November 2018 Review

by Gun Control Network on 17-12-2018

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: November 2018 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 one report in November 2018 concerning a gun death:

  • It has emerged that a 17-year-old boy was found dead with shotgun wounds inside a car near Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire in June this year. A pre-inquest hearing heard that the teenager had been released under investigation by North Yorkshire Police the day before. The boy is believed to have taken the shotgun from a “secure position” in his home. 

Inquests

We are aware of at least two reports in November 2018 of inquests relating to gun deaths:

  • An inquest jury has concluded that a man shot dead by police was lawfully killed. The inquest heard that the man, who had been drinking with a friend, repeatedly called the police in an “emotional and mentally distressed” state claiming to be in possession of a gun and prepared to shoot any police officer who approached. The victim was hit by a plastic bullet and a round from a police rifle after he refused to put down an air rifle during a stand-off with police officers in South Shields, Tyne and Wear. The response of Northumbria Police was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and found to be appropriate.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of an 81-year-old man in Longham, Norfolk, has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound to the chest. The man was found in the garden of his house with his shotgun next to him in July this year. The victim had been suffering with anxiety and had arranged to see a mental health practitioner on the day he died.   

N.B.  The Inquest into the death of the 81-year old man failed to reveal whether or not the shotgun, used by the man to take his own life, was legally held by the victim.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator:

We are aware of at least two reports in November 2018 of armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:

  • A 32-year-old woman and a 20-year-old woman have each been jailed for a minimum of fifteen years after being convicted of conspiracy to murder. A 49-year-old man must serve at least seventeen years for the same offence. After the 32-year-old’s husband was shot in the face in Sandwich, Kent in January 2018, police discovered that his wife was having a relationship with the 49-year-old man and, together with his daughter, they had planned to kill him. The man and his daughter were arrested and a number of registered firearms, including a bolt action rifle, possibly the one used to shoot the victim, who survived the attack, were retrieved from their home.
  • A 20-year-old man from Marske, North Yorkshire received an eighteen-month community order with twenty days’ rehabilitation activity after he threatened his ex-partner and her boyfriend with a Taser. The man, who repeatedly harassed the couple, was also given a five-year restraining order banning him from contacting the victims or going within 100 yards of their home.  

Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least two reports in November 2018 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:

  • See Gun Death above — a 17-year-old boy apparently took his own life with a shotgun he took from his home.
  • A .22 air rifle was stolen from a property in Poole, Dorset. The theft took place in daylight hours. Police have appealed for information.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least five reports in November 2018 relating to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:

  • See Gun Death above — a 17-year-old boy apparently took his own life with a shotgun he took from a “secure position” in his home. 
  • See Inquests above — a man armed with an air weapon was shot and killed by police officers.
  • An 81-year-old man took his own life using a shotgun believed to have been legally owned by him.
  • See Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above — a victim was shot in the face with a rifle, which may have been one recovered later from the perpetrator’s collection of legally-held weapons.
  • A 37-year-old man was handed a six-month prison term, suspended for fifteen months, with up to ten days’ rehabilitation and was ordered to pay £1,200 for costs after he admitted using a gun with intent to cause fear of violence. After a young man drove a motorbike back and forth past his home in Woolpit, Suffolk, the perpetrator held his legally-held shotgun to the motorbike rider’s face and threatened him. The court heard that the gunman had been going through a stressful period in his life and had “lost all sense of reason” on the night of the incident. He has since relinquished the gun and firearms licence.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least six reports in November 2018 of animal cruelty involving guns:

  • A man has been handed an eighteen-week suspended sentence after admitting causing an animal unnecessary suffering. The man shot a neighbour’s cat with an air rifle after it jumped onto a fence between their homes in Northwich, Cheshire. The cat’s owner rushed her pet to a vet’s surgery, where it was decided she should be put to sleep due to a perforation of the bowel. Following an RSPCA and police investigation, the air rifle was seized from the man’s property. He has been banned from keeping animals for ten years and told he must complete 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay the £2,347 prosecution costs.  
  • A snow leopard that escaped from its enclosure at Dudley Zoo, West Midlands after it was left open by a keeper, has been shot dead.  A red kite was found shot dead in North Yorkshire and a buzzard was found with gunshot injuries in the same county and had to be put down. Both birds are of protected species. A wildlife rescue organisation in Somerset has issued a strong warning about the danger of airguns after a pigeon was brought to the charity with an airgun injury that led to the bird having to be put to sleep. A dead swan, found floating by a river bank, also in Somerset, was found to have been shot. As swans are protected by law, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Rural Crime Unit will be investigating the incident. Two squirrels have died after being shot in a park in East Sussex.

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 24 reports in November 2018 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:

  • A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to five months in prison, suspended for eighteen months, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He shot a woman with a BB gun from the window of a flat in Derby, Derbyshire as she passed by on the street. The woman suffered a minor injury to the leg and has been left feeling “vulnerable and anxious”. The perpetrator was also ordered to pay £150 in compensation to his victim.
  • Three men have been jailed for a total of 35 years and six months for their involvement in an armed burglary. Two men forced their way into a house in Middleton, Greater Manchester and one shot the male occupant with a sawn-off shotgun. The injured man needed several operations following the attack. 
  • Three men have been jailed for a total of 50 years after being convicted of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life. The charge relates to a shooting in Leeds, West Yorkshire, when a sawn-off shotgun was fired from one car towards another. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “People who think they are above the law, particularly those who think they can use firearms to enforce their criminal activity, should be in no doubt that we have a team of specialist detectives, supported by highly-trained firearms officers, whose main purpose is to pursue them and bring them to justice.”
  • A man has been jailed for two years and two months after admitting wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent and common assault.  Using a BB gun, the man shot steel pellets from the roof of a block of flats in Poole, Dorset, hitting a woman’s leg and a 13-year-old boy in his right eye and his back. The teenage victim read out a victim statement in court, saying: “It was my dream to become a pilot, now, because of my injury, I can never realise that dream.”    
  • Two 20-year-old men have been sentenced to a total of fifteen years and three months after being found guilty of possession of firearms and drugs with intent to supply. Officers executing a warrant at an address in Luton, Bedfordshire, recovered a Glock handgun, three revolvers, a loaded sawn-off shotgun and ammunition for each weapon, as well as heroin, cocaine and cannabis. Another man, who was under seventeen at the time of the offending, was also found guilty of firearms offences and received an eighteen-month youth rehabilitation order, an eighteen-month supervision requirement, a 30-day programme requirement and a three-year criminal behaviour order not to associate with his co-defendants.
  • A 46-year-old man has been fined £265 after he admitted possessing, without a certificate, a .22 air rifle that passed the 12lb limit. When police visited his home in Wrexham, North Wales on an unrelated matter, they seized the weapon and sent it for forensic examination. The owner claimed to have bought the weapon as an ordinary air rifle and to have been unaware of its power prior to the police report. He was ordered to pay £85 costs and a £30 surcharge; a confiscation order was made in respect of the rifle.
  • Three men have each been jailed for eight years and eight months after admitting to conspiring to import and to sell or transfer prohibited firearms and to import and possess ammunition. Using the Dark Web, the men ordered four Glock 19 semi-automatic pistols, a silencer and 150 bullets from America with the intention of selling them on to criminals. However, a US Homeland Security special agent uncovered the weapons hidden inside a guitar amp. British police fitted a hidden camera inside a similar speaker and sent it to the address in Liverpool, Merseyside, where the trio were recorded opening the parcel.
  • A woman was handed an eighteen-month jail term, suspended for eighteen months, after she admitted possession of a disguised firearm on the basis she did not know it was a stun gun. A police officer removed what he believed was a torch from her car after stopping the vehicle in Bootle, Merseyside. As he did so, he received a shock up his right arm. She claimed to have bought the item online from China, wanting to use it as a torch when she worked at night as a taxi driver. The judge did not impose the mandatory minimum five-year jail sentence because the woman’s son had “extremely challenging” behaviour and if the bond between him and his mother were broken it could be “catastrophic.” The woman was ordered to complete a ten-day rehabilitation course and 160 hours of unpaid work.
  • A gang that terrorised a couple in their home has been jailed for a total of more than 32 years. The men broke into a house in a village near Leeds, West Yorkshire shouting “police, police”. They pistol-whipped the male homeowner with an imitation firearm and ripped a gold necklace from the female occupant’s neck. They also stole two diamond rings, diamond earrings and two Rolex watches.
  • Two brothers have been jailed for life after being found guilty of murder and are to serve at least 32 and 29 years respectively. They also received concurrent sentences for possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.  Following a drugs feud, the brothers ‘lured’ a 22-year-old man to follow their car in Birmingham, West Midlands before stopping to pull a shotgun from a parked van. The discharge of the weapon into the car was caught on CCTV. Another offender, who drove one of the brothers to Dover after the attack, was found guilty of assisting an offender and jailed for fifteen months.
  • A 52-year-old man has been handed a two-year jail term, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to possessing firearms intending to cause fear and possessing ammunition. While under the influence of drink and drugs, the man made an emergency phone call to police asking if they dealt with people with mental health issues and admitting he had “two or three” rifles. He also threatened to shoot anyone who came to his property. As two police officers approached his home in Canterbury, Kent, the man pointed a rifle at them. They fled when they heard a click, not knowing whether the firearm was real or imitation, but arrested him shortly afterwards when he put the rifle on the ground and his hands into the air. After hearing that the man had stopped taking medication for mental health issues, the judge ordered him to receive treatment and pay £360 prosecution costs.

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 (See above — Gun Deaths and Inquests) and/or others (See above — Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition).

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

 

                                             Figure 2: November 2018 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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