April 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 25-08-2019
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.
This Review refers to incidents that occurred during April 2019 and to earlier incidents for which further information has now been reported, often as a result of a court case or inquest. Please note that the data used for the Figures is derived solely from incidents that occurred, or first came to our attention in April 2019.
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summaries for 2017-18 and 2018-19 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least two reports in April 2019 concerning gun deaths:
- A man died after he was shot in the head at point blank range on the steps of his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Police issued a description of the gunman.
- A man died after being shot in the chest in Erdington, Warwickshire. Police believe the attack was targeted.
We are aware of at least three reports in April 2019 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Gurnard, Isle of Wight in February last year has recorded a verdict of suicide. The victim shot himself twice in the head with a pistol and his body was discovered by a community nurse on a routine visit to his home. The day before his death, the man’s landlady called the ambulance service to report that he had a firearm and was suicidal. The control room staff spoke to the victim, who reassured them that he was OK. The coroner said that the ambulance service’s omission to pass this information onto the police was a “massive failure”. The inquest heard that protocols are now in place whereby Hampshire Constabulary is informed by ambulance control of any situation potentially involving firearms.
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a licensed gun owner, in a wood near Downfield, Derbyshire in November last year. The man, said to be worried about an internal investigation at work, was found dead with severe head injuries; it is believed that he shot himself with his own legally-held shotgun. The inquest heard that the man had visited his GP three days before his death, admitting to “fleeting” thoughts of suicide. The alarm was raised after the man’s partner realised the shotgun was missing and his parents received worrying messages from the victim. The inquest has been adjourned to allow the police and the man’s employer to provide further information.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man at his home in Southampton, Hampshire has recorded a conclusion of suicide. After his partner told him that she wanted to end their relationship, the man pointed an illegally-obtained shotgun at her before turning it on himself. The inquest heard that, as well as relationship difficulties, the victim had financial problems.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least five reports in April 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- A 42-year-old man has been sent to prison for 26 months after pleading guilty to controlling and coercive behaviour. While at his partner’s flat in Kingswinford, West Midlands in July last year, he punched her on the back of her head before holding a realistic imitation gun against her chin and forcing it into her mouth. After his partner ended their relationship, he threatened to "knock her teeth out, stamp on her neck and kill her."
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to affray, with an additional two months for breach of a suspended sentence. He approached a woman he knew as she was sitting in a car in Haywards Heath, West Sussex and, on spotting the woman’s boyfriend, shouted, “'Come outside here, we will fight.” He then returned to his own car and pulled out a BB gun, which he fired at both the woman and her boyfriend before driving off.
- An 82-year-old woman has been ordered to pay £87,312.50 damages and legal costs of at least £140,000 after waging a four-year harassment campaign against a couple who bought a house next to hers in the village of Threapwood, Cheshire. She was handed a restraining order after she fired an air rifle across their property, sparking a response from armed police officers. However, she continued with her misdemeanours, including threatening to shoot a dog that belonged to one of the couple’s relatives, keeping her neighbours under constant surveillance, standing for hours in their hedge, taking photos and allegedly blocking their drive with her tractor.
- A 24-year-old man has been handed a suspended eighteen-month prison sentence and ordered to complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity after admitting assault causing actual bodily harm. During a row at the family home in Bramfield, Suffolk, he pointed an air rifle at his stepfather’s face, saying: “I’m going to shoot you in the eye.” When his stepfather grabbed the barrel of the air rifle, it discharged and shot a pellet into his thigh. The court heard that the man had mental health issues and had not deliberately fired the air rifle.
- A man has been sent to prison for three years, nine months after admitting assaulting his partner to her severe injury and permanent disfigurement. Following a disagreement, he battered his partner over the head with an imitation gun at an address in Glasgow, Scotland. The victim, who did not remember the incident until she awoke in hospital, believed that she was going to be shot with a real gun. The man had originally faced an attempted murder allegation, but the Crown accepted his guilty plea to a reduced charge.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least twelve reports in April 2019 which we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquests above — Licensed gun owner from Derbyshire said to be suffering from stress due to being under investigation at work.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — A shotgun stolen from a house in Wiltshire; four rifles and a shotgun stolen from a house in Norfolk and three firearms stolen from a house in Bedfordshire.
- Firearms officers were deployed in rural Devon after a man in possession of a shotgun threatened to harm himself during a domestic dispute. The man’s wife alerted police and officers found the man safe and well. The shotgun was confiscated and a risk assessment will take place in accordance with firearm licensing rules.
We note at least eight incidents involving use of police weapons, including:
- The actions of a police officer who discharged his Taser at a man eight times in 72 seconds, delivering the seventh shock with the Taser pressed against the victim’s body, have been found by a High Court judge to be “unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate". Police were alerted after the man was seen covered in blood on a street in Manchester, Greater Manchester in June 2014. After he was found to be “aggressive”, one officer used CS spray and a Taser against him to no effect. A second officer then arrived and discharged his Taser a further eight times. The victim’s family has sued police for battery and negligence, saying that the victim, who has autism and a bipolar disorder, has been left “largely verbally mute.”
- The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner for Scotland ruled that a police officer’s use of a Taser on a man in Bannockburn, Scotland in September 2018 was not “reasonable or necessary”. The officer will undergo refresher training and reassessment in the use of the weapon.
- A British Transport Police Constable has been found guilty of assaulting a man with a Taser during an incident at the railway station in Derby, Derbyshire in May last year. After officers responded to reports of a disturbance among a group of people on a station platform, the police officer deployed a Taser on one of the two men arrested at the scene. Another officer used incapacitant spray twice on the same man. A spokesperson from the Independent Office for Police Conduct said, “The public have to have confidence that officers will conduct themselves appropriately and in this case the court took the view that ‘the Constable’ did not.”
- It has emerged that an officer from the Special Air Services was shot in the arm with live ammunition during a simulated operation at the GCHQ offices in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in January this year. The guns used in the mock hostage situation should all have been loaded with training ammunition. Police opened an investigation into the accidental shooting before passing the inquiry to the Health & Safety Executive.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in April 2019 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:
- A shotgun has been stolen from a house in Berwick St James, Wiltshire. Three males have since been arrested; however, the shotgun has not been recovered.
- Four rifles, a shotgun and other items were stolen from a house in Great Massingham, Norfolk after a window at the property was forced open.
- Police officers responding to reports of a break-in at a house in Totternhoe, Bedfordshire, found that three firearms, ammunition and jewellery had been stolen from the property.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least thirteen reports in April 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- Three cats have been injured and two have been killed in airgun attacks in Suffolk, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and West Midlands. Two Goshawks, of which species there are only an estimated 150 breeding pairs left in Scotland, have been killed in separate attacks in the Scottish Borders. A buzzard is recovering after being shot three times in Northamptonshire. The bodies of six dead swans have been found at a park in Carmarthenshire. A number of seagulls have been discovered shot dead in East Sussex, and seagulls and pigeons have been found dead or injured in North Yorkshire. Also in North Yorkshire, a pregnant sheep has been found shot dead in a field.
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 33 reports in April 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A man has been jailed for twelve years after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply, possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate. Firearms officers searching the man’s car in Doncaster, South Yorkshire in January this year, discovered a blank revolver with two bullets in a brown paper bag behind the driver’s seat. From another car outside his home address, officers retrieved 26kg of amphetamines and almost 2kg of diamorphine. The man claimed that people to whom he owed a debt had pressured him to allow them to store drugs in his car. The judge ordered the forfeiture of the drugs, gun and ammunition.
- A man has been handed an indefinite hospital order under the Mental Health Act after pleading guilty to possessing two firearms without certificates as well as possessing pepper spray. The man, who suffers from mental health difficulties caused by a brain injury, shot a young man who attacked his home in Wrington, Somerset in June last year.
- Six members of a gang who robbed a post office in Landkey, Devon have been jailed for a total of fourteen years after pleading guilty to offences including robbery and possessing an imitation firearm: A man who pointed a gun at the shopkeeper during the robbery was handed a four-year sentence; a woman who drove the getaway car received a sentence of three-and-a-half years; others involved also received custodial sentences.
- Six members of Salford’s “A Team” gang, responsible for the shooting of a 7-year-old boy and his mother, have been jailed for a total of more than 60 years. In October 2015, the gang went to a man’s home in Salford, Greater Manchester, planning to attack him in revenge for an earlier execution-style killing in the city. When the door was opened by the man’s son and his mother, they were both shot in the legs. The boy’s injuries meant he was unable to walk for twelve months.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen years after admitting five robberies, five attempted robberies, two attempted thefts and seven offences of having an imitation firearm with intent. Police investigating a seven-week spate of robberies in Leeds, West Yorkshire in April and May last year, searched the man’s house and discovered a balaclava and a toy gun that had been painted black to make it look more realistic. One of the victims reported suffering flashbacks and anxiety, while another was so shaken, she had to leave her job.
- A 74-year-old man was handed a six-month restriction of liberty order requiring him to wear an electronic tag after being convicted of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner by presenting an imitation firearm and possessing a deactivated revolver without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. A taxi driver, who saw military paraphernalia and an AK47 mounted on a wall as he was collecting a passenger from a house in Leven, Fife in May 2017, told the court that a man had pointed what he believed to be a real revolver at his stomach. The perpetrator claimed he had been showing the man the gun and the AK47, and that he had explained that both weapons were deactivated. When the taxi driver returned to his depot, the police were alerted and officers called at the man’s home, finding the revolver tucked into his trousers. Taking into account various health conditions, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder caused by army service, the sheriff ruled out a custodial sentence. She ordered the forfeiture of the revolver but allowed the return of the AK47.
- Three men have been sent to prison for their part in an armed attack at a house in Salford, Greater Manchester in May last year. After four men arrived at the house, shots from a semi-automatic weapon were fired at the back door. One bullet entered the house and hit a 26-year-old man in the side, lodging near his spine. The assailants fled the scene in a stolen vehicle with cloned number plates. The occupants of the house refused to cooperate with the subsequent police investigation, but three of the attackers were traced using CCTV footage and mobile phone cell information. Following arrest, the men refused to comment, and it is not clear who fired the gun. Two were each sentenced to sixteen-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of an illegal firearm; a third man received a sentence of seventeen years for the same offence as well as other charges relating to a separate incident.
- A 32-year-old man was sent to prison for eight years and four months after he admitted possessing a Class A drug with intent to supply and possessing a prohibited/disguised firearm. After stopping his car, police found almost 8g of cocaine in the vehicle and during a subsequent search of his house in Esh Winning, Co. Durham, officers seized a Taser disguised as a torch and four mobile phones. The man claimed not to have known the stun gun was a weapon, telling police he had bought it as a torch to light his pet lizard’s tank.
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 Stolen Guns and Ammunition above — at least nine weapons) corrupt gun dealers, and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others. (See Inquest above).
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: April 2019 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; 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.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.