by Gun Control Network on 12-10-2016
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: September 2016 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2016 of gun deaths:
- A young man died after being shot in a house in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire. A 33-year-old man has been arrested.
- A 19-year-old man died after what is believed to be an accident involving an airgun* at his home in Billinge, Merseyside.
- Firearms officers found the body of a man with gunshot injuries at a house in Chudleigh Knighton, Devon after a member of the public reported being concerned for the welfare of a man with a firearm. The incident is being treated as a suspected suicide.
- A 53-year-old woman and her 21-year-old nephew were shot dead at a flat in East Finchley, north London in a suspected case of mistaken identity. Two men, aged 20 and 24, have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
We know of at least four reports in September 2016 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- An inquest into the death of a 32-year-old man recorded an open verdict. The victim was found in the kitchen of his home in Leigh, Greater Manchester in May 2016 with gunshot injuries to the head. The victim, a regular clay pigeon shooter who had left his shotgun under the bed after using it the previous day, had argued with his wife and was found to have consumed significant amounts of alcohol that would have made him emotional and affected his judgement. He was previously known to have taken anabolic steroids for fitness and was a licensed shotgun owner.
- Inquests into the deaths of a 77-year-old retired farmer, and his 80-year-old wife who was suffering from dementia, recorded a verdict of suicide regarding the husband and unlawfully killed regarding the wife. Both victims were found dead from gunshot wounds in their home in Merstham, Surrey. The man was a licensed gun owner.
- An inquest into the death of a 43-year-old man shot dead by police officers in his flat in Enfield, north London, recorded a verdict of lawfully killed. The victim was known to have a history of mental illness, and was an airgun* owner. His stepmother alerted police after he had apparently threatened a family member with a gun. He was shot immediately after opening the door to armed officers. An airgun* was discovered in the flat.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2016 relating to armed domestic violence, including the unlawful killing of an 80-year-old woman by her husband, a licensed gun owner (see inquest above).
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We are aware of at least six reports in September 2016, relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns, five of which involve fatalities:
- See inquest above relating to the open verdict regarding the death of a 32-year-old licensed shotgun owner.
- See inquest above relating to the unlawful killing of a woman by her husband, a licensed gun owner.
- See inquest above relating to the suicide of a man following the unlawful killing of his wife. The man was a licensed gun owner.
- See inquest above relating to the death of a man with mental health issues and known to have an airgun* who was shot dead by police.
- See Gun Deaths above relating to the death of a 19-year-old man in a suspected airgun* accident at his home.
- A 57-year-old man has pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited pistol at his home on a fish farm in Snapper, Devon. The gun was discovered during a routine check. He had held a firearms licence for about 40 years and had surrendered three revolvers in 1997 when handguns were banned, but claimed he thought the pistol was a replica.
Animal Death and Injury
We know of at least eleven reports in September 2016 of animal cruelty involving guns:
A peregrine falcon, a protected species known to be a predator of game birds raised and therefore unwelcome in areas managed for commercial shoots, was found by walkers in the Peak District with shotgun wounds and died from its injuries. A hedgehog with air weapon wounds was found by a passer-by and taken to an RSPCA centre but died from its injuries. Eleven cats were reported to have been shot with airguns, including one who had to have an eye removed, another whose leg was broken and two who died from their injuries despite veterinary treatment.
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 are aware of at least 24 reports in September 2016 of sentences and convictions relating to gun crime:
- A 60-year-old man has been jailed for 26 years for commissioning the murder of a man against whom he held a longstanding grudge. Four other men have been sentenced to a total of 86 years for their roles in the death of the victim who was shot at a flat in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
- One person has been found guilty and 29 fellow gang members have been jailed for a total of 125 years for carrying out drug dealing activities throughout Hampshire and Sussex. They were arrested during a two-year operation during which cash, drugs, and an illegally shortened shotgun were recovered.
- Three young men have been found guilty of kidnapping a woman from Chatham, Kent. Her family were threatened with death and she was dragged into a car and subjected to a series of violent assaults with a metal baseball bat, a knuckle-duster, a dog chain, and an imitation gun.
- A 39-year-old man has been jailed for keeping a stash of weapons and ammunition in a storage container in Inverness, Highland while prohibited from doing so due to a previous conviction. Border agents discovered bullets and a deactivated pistol in a package addressed to the man and there were concerns that he may be reactivating guns. During a search of premises police recovered two further deactivated guns, two magazines of full metal-jacketed bullets, a silencer, air rifles, air pistols, a flare pistol, and five containers of .22 air weapon ammunition.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm and ammunition, breaking a ban on him possessing these, supplying crack cocaine and heroin, and possessing criminal property in Liverpool, Merseyside.
- A 19-year-old man has been given a six-month restriction of liberty order after he fired an airgun in the garden of his home in Grantown-on-Spey, Highland in an attempt to make guests leave a party he was holding there.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for 15 years for using an imitation sawn-off shotgun to rob two estate agents at properties in Bromley-by-Bow, east London and Haringey, north London. He lured the victims to the addresses by pretending to be a prospective tenant.
- A 24-year-old woman has been jailed for five years for keeping a Kalashnikov assault rifle and over 400 rounds of ammunition at her home in Mitcham, south London. The woman claimed she was unaware of the package and this must have belonged to her boyfriend, who was in the process of moving house.
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: September 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 demonstrates 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 misleading inflated reports of handgun crime.
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