October 2017 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-11-2017
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: October 2017 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least two reports in October 2017 of gun deaths:
- A 32-year-old man has died after allegedly being shot in the chest at a house in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. A 14-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- A 17-year-old boy has died after allegedly being shot in the head while riding pillion on a motorbike in Huyton, Merseyside. A 29-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least five reports in October 2017 of armed domestic violence (victim known to perpetrator):
- See Gun Deaths above – It is believed the 32-year-old victim who was allegedly shot at an address in Oslwaldtwistle, Lancashire, visited the house to discuss bullying allegations between children at a local school.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, attempted murder and assault. The perpetrator fired a homemade shotgun in the direction of two people with whom he had a disagreement before fleeing the scene in Woking, Surrey. A number of suspicious items were also found at his home.
- A 24-year-old man received a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year and was ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work and fifteen days probation rehabilitation after threatening his brother and mother with a realistic-looking pistol during a family row at their farm in Holsworthy, Devon.
- Firearms officers were deployed to a bowling alley in Nuneaton, Warwickshire after a man, allegedly armed with a sawn-off shotgun, took two male employees hostage. The suspect held them inside for several hours before officers stormed the building and arrested him. It is believed that the suspect was an ex-partner of an employee at the bowling alley.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in October 2017 relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns and ammunition:
- A 47-year-old licensed gun owner has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to five charges of possessing guns and ammunition without a certificate. Police were called to his former home in Ebrington, Gloucester after he assaulted his wife, and discovered a loaded shotgun not locked in a cabinet, an illegal pistol, a semi-automatic shotgun and hundreds of cartridges and rounds of ammunition.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least two reports in October 2017 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:
- Ofsted inspectors at a children’s home in Hardington Moor, Somerset discovered that a resident had taken knives and an air rifle from a neighbour’s unlocked shed and threatened staff and another young person.
- A deactivated machine gun and a bayonet have allegedly been stolen from a house in Longsdon, Staffordshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eight reports in October 2017 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Six cats have been injured in what are believed to have been airgun attacks in a number of locations including West Midlands, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Kent and Lincolnshire. Two of the cats suffered broken legs, one was blinded, one had been shot twelve times and another had also been shot and injured earlier in the year. Two horses have been shot with an airgun in Suffolk. An X-ray revealed that a peregrine falcon, a protected bird, found wounded in Cambridgeshire had been shot in both wings with an airgun.
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 24 reports in October 2017 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm and Class A drugs with intent to supply. A gun, covered with his fingerprints, was found in a bag that he dropped as he fled police officers in Birmingham, West Midlands.
- A 35-year-old man was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to being in possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Firearms officers attended after receiving reports from members of the public that a man was brandishing an imitation firearm in Ipswich, Suffolk while heavily intoxicated.
- A 46-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen years for firearms offences, and a 30-year-old man has been jailed for ten years after admitting to importing firearms, ammunition and silencers into the UK. Border Force Officers searching their car in Dover, Kent discovered ten modified Russian-made Baikal handguns, ten silencers and around a hundred rounds of 9mm ammunition.
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 traders, 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: October 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. NB. See page 2: Airgun stolen from garden shed by child living in a children’s home in Somerset. 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. NB. See page 2: Deactivated machine gun stolen from property in Staffordshire.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Imitation/Airsoft-type submachine 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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