January 2018 Review

by Gun Control Network on 19-02-2018

GCN is committed to preventing gun violence and we work to pursue that objective through changes to the legal system, public services and attitudes to guns. We collect and analyse data to provide all stakeholders with the evidence needed to initiate change.

GCN collects data on gun incidents and related sentences, inquests, and investigations in England, Scotland, and Wales as reported in the British media. We know our information is incomplete, though we believe nearly all the most serious crimes are included.

                                                            Figure 1: January 2018 incident reports by type

Gun Deaths

We are aware of at least one report in January 2018 concerning a gun death:

  • A woman was declared dead after being discovered in a car at an address in Newport, Shropshire, with a gunshot wound to her neck. A 46-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after being found at a nearby farm with a shotgun. It is believed that the victim and her teenage daughter knew the suspect and had recently moved to get away from him.

 Armed Domestic Violence

We are aware of at least two reports in January 2018 of armed domestic violence (victim known to perpetrator):

  • See Gun Deaths above, a woman, known to have recently moved house to get away from the suspect known to her.
  • A 56-year-old man has been jailed for two years after admitting to taking his legally-held shotgun to the home of his estranged wife in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. After being refused entry, he shot the lock off a communal door and proceeded to her door with the shotgun, where he demanded access to the flat.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least one report in January 2018 relating to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:

  • See Armed Domestic Violence above, (victim known to perpetrator) a 56-year-old licensed shotgun owner damaging property and threatening his estranged wife in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.

 Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least four reports in January 2018 of stolen guns and ammunition:

  • A dog-walker discovered an empty shotgun cabinet in Bristol, Avon that had reportedly been stolen from a nearby property while the owners were away. Police are searching for two air weapons that had been stored in the cabinet.
  • An air rifle was allegedly stolen during a burglary at a property in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
  • A man posing as a buyer fled after allegedly paying for an air rifle with fake £20 notes. The man declined to enter the seller’s house in Sittingbourne, Kent, instead handing over the forgeries outside before speeding off in a car.
  • Two men were jailed after admitting a number of offences in Maghull, Merseyside, including possession of a firearm without a lawful certificate while being banned from having guns due to previous offences. A double-barrelled shotgun, stolen from a home earlier on the day of the offence, was discovered hidden in a back garden.

 Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least three reports in January 2018 of animal cruelty involving guns:

  • A cat has been severely injured after being shot between the eyes at point blank range with an airgun in Blackpool Lancashire, and another has been left blind in one eye after being shot with an airgun in Bridgend, Wales. An RSPCA spokesperson called for certification of airguns.
  • A male swan has been found dead and his mate was left injured after they were reportedly shot with an air rifle in Stourport, Worcestershire.

Imitation, Airsoft, and BB guns do not currently require a licence in England or Wales. These guns are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals. Since January 2017 airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence.

N.B. Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League and other organisations and individuals, including those families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities, welcome the Government’s Review of the regulation of air weapons in England and Wales.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least twenty-one reports in January 2018 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:

  • A 27-year-old man from Basildon, Essex was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition, which he bought for his own protection but later decided to hand to police after becoming ‘paranoid’ and ‘psychotic’ about keeping it around his family.
  • Four men have been jailed after pleading guilty to a number of firearms-related offences. Their arrests came after a police pursuit in Bradford, West Yorkshire during which a handgun, loaded with seven rounds of ammunition, and 46 separate rounds of ammunition, were thrown from the car.
  • A 31-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being found guilty of aggravated burglary. Two other men, who also broke into a couple’s home in Jaywick, Essex and threatened the occupants with a gun and other weapons, and sprayed them with an unknown liquid, remain at large. 
  • A 28-year-old man has been jailed for six years after admitting to possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of prohibited ammunition and dangerous driving. Following a car chase at speeds of up to 60mph in a 20mph zone in Preston, Lancashire, the driver crashed his vehicle into a lamp post and was Tasered by police. Officers discovered a revolver and a loaded magazine in the footwell of the car.
  • A man has been jailed for six years after being convicted of possessing a submachine gun. Police involved in a major investigation into serious organised crime discovered the firearm hidden in a secret compartment in a car in Glasgow, Scotland.
  • A 41-year-old man has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to using an imitation firearm with intent to resist arrest and possessing cocaine. He was caught and restrained after fleeing across a busy car park in Leamington, Warwickshire.  The judge praised the police officers for chasing the man when they had no way of knowing whether or not the gun was real.
  • A 55-year-old woman from Llangynod, Powys has been jailed for two years after admitting to five counts of possessing a prohibited firearm, two counts of possessing prohibited ammunition and twenty counts of possessing ammunition without a licence. She claimed the weapons were “historically interesting” and accepted she had occasionally fired them. The judge did not impose the minimum sentence of five years due to exceptional circumstances. The weapons are to be confiscated and destroyed.
  • Two men have each been jailed for at least 34 years after being convicted of murder, aggravated burglary and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. The men broke into a house in St. Ives, Dorset and forced the occupants to lie on their bed at gunpoint. One victim, who was ordered to help the attackers with a code to a safe, was shot by an assailant at near-point blank range with a sawn-off shotgun after his partner pressed a concealed panic alarm.
  • A teenage boy has been sentenced to a twelve-month intensive youth referral order after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence to another person and having an axe on school premises. The boy was tackled by staff at his school in Holbeach, Lincolnshire after firing one pellet from an air rifle.
  • Armed police were deployed amid fears of a drive-by shooting after a video, reportedly showing an AK47 gun, was posted on social media. Officers arrested a 31-year-old man; however, no weapons were found during a search of his home. Officers later pulled over a 32-year-old man on a road near Newquay, Cornwall and a deactivated AK47, for which he had a deactivation certificate, was discovered at his home address. A police spokesperson said, “We are very pleased that this weapon was found to be legal but 48 officers from around the force worked on this operation over a 36-hour period and their time could have been better spent.”

 Incidents by Weapon Type

Many incidents involve the use of airguns*, Airsoft, imitation, and BB guns, which do not require a licence and may not contain ammunition but are used by perpetrators to capitalise on the fear of victims who believe they are about to be shot. Traumatised victims are often unable to identify the weapons used. It is extremely difficult to distinguish between imitations and live-firing guns unless the weapons are fired and/or recovered, and for this reason guns involved in incidents frequently remain unidentified.

Shotguns and rifles can be legally held by those granted a licence. Ultimately, legally-obtained guns in every country tend to find their way into the wrong hands, whether through theft, corrupt licensed gun dealers, and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others, (see above  Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, 56-year-old licensed shotgun owner sentenced after damaging property and threatening his estranged wife in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.)

Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.

                                                                    Figure 2: January 2018 reports by weapon type


See Gun incidents in the UK page for details of incidents involving these gun types.

Guns that do not require a licence: Airguns* (so-called ‘low-powered’) Airsoft; ball-bearing; imitation; paintball; antique; deactivated; bolt guns** and starting pistols/blank firers.

These guns are cheap, accessible, and available to buy on impulse. Moreover, lack of secure storage requirements enables theft. (See above Stolen Guns and Ammunition).

Many are capable of being converted into more powerful weapons. Guns deactivated to early specifications are capable of reactivation and recent more rigorous specifications are not retrospective.

There is no legal definition of ‘antique’ and, although possession of antique guns is prohibited to those having served or received a criminal sentence, it is unclear how this is administered during sales and transfers.

Airsoft guns are exempt from the terms of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and are ‘self-regulated’ by the Airsoft industry. The Home Office fails to collect data on the proliferation of Airsoft skirmishing sites.

N.B. The Office of National Statistics has published data relating to 2015 that demonstrate that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.

  • *From January 2017 airgun owners in Scotland have required a licence.
  • ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.

Guns that require a licence: airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; police firearms/ Tasers.

The inadequate licensing procedure is subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £20 million a year. Any number of shotguns can be held on one certificate, which lasts for five years. The licensing procedure consistently fails to protect the public from licensed gun-owning perpetrators. Women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. (See Armed Domestic Violence above, a 56-year-old licensed shotgun owner sentenced after damaging property and threatening his estranged wife in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.) However, the Home Office does not publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in crime, and the status of guns used in suicides is not recorded at inquests.

Guns that are prohibited: handguns (revolvers, pistols etc.); Olympic starting pistols; Tasers; submachine guns; and ‘other’ weapons (pepper spray/CS Gas; home-made guns and explosive devices).

Certain handguns are exempt from prohibition. Handgun, Taser, and pepper spray use is authorised for police, but there are concerns regarding fatalities and Taser training.

Imitation/Airsoft guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitations, airsoft, air pistols or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly-inflated reports of handgun crime.

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