May 2017 Review
by Gun Control Network on 07-06-2017
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: May 2017 reports by incident type
We are aware of at least two reports in May 2017 of gun deaths.
- Guy Hedger, a 61-year-old businessman, was shot by intruders at his home in Ives, Dorset and died shortly after. Two men, aged 40 and 44, have been arrested and charged with his murder.
- Marc Cole, a 30-year-old painter and decorator from Falmouth, Cornwall, was pronounced dead in hospital after being Tasered by police when he was seen cutting himself with a knife. The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
We are aware of at least two reports in May 2017 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- An inquest into the death of Karl Parsons, a 39-year-old van driver from Chard, Somerset, recorded a verdict of suicide. The victim was found dead from a shotgun wound in woodland near his home in November 2016. The victim was an experienced shooter, a licensed gun owner who had purchased the shotgun the day before his death.
- An inquest into the death of 52-year-old Patrick Mannion recorded a verdict of suicide. The victim was found suffering from injuries caused by a bolt gun in the garage at the home of his estranged wife in Rainham, Greater London, and died later in hospital.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least two reports in May 2017 of armed domestic violence:
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for five years and two months and been given a seven-year restraining order banning him from contacting an acquaintance whom he assaulted in a random attack in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, shooting him in the head with an air pistol after a night out drinking.
- A 28-year-old man, said to have mental health issues and learning difficulties, has been jailed for 17 months after sending a series of threatening messages and firing four airgun pellets at the windows of his former partner’s home in Shrewsbury, Shropshire in breach of a court order banning him from contacting her.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least seven reports in May 2017 relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns and ammunition:
- See above death following being shot by police Taser; inquest relating to a licensed gun owner; guns and ammunition stolen from a home; ammunition stolen from a storage unit.
- A 24-year-old man has won an appeal against a suspended prison term received after admitting two counts of breaching a firearms certificate condition by not keeping his guns secure. A shotgun was found under a bed at his home in Cartmel, Cumbria and a rifle was discovered in a wardrobe at the home of his girlfriend and two small children. A judge imposed a community order and 150 hours of unpaid work.
- A 62-year-old former careworker, a licensed gun owner said to be ‘obsessed with guns’, has been jailed for three years after 120 weapons, only some of which were covered by his shotgun licence, were seized from his home in Brundall, Norfolk.
- A farmer is reported to have shot and killed a dog in Collinsburgh, Fife after a ewe and lamb died. The dog’s owner admitted his dog was in the field.
- A 79-year-old man lost a Crown Court appeal to get back the shotgun licence he lost following threats to kill his wife and her children from an earlier marriage, and an incident in 2014 when his wife claimed he had kept her prisoner for three days at their farm in Ffostrasol, Wales.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in May 2017 of incidents involving stolen guns and ammunition:
- Three men assaulted a couple during a burglary at a farmhouse in West Handley, Cheshire. Thieves stole 18 shotguns, ammunition, cash and jewellery.
- A large quantity of live shotgun cartridges was discovered on a farm near Copthorne, West Sussex by a member of the public. Police believe they had been dumped following a burglary carried out the previous day at a nearby storage unit.
- Police are investigating two burglaries at a collectables shop in Norwich, East Anglia, during which items, including a shotgun, were stolen. A man has been arrested and released without bail conditions but is reported to remain under investigation.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eight reports in May 2017 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Two cats have died and five have been injured in airgun attacks in a number of locations including Worcestershire, North Yorkshire, Merseyside and Wiltshire. A buzzard was found dead with shotgun wounds near Malham, North Yorkshire. A spokesperson for the RSPB said that illegal shooting of birds of prey is an ongoing problem in the area.
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. Airgun owners in Scotland are required to have a licence as of January 2017.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 41 reports in May 2017 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 20-year-old man has been found guilty of possession of an explosive substance with intent after leaving a homemade bomb, a rucksack containing explosives and ball bearing shrapnel, on a tube train in North Greenwich, London as a joke, inspired by bomb prank videos on YouTube. A blank-firing pistol, a BB gun and other weapons were recovered from his home. A psychiatric report confirmed the man suffers from an autistic spectrum disorder.
- Two men have been convicted after being covertly filmed attempting to buy a gun from an undercover police officer in a car park in Clapham, London.
- A 24-year-old man was handed a community order to include 15 days of rehabilitation and six months of alcohol activity requirements after pleading guilty to the charge of possessing an imitation firearm (an ornamental foot-long flintlock pistol) in a public place in Newcastle, Tyne and Wear.
- A 33-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm in
- Three men have been jailed for a total of 32 years after admitting conspiracy to rob with an imitation firearm, a BB gun, in a number of incidents across
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for 17 years after being found guilty of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life following presenting at Warwick Hospital with a shotgun wound to his hand shortly after a man in Coventry, Warwickshire was shot in the right forearm and left thigh.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for 14 years for gun possession and possession of drugs with intent, and two robberies. Police seized two handguns hidden in a pile of bricks in the garden of his safe house in Speke, Merseyside.
- A 44-year-old woman has been jailed for 27 months after pleading guilty to possessing a sawn-off shotgun and pistol ammunition without a certificate. The judge found that she was minding the items in her home in Runcorn, Cheshire on behalf of criminals and took her previous good character and vulnerable mental health into consideration during sentencing.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for 13 years and four months with an extended three-year licence period after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause violence, conspiracy to possess firearms and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in Liverpool, Merseyside. The man was part of a gang based in a flat where police discovered an 1886 St. Etienne revolver, a sawn-off Beretta shotgun, bullets and drugs with a street value of up to £122,000.
- A 29-year-old man has been jailed for five years and four months after pleading guilty to robbery and possession of an imitation firearm, a realistic-looking BB gun, in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.
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 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: May 2017 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, and deactivated guns, 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 possessing 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.
The Office of National Statistics has published data relating to 2015 which demonstrate that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
- *From January 2017 airguns in Scotland require a licence.
- ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun. See May inquest.
Guns that require a licence: airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; police firearms and 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. However, the Home Office does not publish data regarding the number of licensed guns/legal gun owners 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. See May death.
Imitation/Airsoft-type submachine guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitations or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly-inflated reports of handgun crime.
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