January 2019 Review

by Gun Control Network on 25-02-2019

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 2019 incident reports by type

Gun Deaths  

We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summary for 2017-18 is available at www.gun-control-network.org.

 We are aware of at least four reports in January 2019 concerning gun deaths:

  • During an intelligence-led operation in Coventry, West Midlands, armed police officers shot a man who later died at the scene. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
  • A woman died in hospital two days after being shot at an address in Southend, Essex. A male suspect has been charged with murder and possession of a firearm.
  • A man has died in hospital after being shot in a pub in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Police have appealed for information, particularly from anyone who may have captured dashcam footage that could assist with enquiries.
  • Police responding to a call concerning the welfare of a man at Hardendale Quarry, in Shap, Cumbria, found him in possession of a shotgun. Despite negotiations, the man died at the scene from self-inflicted injuries. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Inquests

We are aware of at least three reports in January 2019 of inquests relating to gun deaths:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Colnbrook, Berkshire in June 2017 has concluded that his shooting was manslaughter. After the victim tried to break into a caravan, the owner, a 73-year-old male, fatally shot him. Held initially on suspicion of murder, the shooter was later freed after pleading self-defence. The coroner considered the use of force in the circumstances was grossly disproportionate and concluded that self-defence did not apply.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a 24-year-old man, who was shot by a police officer in Luton, Bedfordshire in November 2016, has found that he was lawfully killed. Armed police were sent to the man’s flat after his fiancée reported that he had assaulted her. When police arrived, the man threatened to stab himself and his fiancée. He refused to drop the knives and an attempt was made to Taser him; however, the Taser failed to work. He was shot in the chest at close range by an armed officer and died later in hospital.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire recorded a conclusion of suicide. The man, said to have been suffering from work-related stress, used a shotgun he kept for clay pigeon shooting to take his own life.

N.B. The Inquest into the death of the man in Stoke-on-Trent failed to record whether or not the shotgun used by him to take his own life was legally held by him. As the deceased was known to be a regular clay pigeon shooter, we believe the gun was likely to have been legally owned by him.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of at least four reports in January 2019 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:

  • See Gun Deaths above — A woman died after being shot by a man in Southend.
  • A man has been handed a 28-month jail sentence following a clash with his brother in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Following a report that he was threatening people with a gun, police officers rushed to his house and Tasered him prior to his arrest. Officers later recovered ammunition and a loaded rifle from the man’s home.
  • Following an argument with his ex-partner outside their sons’ school in Hull, East Yorkshire, during which he told the boys, “Do not worry boys, Dad has a gun and Mum’s not going to be around much longer,” a 45-year-old man has been handed a twelve-month community order. He was also ordered to complete up to seventeen days of rehabilitation activities and was made subject to a restraining order for three years after he admitted possession of a prohibited weapon and putting a person in fear of violence.
  • A 35-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting unlawful wounding and criminal damage. After a row between the perpetrator and his wife at their home in Newport, Wales, he fired an air rifle at the back of a car in which she had taken refuge. She suffered a head wound from the air weapon and cuts to her face and forearm caused by glass after the perpetrator broke the car windows with a bottle.

Stolen Guns and Ammunition    

We are aware of at least one report in January 2019 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:  

  • Thieves have reportedly stolen thousands of pounds worth of shotguns and ammunition from a shop in Sheffield, West Yorkshire. The raiders gained entry by dismantling bricks in exterior walls.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least five reports in January 2019 relating to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:

  • See Gun Deaths above — A man died in Coventry after being shot by armed police.
  • See Inquests above — A man died in Luton after being shot by armed police.
  • See Inquests above — A man suffering from stress took his own life in Stoke-on-Trent with a gun he used for clay pigeon shooting.
  • See Stolen Guns and Ammunition above — Shotguns and ammunition have been stolen from a shop in Sheffield.
  • A man armed with an air weapon has been shot in the arm in Co. Durham by an armed police officer after he failed to comply with an order to drop his weapon.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least nine reports in January 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving guns:

  • Three cats have been injured and three have been killed in what are believed to be airgun attacks in Co. Durham, Devon, Essex, North Yorkshire and Sussex. A wildlife boat tour operator discovered two pregnant seals shot dead in Essex. A fox has been rescued after being found impaled on a fence and suffering from a gun injury in West Midlands. An injured swan, rescued in Yorkshire by volunteers from a wildlife hospital, was found to have been shot with an airgun. A buzzard has been found with a gun injury in Somerset

Imitation, Airsoft, airguns 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, other organisations and individuals are calling for airgun registration. MPs and families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities are concerned about the unacceptable delay in announcing the outcome of the Home Office review of air weapon regulation, which was announced in October 2017.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least twenty-five reports in January 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:

  • A 32-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition without a firearm certificate. Following a monitoring operation, armed police stopped a van in which he was travelling in Manchester, Greater Manchester and recovered a silver revolver and ammunition from the vehicle. Later examination revealed that the firearm had been converted from firing blank rounds to be able to fire live ammunition. 
  • Two men have been jailed for at least 29 years after being convicted of murder and grievous bodily harm. In March 2018, the two men, along with two others who are still at large, shot and stabbed a 23-year-old man standing with friends on a street in Enfield, North London. The man, a stranger to his attackers, died at the scene.
  • A man has been handed a custodial sentence of five years after admitting three firearms offences. The man bought a Glock 9mm handgun with a silencer and 150 rounds of ammunition from the USA over the dark web and tried to import them to his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. The items were intercepted and a dummy parcel was sent to his home where it was recovered by officers.  
  • A 21-year-old man, said to be suffering from “a borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety”, has been handed a 20-month custodial sentence after admitting possession of a bladed article and a stun gun. A concerned member of the public alerted police after seeing the man with a blade in his pocket at an entertainment complex in Cardiff, Wales.
  • British Transport and Metropolitan Police officers responded to reports of a man with a knife at Tulse Hill station in South London. The suspect, Tasered by a Met. officer during his detention, was initially arrested for possession of an offensive weapon and subsequently for attempted murder; he was later sectioned under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.
  • A 55-year-old man has been fined £6000 and handed a two-year suspended sentence for possessing prohibited weapons and importing a prohibited weapon. After police were alerted by the UK Border Agency that he had attempted to import a torch-shaped Taser, officers arrested him and recovered knives, a pistol and two Tasers from his home In Worcester, Worcestershire.
  • A 52-year-old woman has been handed a twelve-month jail term, suspended for a year, and ordered to attend 25 rehabilitation days for possessing a stun gun disguised as a mobile phone. She was said to have bought the weapon from an American website. A former partner called police to her address in Lowestoft, Suffolk where she was arrested. Possessing such a weapon would normally carry a five-year sentence but the judge ruled that exceptional circumstances had been demonstrated.
  • Two men have been sentenced to a total of 47 years in prison for offences including conspiracy to supply drugs and sell firearms. The men were members of a drugs gang based in Warrington, Cheshire. An 18-month investigation saw the confiscation of £205,000 in cash and the discovery of an AK-47 assault rifle, a shotgun, revolvers, silencers and more than a hundred rounds of ammunition at a house in the town. Eighteen other male gang members received sentences of up to thirteen years and eight months.
  • A man has been indefinitely detained in a secure institution under the Mental Health Act after admitting possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and after a judge concluded he had a severe mental health problem.  Although banned from owning a firearm, the man bought an air pistol designed to look like a hand gun and took it into a working men’s club and a shop. Police were alerted by members of the public and stopped a taxi in Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham in which the man was travelling. The man failed to comply with an order to drop the weapon and was shot in the arm by a police officer.
  • A man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to being in possession of a gun and ammunition. As part of a pre-planned operation, police officers stopped the man’s car on the M32 in Bristol in July 2018 and retrieved a Smith and Wesson revolver and ammunition. The court ordered the destruction of both firearm and ammunition.
  • A man, described by a judge as “a gun for hire,” has been handed a whole-life sentence after being found guilty of the murder of two men as part of a criminal gang feud. The man shot his first victim in Manchester, Greater Manchester with an Uzi sub machine gun, and the second in Rainhill, using a revolver. Another man involved in one of the killings was given a 33-year sentence.

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 imitation 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, (See above — Stolen Guns) corrupt gun dealers, and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others.

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

                                               Figure 2: January 2019 reports by weapon type

Notes

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. 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.

  • *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 and women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. However, the Home Office fails to 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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