by Gun Control Network on 17-11-2016
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 of the most serious crimes are included.
Figure 1: October 2016 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least three reports in October 2016 of gun deaths:
- A 20-year-old man was shot dead on the doorstep of his flat in Bethnal Green, east London after opening the door to an unknown assailant or assailants. Two men were arrested but released without charge.
- A 30-year-old man was shot dead by a group of two or three men in a suspected targeted attack in Liverpool, Merseyside.
- A 22-year-old man was shot dead on a residential street in Croydon, south London by a man with an unidentified gun.
We know of at least four reports in October 2016 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- An inquest has recorded that Claire Hart, 50, and Charlotte Hart, 19, were both unlawfully killed by their husband and father, Lance Hart, 57, who shot them at close range with a single-barrelled shotgun in a car park in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Lance Hart was found to have then taken his own life with the shotgun. Claire Hart had recently left her husband, who was described as controlling, after suffering years of bullying. The perpetrator was not a licensed shotgun owner at the time of the shooting, and it has not been ascertained how he obtained the shotgun.
- An inquest into the death of a 57-year-old man found dead with shotgun wounds in the bedroom of his home in Wickford, Essex recorded that he had taken his own life. The hatch to the loft, where he was thought to keep his shotgun, was found open. The victim is thought to have had £9,000 of unpaid debt at the time of his death.
Armed Domestic Violence
We know of at least 9 reports in October 2016 of armed domestic violence, including the unlawful killing of Claire and Charlotte Hart by their husband/father (see inquest above):
- A man has been jailed for 12-and-a-half years for manslaughter: he shot a man he knew in the face on the doorstep of the victim’s flat in Wandsworth, south-west London.
- A man has been jailed for four months with an additional four month suspended sentence for brandishing an imitation handgun at his partner’s ex on a street in South Shields, Tyne and Wear. The man was known to have mental health problems, and to suffer from PTSD, and had a history of offences, including weapons possession. Police found an air rifle hidden in a child’s toy pram in the home he shared with his partner.
We are aware of at least two reports in October 2016 relating to stolen guns:
- An unknown number of air rifles have been stolen from a gun club in Thimbleby, north Yorkshire in an overnight break-in. This is the third time in a month that the gun club has been broken into.
- A group of men have stolen a paintball gun and two swords from an airgun and leather goods shop on a busy street in Eton, Berkshire after smashing the front window when the shop was closed.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We are aware of at least one report in October 2016, relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns. The captain of the Golf Club in Newmachar, Aberdeenshire has been expelled from the club after he allegedly took a .22 rifle onto the course on two occasions, including once on a busy afternoon during an inter-club tournament. It is reported that officials at the club elected not to contact the police, but instead conducted a full investigation themselves following complaints about his “reckless and irresponsible” behaviour and inappropriate comments to women and club guests.
Animal Death and Injury
We know of at least four reports in October 2016 of animal cruelty involving guns:
Two cats have died after being shot by airguns, one in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire and another in Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire. A third cat has been shot and injured in west London. A heron was put down after being found with air rifle injuries to its wing in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. The remains of around twenty dead puppies, which appear to have been killed with a shotgun, were found by a member of the public at a disused former RAF site near Heapham, Lincolnshire.
Although imitations, BBs, and airguns* do not require a licence in England, Scotland, and Wales they are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals.
Sentences and Convictions
We know of at least 37 reports in October 2016 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 20-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome, described as vulnerable and obsessive, has been jailed for two-and-a-half years in a Young Offender’s Institution for keeping reactivated decommissioned firearms at his home and workplace in Folkestone, Kent.
- A 35-year-old police firearms officer has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence, been ordered to pay over £600 costs, and been suspended from duty after pleading guilty to misconduct by falsifying a form about his gun training record and health screening. He worked for 21 months as an armed officer in London, without having attended all the training required to draw or use weapons and while suffering from PTSD. The judge said it was not the responsibility of the police to discover the officer’s mental health problems, but rather the officer should have told his superiors.
- A 60-year-old former soldier awaiting trial for sexually abusing a young child was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm in a public place, having a rifle and ammunition without a licence, and possessing a single round of expanding ammunition for the rifle in Barnstaple, Devon. He was later jailed for 20 years for the child sex abuse, to run concurrently with the earlier sentence.
- A 38-year-old former soldier and a 62-year-old man have been jailed for a total of 64 years for the planned murder of a 48-year-old former imam from Acton, west London following a long running argument over ownership of premises in the area.
- A 55-year-old former soldier has been handed an eight-month suspended prison sentence, and been ordered to pay £1,500 court costs and to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work for threatening to shoot builders working outside his home in Tonbridge Wells, Kent with a realistic imitation firearm.
- Four men have been jailed for a total of 65 years for firearms and Class A drugs offences after several pistols, ammunition, drugs equipment, and counterfeit money were recovered in searches of homes in Uxbridge, west London and Slough, Berkshire.
- Five men have been jailed for a total of over 26 years for carrying out an armed robbery of a bank in Kentish Town, north London in which they threatened security guards with knives and an imitation handgun. One man was arrested following a subsequent robbery, and the others were arrested after a year-long investigation involving 15 other robberies across London in which they stole a total of approximately £240,000.
- A 39-year-old man has been jailed for 12 months after possessing cannabis with intent to supply and offering to supply the class B drug in Leicester, Leicestershire and pleading guilty of possession of two airguns while prohibited due to having served a recent prison sentence.
- A man has been handed a nine-month suspended prison sentence, been ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work, and had his licence endorsed with three points after threatening two women in a car in Wakefield, West Yorkshire with an imitation handgun “for a bit of fun”.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for 23 years for manslaughter, and two others have been jailed for a total of thirteen years and eight months for conspiracy to rob a fast food distribution warehouse in Birmingham, West Midlands.
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 it’s 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: October 2016 incident 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 have published data relating to 2015 which demonstrate that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
- A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
- *From December 2016 airguns in Scotland will require a licence.
Guns that require a licence: shotguns; rifles; and 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 do 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 or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly inflated reports of handgun crime.
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