, 25 November 2004

A 14-year-old boy was fighting for his life after suffering a gunshot wound at his home in Quinton, Northamptonshire.  It is believed that the injury was sustained with an air weapon.

Evening Times, 22 November 2004

Two teenagers, Jack Dunsmore and Kevin Holland, shot at a 14-year-old boy with an air rifle as he as walking into the playground of Larkhall Academy.  The boy was forced to flee but was left with severe bruising to his leg and was seriously shaken.  The perpetrators were both former pupils.  Both are facing jail sentences after admitting possessing the air rifle and firing it at their victim.

Derby Evening Telegraph, 22 November 2004

A house in Derby was surrounded for two hours after a man allegedly fired an air rifle and refused to hand over the weapon.  A man was arrested.  The incident happened when environmental health workers from Derby City Council were clearing a large pile of rubbish from the doorstep of the house.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 18 November 2004

A bus driver was robbed after being threatened with a handgun in Meltham.  After the robbery he had to be taken to hospital suffering from chest pains.  It was the latest of a series of attacks on buses in the village, including a possible airgun attack in which four windows were smashed.  The First Bus company has imposed a night-time curfew on buses going on to the Broadlands estate in Meltham.

Evening Times, 17 November 2004

Eleven-year-old Scott Heap was buried following a family funeral.  Scott was shot in the eye in the bedroom of his home in Barlanark, Glasgow (Sunday Mail, 31 October 2004) and died four days later.  He and a school friend were playing with an air pistol.  The friend was apparently not aware there was a pellet in the pistol and put it against the boy's face and pulled the trigger.

BBC, 16 November 2004

A man died after being shot in the eye with an air rifle at a flat in Castleford.  Police have charged a 20-year-old man with manslaughter.

Evening News (Norwich), 13 November 2004

A 12-year-old schoolgirl was shot in the leg whilst talking to a friend outside a school in Norwich.  Police believe an air weapon was used.

BBC, 13 November 2004

A man was arrested after two people were shot with a BB gun in Manchester city centre.  One of the victims suffered minor eye injuries after being shot in a bar; the other victim was shot in the face in a restaurant.

Derby Evening Telegraph, 5 November 2004

A man suffered a pellet wound in his leg after being shot whilst walking home from a pub in Derby.

icCoventry, 5 November 2004

A couple from Kenilworth were shocked to discover that someone had fired an airgun at the home.  The shot appeared to have been fired from an alleyway at the back of the house.

Express and Star, 4 November 2004

Pensioners on two Stourbridge estates are being terrorised by vandals who throw bricks and fire airgun pellets at their homes.

Guardian, 3 November 2004

Six people were arrested on suspicion of wounding after a teenager was shot with an air rifle in Kensington, Merseyside.

 

Not included in the list are any of the numerous incidents in which animals have been shot.

 

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Kate Hoey on Gun Crime (May 07)

Ball-bearing & Non-Powder Guns (June 05)

Lethal Airguns (Mar 05)

Stolen Guns (Nov 04)

Gun Crime & Gun Comment (Nov 04)