INCIDENTS AND OTHER CONCERNS RAISED BY GCN CORRESPONDENTS

ENGLAND

Kent, 1 March 2013

"Whilst jogging along the footpath during the early evening my son was shot in left thigh with what we later discovered was an airgun.

He did not see or hear the offender. He was not aware at first as to what had taken place or the serious nature of it. He heard what we now believe to be the discharge or the air weapon and almost at the same time felt the pain in his thigh. It was not until he returned home that he saw the hole in his thigh, there was bleeding, the pellet could not be seen and we were not sure if it was still in his thigh.

He was taken to the local Accident and Emergency centre where an X ray confirmed the projectile was still in the thigh. Antibiotics and pain killers were provided and the need for an operation to remove the pellet was confirmed. He was kept in hospital for 15 hours on the first visit. The operation could not be performed straight away and he had to return three days later.

When he did return, the operation took place under general anaesthetic. Pain killers were once again provided and were taken for several days following the operation. At some point he will be required to return to see the consultant.

Initially there was disbelief that someone would take a deliberate shot at a human being with an air weapon. The fact he was one of two persons targeted that evening tends to suggest it was not random. In the initial stages it was viewed as a minor injury which is far from the case, this was brought home to us when discussing the matter with the surgeon. He was lucky it was in his thigh, there remained however the risk of infection and the possibility of a blood clot, both of which could have serious consequences. Whilst the hole caused by the pellet was reasonably small, the scar left by the operation is considerably larger. In part is this caused in locating the pellet and the need to remove any damaged tissue.

Shock was quite slow to set in and took several days. Since the incident there has been a loss of confidence and a degree of anxiety. There is certainly a great deal of anger. We have always considered ourselves lucky in that we live in a good neighbourhood. Our views in this respect have changed considerably and we no longer feel as safe as we used to. Every time we go past the location we are on the lookout.

Whilst not as important, several days have had to be taken off work to allow the wound to heal properly."

We thank this family for sharing their experience with us. We send our good wishes to their son and wish him a full recovery and no long term consequences.

The vast majority of air weapons being used in the UK are 'low-powered' and do not require a licence. Despite their so called 'low-power' we are aware of the deaths of many children and several adults as a result of air weapon injuries. See http://www.infertrust.org/issues_airguns.asp.

They are the weapon of choice for criminals, cheap and easy to buy for anyone claiming to be over 18 and requiring no background checks.

Individuals whose guns have been confiscated and destroyed by courts following convictions, those who have served prison sentences for crimes including gun crime, violent criminals, perpetrators of domestic violence and those suffering from mental illness, can and do buy and use air weapons.

The criminal use of air weapons costs the UK public many thousands of pounds each year in medical care, police time, court time, disruption, loss of working hours, property repairs, disruption to public services, public transport disruption, vet bills, pain and suffering. Members of the public are injured when those using air weapons in gardens fail to ensure the safety of others in nearby gardens and we are aware of many serious neighbour disputes caused by air weapon use on domestic premises.

The Scottish Government are currently making preparations for the introduction of licensing legislation for air weapons. Gun Control Network welcomes this and is working towards bring about licensing for all air weapons throughout England and Wales and banning their use on domestic premises.

Those requiring an air weapon for legitimate pest control purposes would require a licence in the same way as those using shotguns for pest control etc. and we believe all responsible air weapons owners would welcome this in the interests of public safety.


Rushden
, 15 February 2008

A correspondent from Rushden in Northamptonshire has written to us about an air rifle attack on her cat:

On 15th February, our 6 yr old cat was shot by an air rifle in Rushden.  She now has a pellet embedded in her rear leg which cannot be removed. The distress and suffering caused has been terrible, and will affect her for the rest of her life. The police are investigating the incident, but are not hopeful of a resolution. Even if people are not concerned about animal cruelty, I feel they should be concerned about the probability of such behaviour escalating.

Read more first-hand stories from cat owners whose pets fell victim to air gun attacks here.

 

London, 20 March 2007

 

Another example, provided by a correspondent from London, of the selfish attitude of an airgun user who has no regard for his neighbours’ legitimate concerns about the dangers involved in shooting in gardens in built up areas.  Sadly it has been met with a further instance of an inadequate response from the police, who apparently give more weight to a shooter’s wishes than the public’s need to feel safe.

 “A few months ago a man moved into our street and began using his back garden for target practice with an airgun.  The boundary walls are low and everyone’s backdoors and windows are just a few feet away from one another.  His target practice sometimes takes place at night and has involved switching on his garden spotlights at 1 a.m.

 

“He is shooting pigeons and some of them are falling into neighbouring gardens leaving the neighbours to dispose of the carcasses.  The police have been called a number of times but say he has a licence for his firearms, is a responsible gun owner and experienced hunter, and he is only using an airgun to shoot the pigeons. They have asked me not to tell them anymore if he discharges his airgun or any of his weapons in his garden since he is not doing anything wrong as long as he fires within his own garden walls. However, we feel that although he may be firing within his walls he would have to be aiming outside the walls to shoot the pigeons.”

The neighbours have tried to complain to the local authority and have asked the RSPCA to investigate, with little success to date.  This has left them feeling nervous and vulnerable when they are by their back windows and in their gardens.  “We do not want him to start firing while we are out back and we do not want to have pigeons falling on us in the summer months.”  One couple have decided that they must keep their cats indoors.

 

It is totally inappropriate that one airgun user can leave his neighbours feeling so exposed, and the police should have a duty to give the safety of the public a higher priority than this, not least at a time when Government and senior police officers have been focusing on the dangers posed by guns.  It is not an adequate response simply to try and reassure neighbours that they should put their trust in a man who wants to fire guns at night, and has no regard for what happens to the pigeons he kills, simply because he is an ex-soldier or an experienced hunter.

 

GCN notes that our correspondent has been told by police that the man has a licence for some firearms, suggesting that he has weapons other than low-powered airguns.  However, weapons that require a licence should never be fired in these circumstances.  A better explanation to the local community must be provided by the police.

South Yorkshire, 15 February 2007

Over the years Gun Control Network has been contacted by a number of parents whose children have been killed or seriously injured as a result of the misuse of airguns.   This latest communication provides another reminder of the terrible consequences that can result from the irresponsible use of these dangerous weapons.  Julie writes from South Yorkshire:

"My son was shot in the back in September 2005 while out riding his motor bike by Scott Dowse who was out with an airgun, the gun was never found to this day. Scott was ordered to serve just nine months in prison because of his age at the time of the accident, he was 17.  This is not good enough as my son Mark has been left a tetraplegic who needs a ventilator to breathe and has limited movement, all because guns are so easy to buy.  My son has a life sentence and is still in a spinal unit until our house is adapted and Scott is let out in March.  Where is the justice in law?"

Why is it that airguns continue to be treated as if they differ from other firearms?  They too have the potential to maim and kill and should be treated in exactly the same way as other Section 1 firearms with respect to both licensing and registration and to the penalties that should face anyone who misuses them.

> See Doncaster Today for the latest on Mark

February 2007

"Daily Post, 2 January 2002

Three men were shot in the reception area of a pub in Speke.  All three received injuries to their legs.  Up to four men were involved, and between four and six shots were discharged before they escaped in a car."

A correspondent has written to us about the above incident.  He was one of the victims and is keen to ensure that those responsible for gun crime are made aware of the damage their actions cause.  Five years after he was shot, on News Years Eve 2001, he is still badly affected by the experience.

He was a friend of the doorman of the pub where the shooting occurred and was just standing there.  He was shot three times (once in the stomach and foot, but most of the damage was done by the bullet that entered his leg).  He was operated on for 16 hours and now has several pins in his femur.  He continues to suffer as a result of the shooting.  Although he works full time, has a family and home he still finds life very hard because of flash backs.

Hythe, November 2006

We have received a letter from a correspondent who raises some very worrying issues about what happens to a deadly legacy when a gun owner dies.  Here is part of what she wrote:
 
"My partner recently passed away.  He had a vast collection of firearms at his home, there were shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, handguns (pump action shotgun) & antique guns etc.  And I have never seen so much ammunition!  There were between 30/40 guns,  some legal some not (I was told).  His brother-in-law and nephew took all the firearms from his house for safe keeping as they said I would be in serious trouble if I had possession of any of them and shouldn't leave them in an empty house as I didn't have a licence and he'd sort them all out at a later date

"I was stupid enough to trust these people, I know the whereabouts of 7 of the shotguns and I gave permission for him to sell about 6 of the shotguns.  When I enquired where all the rest of the guns were they told my solicitor they had sold the lot, this includes the illegal ones I presume.  I have made repeated requests for the name of the person they sold them to and for the receipts and lists etc, they have not responded to date.
 
"I informed my local police as I was responsible for all the guns and wanted to make sure that they have not got into the wrong hands. I thought they would be safe with the brother-in-law at the time and I thought they were helping me, I was in shock at just losing my partner and they just took over.
 
"The police said they would make enquiries but I have heard nothing since August.  The police seem to think it is a civil matter!!  Which I find unbelievable,  I have gone to them reporting all these missing firearms, I did not give my permission for them to all be sold, just for them to hold on to until such time they could be gone through properly as there was so many.
 
"Why can't the police at least find out who they were sold to and let me know?  I feel so responsible, I don't know how I allowed this to happen and for my own peace of mind I really do want to know where all those guns are.  Surely the police have the powers to trace them?  Or demand to see the receipts etc?  Do I have to wait until something serious happens?  Why is no one concerned?"
 
GCN is certainly concerned about the issues raised here.  The lack of activity by the police is extremely worrying.

If the guns are legal then appropriate processes should be followed and our correspondent's solicitor was surely obliged to advise her on these.  However, it sounds as though some of the weapons are illegal in the UK, and whether they've been sold by relatives or held in 'safe keeping' by them, they are still illegally held, and whoever the 'keepers' are they're liable to prosecution.  The police too have a duty to investigate this thoroughly.

We have suggested that it is important for our correspondent to write a letter to her Chief Constable giving him:-

1. details of the missing weapons,
2. the name and address of her partner's brother in law and nephew
3. the address from where the firearms were removed
4. the dates they were removed
5. the date you first contacted the Police, and asking to know the outcome of his investigations.

We will be following up this case.  We have no idea what has happened to the guns but our correspondent is right to be worried that the guns, legal or illegal, could have fallen into the wrong hands and the police appear to have shown little concern.

Henley-on-Thames, 3 November 2006

A mother from Oxfordshire wrote to us because we had not seen a report about her son's shooting with an air rifle.  We have now added the incident to the list for April 2006.  The incident was another serious airgun incident involving a young teenager, and we believe it is important to provide more details.  We also consider it important to highlight the continuing complacency shown towards these potentially lethal weapons.  The victim was shot by another boy (both were aged 13) whose parent was in the house at the time and had allowed him to have the gun (it was a gift three weeks before).  The boy thought it would be fun to threaten the victim before shooting.  The shot boy's mother was told that he would not survive, but fortunately some of the pellet was removed from the his brain during emergency brain surgery.  Most of the pellet remains embedded further into his skull.  CPS decided that although they noted that the shooting was not an accident and that it passed the evidential test that they would not take the boy to court but gave him a "Final Warning".  They said that it did not pass the public interest criteria.  The police have had nothing to say.

 

Also see Letters sent to MPs by parents of other young airgun victims.

Keswick, October 2006

A correspondent wrote to us expressing concern about a shop in Keswick, Cumbria, that sells toys on the ground floor and fishing rods and rifles on the upper floor.  Whilst recognising that this is legal, she points out that only a scruffy notice deterred unaccompanied children from going upstairs.  She writes "surely the very fact that children see toys and guns being sold in the same shop must send out the wrong sort of message".

Stoke-on-Trent, 19 June 2006

Three pellets were fired into a new van as our correspondent was driving down a road in the Stoke-on-Trent area.  Had the passenger window been open he thinks his wife would have been injured.  He believes that the three pellets hit the van so quickly that three different air rifles were fired.

Derby, 18 May 2006

A correspondent wrote to ask if GCN had heard of any shooting incidents in the Derby area.  Her father's car had the rear window shot out on 10 May as he travelled home from work.  A bullet hole was found in the back seat head rest.  The matter was reported to the police but nothing was done and no officer had come to see the family.


SCOTLAND

Kirkcaldy, 26 May 2006

We were contacted by the daughter of a man who died from a shotgun wound to the head at an activity centre in 2004.  Here is her account of what happened.

Fatal Accident Inquiry into Death at Shooting Range

"A fatal accident inquiry is set to take place at Sheriff Courthouse, Whytecauseway, Kirkcaldy on the 20-22 June 2006 to investigate the death of JM, aged 57, who died from a shotgun wound to the head in 2004 at Cluny Clays Activity Centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

"JM died on the 2nd November 2004 after visiting the Activity Centre whilst suffering from severe depression.  Despite having had his gun licence revoked by the police several months prior to shooting himself at the range, he was given access to a shotgun without any proof of identity.

"JM left home at 3.30 pm on the 2nd November 2004, yet he was not declared dead until 7.12 pm.  He would have died between 3.45 and 7.12 pm (coroner's report).  It is feared that during this time there was scope for others to be injured or for the gun to be taken off the premises.

"Cluny Clays Activity Centre sells family tickets and offers to host children's parties."

The fatal accident inquiry is taking place in August (see Incidents).


WALES

Cardiff, 17 May 2006

We received a message from a concerned mother with a disabled daughter in St Mellons, Cardiff, who has experienced anti-social behaviour outside her home.  She described how a youth, aged about 18, had a gun in close proximity to her house.    She had reported the same youth with a gun a month or so earlier.  On the second occasion he was heard to ask other youths whether anyone wanted to buy it and fired it (this was video taped by our correspondent).  Although it was reported to the police nothing was done.  They did decide it was a BB gun but it is now being described as a toy gun.  Our correspondent believed, correctly, that it is an offence to brandish a gun in a public place but no action has been taken.  Her local councillor was totally aware of the gun incidents but he had not returned her call.  She has also written to the Chief Constable but had not received a reply.  Only her A.M. had responded.  Her experience raises concerns about the degree of seriousness with which some authorities treat the brandishing of weapons on our streets.


INCIDENTS INVOLVING ANIMALS

Lincolnshire, June 2007

A correspondent from a village three miles outside Lincoln has written to tell us how her cat was shot with an airgun in January this year and died three days later from the severity of his injuries.  A pellet had passed through his internal organs.  This occurred two months after a cat living at the other end of the village had also been killed when it was shot in the head with an airgun.  The police have a suspect for both shootings, the same person, but are hampered in what they can do to arrest him.  Since our correspondent's cat was killed there have been other shootings in the area, one in a village on the other side of Lincoln and one in Lincoln itself where the owner lost two cats on the same day to airgun pellets.

The message arrived within days of warnings from the RSPCA and Scottish SPCA that airgun attacks on animals are on the increase in a number of regions (see June 2007 Incidents).

Essex, February 2007 (Update)

In June 2006 a correspondent wrote to us describing how her cat had been shot and killed with an airgun (see Personal Accounts 2006).  Since then a weapon has been seized from a neighbour and shown to match the pellet recovered from the cat.  The air weapon was found to be over the legal power limit.  The man was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm without certificate and causing unnecessary suffering of an animal.  He pleaded guilty to the possession charge and the case was being referring back to magistrates to determine the outcome of the animal cruelty offence.  It will then be returned to the Crown Court for sentencing.  Our correspondent encourages people to report and pursue similar offences.

Mexborough, February 2007

A correspondent has written to GCN about her cat Sheba who was shot with an air rifle in the vicinity of her house.  The family had heard a shot at the back of the house and half an hour later the cat was found lying outside the backdoor.

"She just looked at me and meowed but couldn't get up.  Being long haired, she was in a right mess, it was raining and she'd obviously been lying there since we'd heard the shot.  We immediately brought her in and while I was trying to keep her warm in towels etc.  My partner was speaking to the emergency vet who told us to bring her straight away.  When she was examined, a hole was found in her left side, her breathing was shallow and she was very weak.  The vets said they'd go ahead and X-ray to confirm the pellet with my permission and continue any treatment if I wanted them to."

"She was X-rayed and it was confirmed she had a pellet in her chest that had gone in one side, through her ribs and lungs to the other side where it had shattered one of her ribs and narrowly missing her heart.  She was kept under observation, given oxygen and a tight compress was put over the wound because her chest cavity was filling with air causing her to struggle breathing."

After a worrying few days Sheba was finally able to go home but has had difficulty eating.  The vets bills for the treatment have already reached £450 and are rising.

The pellet has been recovered and the family have been in contact with the police urging them to investigate.  Our correspondent understands that if an animal has been seriously injured or killed and there is a suspect then the police should follow it up whether there is proof or not.  She is certain she knows who is responsible.  The RSPCA also know about the incident and the local paper has been informed.  She has carefully recorded what has happened in a daily log, and we hope that there will be enough evidence to ensure that the culprit is brought to book for his callous action.

Judging from the reports of cats being shot with airguns we are aware  that our correspondent's experiences have been shared by too many others.  Shooting animals with an airgun like this is an act of cruelty.  It also causes great distress to a pets' owners.  There is also a further dimension.  Our correspondent and her partner have two young children and not surprisingly she is now concerned for their safety in the vicinity of someone who is prepared to misuse an air rifle.

Willingale, Essex, 30 August 2006

We were contacted by a correspondent about an incident in which a domestic cat had its front leg shot off by lampers on a truck using a high powered .22 rifle on farmland next to houses in Willingale.  The lampers are causing great alarm among residents and are not being policed at all.

Essex, 16 June 2006 *

A correspondent wrote to us describing how her cat had been shot recently with an airgun.  The cat could not survive the injuries.  Her vet commented that in 30 years of practice he had never seen such severe injuries from an airgun pellet.  It had penetrated his lung, diaphragm, liver, spleen, both kidneys and several parts of the bowel.  The police have seized a weapon from the person suspected and are working with the RSPCA to pursue a prosecution.   See Personal Accounts 2007 for an Update).

Kensal Green, London, April 2006

Letter from a correspondent:

"In early February my cat was shot in the leg with an airgun by my neighbour. The shot broke both bones of her foreleg, leaving the pellet lodged in the bone. She underwent an operation and an external metal rod was fitted; she was in a full leg cast for six weeks and now faces a long and painful recovery. This incident has damaged my cat for life and caused a huge amount of trauma, stress, and anxiety (as well as expense) for myself.
 
"This man has been seen shooting and killing squirrels in his back garden and he has also half-blinded a neighbourhood cat by shooting it through the eye. I'm now certain that a dead magpie found in my garden a few months ago, whose cause of death mystified me at the time, was another unlucky victim of his target practice.
 
"I reported the incident to the police and gave them the pellet removed from my cat's leg. They finally went to talk to my neighbour and confiscated his airgun; both gun and pellet will be sent for forensic analysis to see whether the two can be linked. Originally I was told by the police that if the two can be linked they could criminally prosecute him; however I was told today that the CPS have looked at the case and decided he can't be criminally convicted because a cat doesn't count as my property. Instead the case will then pass to an RSPCA inspector who will look into the matter as a case of animal cruelty, and I could then pursue a civil suit.
 
"I am galled by the fact that the lax gun laws do not allow the police to prosecute this man. That, and the fact that the CPS have ruled that my cat doesn't count as a personal possession, means that I have no recourse in law to seeing this man punished and having him compensate me for at least my financial costs (£2,000 for vets bills and associated costs).
 
"It's clear that the only solution to this kind of wicked and irresponsible behaviour is a complete ban on airguns in a city or populated area. These guns are not kids' toys but potentially lethal weapons that cause thousands of injuries each year (both to people and animals), as well as untold cases of animal cruelty and death. The current law that allows people to shoot guns in their own back gardens gives them virtually a free hand to do what they like, especially if they know they can't be prosecuted for injuring or killing someone's pets.
 
"Guns of whatever kind have no place in a civilized society. The government seems very keen on helping communities feel safe, but I don't see them addressing this problem -- which is all the more rampant because the perpetrators can carry out their acts of cruelty with impunity in the eyes of the law."

If you have had similar experiences please let us know.  GCN is campaigning for tighter controls over the ownership and use of airguns.

 

 

 

 

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