April 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 14-05-2021
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 2021 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 2021.
Figure 1: April incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summaries for 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least four reports in April 2021 concerning gun deaths:
- Following reports of a shooting in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, police officers found a man with life-threatening injuries consistent with a firearms discharge. Ambulance staff subsequently pronounced the victim dead at the scene. A second man suffered minor gunshot wounds and is being treated in hospital. Police have appealed for information.
- One man has died, and another has been seriously injured in a shooting at an industrial estate in Birmingham, West Midlands. It is believed the victims were known to each other. Police have since arrested a man on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
- A teenage man has died after being shot and stabbed in Canning Town, East London. The victim was attacked close to his home after being approached by a man in a car. He was declared dead at the scene. No arrests have yet been made.
- Armed police officers found a man’s body inside his home in Ynysybwl, Glamorgan, after neighbours alerted them to the sound of a shot fired. The fire service also attended as the man’s home was on fire. A police spokesperson later said that a firearm had been discharged at the address. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.
We are aware of at least three inquest reports in April 2021 relating to gun deaths:
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a man whose body was discovered in the back garden of his home in Old Colwyn, Conwy in March this year. A shotgun was found underneath him. Following a post-mortem examination, a provisional cause of death was given as a firearm head injury. The man was a registered shotgun holder.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man who was shot and beaten in the garden of his home in Upper Enham, Hampshire in August last year has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, cause of death being multiple blunt force injuries. The man was killed by a neighbour, who, suffering mental health issues, had become convinced his victim was a spy. The neighbour shot the man in the hand with a home-made double-barrelled shotgun, possibly obtained through his “drug contacts”, and stamped repeatedly on his head. Following the attack, the assailant fled police officers on a motorbike. He died after crashing the bike into a tree. The inquest heard that the attacker’s father twice contacted NHS services over concerns for his son’s mental health. One record of contact was filed without being brought to the son’s GP’s attention, while a GP receptionist “inappropriately” told the perpetrator’s father that doctors would not see his son if he would not consent.
- An inquest has been opened into the deaths of a husband and wife whose bodies were found at their home in Leigh, Essex earlier this month. Provisional causes of death were given as multiple gunshot wounds to the head for the woman and a single gunshot wound to the head for the man. Police officers found the couple after receiving reports of concern for their welfare and the victims were declared dead at the scene. A police spokesperson said that the man had been “suffering with his physical health, and more recently with his mental health”.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least four reports in April 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- See Inquest above − The bodies of a husband and wife have been discovered at their home in Essex.
- A 19-year-old man has been sentenced to eighteen months' youth custody after admitting wounding, possessing cannabis oil, possessing a stun gun, possessing an item for use in forgery and four charges of possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply. In July 2019, during “a heated row” at his home in Brentry, Bristol, the man shot his mother’s partner in the face with an air rifle. The pellet lodged near the man’s eye and had to be removed under general anaesthetic. During a subsequent search of the property, police officers recovered cannabis and cannabis products, £1,775.50 cash, a stun gun, two printers and false identity documents, as well as high-value clothes, suspected fake watches and jewellery. It was later revealed that the man had been selling fake IDs, bought from China, with just under £97,000 having been credited to his bank account in a six-month period.
- A 32-year-old man has been jailed for twelve months after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon. After a neighbour called police about noises coming from his home, the man posted a video of a gun and ammunition on a social media site, alongside the threatening message, “He is getting it.” After the neighbour notified police of the threat, officers broke into the man’s home in Stoke, Staffordshire and recovered a handgun designed to discharge gas and four cartridges.
- A man has been jailed for six years and nine months for offences committed during a robbery, an assault and a shooting. In February last year, the man threatened his ex-partner on a street in Skelmersdale, Lancashire before firing a sawn-off shotgun in front of her, another woman and a child. Following the incident, the shotgun and shells were found in his car, but he fled the country for some months. After hearing of a string of previous convictions, including one for battery and wounding, the recorder decided against issuing an extended licence. An application for a restraining order against his victims will be considered at a later date.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in April 2021 which we believe to relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquests above − The body of a registered gun owner has been found at his home in Conwy.
We note at least twelve reports in April 2021 involving the use of police Tasers.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in April 2021 relating to stolen weapons:
- Police appealed for information after around 100 air rifles were stolen from a gun shop in Skegness, Lincolnshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least fourteen reports in April 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- At least three cats have been shot and injured in attacks in Essex, Hertfordshire and Perthshire. A litter picker found the body of a cat shot in the chest in Lincolnshire, and a kitten and its mother have both been killed in separate shooting incidents in South East London.
- A seagull has been injured in Cumbria and another shot dead in Devon. A pigeon had to be put to sleep after being found shot in Glasgow. A duck has been found shot dead on a pond in East Yorkshire and a mallard has been found shot dead in Nottinghamshire. A red kite has been shot in Gloucestershire and a second red kite has been found shot dead and hanging from a tree in Norfolk. A peregrine falcon had to be put to sleep after being found in Gwynedd with wounds consistent with having been shot, and a heron, believed to have been shot in flight, had to be put to sleep after being found with multiple wounds in Norfolk.
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.
N.B. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence, and airgun crime in Scotland has decreased by one third.
Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League, other organisations and individuals are calling for similar legislation in England and Wales. MPs and families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities are concerned about the failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations. In response, the Home Office has launched a further review which, at the outset, clearly rejects licensing for airgun owners in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
- Following a National Crime Agency investigation, a man arrested in Manchester has been charged with offences including selling a prohibited firearm (Skorpion machine gun) and ammunition.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to importing a firearm and ammunition. In June last year, Border Force officials intercepted a parcel sent from the Netherlands to a postal hub in the West Midlands that contained a 9mm Heckler & Koch SFP9 self-loading pistol with 25 rounds of ammunition. The package, disguised as a box of hair clippers, was addressed with a false name to a house in Cricklewood, North London where the man was doing some building work. Surveillance officers witnessed one of the other building workers receive the package and pass it on to him. Metropolitan Police Officers moved in to arrest the man as he attempted to leave the property. Following sentencing, a National Crimes Agency spokesperson said: “Criminals like him do not care for the safety and wellbeing of innocent members of the public and will go to any lengths to obtain guns and ammunition. His actions were reckless and endangered the lives of Londoners. Weapons like these can be used to inflict serious violence and are often associated with the supply of drugs.”
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 42 reports in April 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for fourteen months after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In October last year, he went to the A&E department of the Royal Infirmary in Bradford, West Yorkshire and told staff he wanted an X-ray. On being told he needed to make an appointment, he pointed a gas-powered BB gun at a porter’s face. swearing and demanding an X-ray immediately. He also pointed the firearm at his own head. As the porter and other staff members locked themselves into a room, security personnel managed to disarm the man. Armed police officers attended, arrested the man and recovered a tin of ball bearings. The court heard that the man, a cannabis user, suffered mental health problems. The hospital porter, who believed he was going to be shot and killed, said in a victim impact statement that he felt lucky to be alive.
- A 28-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years and nine months after admitting causing grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of a firearm. In July last year, he shot a man in the leg with a sawn-off shotgun in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. The victim was an accountant to a builder who had become involved in a disagreement over unpaid wages of £2,500. The builder, his accountant and three other employees, were lured to a meeting on a secluded road in the belief they would hand over the disputed money. Instead, the 28-year-old shot the accountant’s left shin and the front of the car in which he and the other men had arrived. The victim suffered a fractured fibula and had treatment to remove fragments of lead from the wound.
- Four men have been jailed for life after being found guilty of conspiring to murder and possessing a gun with intent to endanger life. In May 2019, a man was shot three times in his lower back while sitting in a parked car in Birmingham, West Midlands. He escaped from his vehicle but died later in hospital. Two other people in the car were injured by gunfire. CCTV footage of the drive-by attack showed the shooter firing at least eight shots while leaning out of the window of a passing car. The assailants’ vehicle, stolen and displaying cloned number plates, was found on fire later the same day. Investigators used CCTV and phone data to track down the suspects and the murder weapon, a 9mm self-loading pistol, was found hidden in bushes in Leicester in November 2019. The court heard that the four assailants had planned the shooting as revenge after a friend was critically injured in a stabbing; however, it has not been proved which man fired the gun. Furthermore, it was revealed that those shot had not been involved in the knife attack. A teenage boy, also charged with conspiracy to murder, will stand trial in May this year.
- A 21-year-old man has been jailed for sixteen months after pleading guilty to assisting an offender and possessing a shortened firearm without a certificate. After a man was shot dead in Corhampton in July 2019, another man offered the 21-year-old £4,500 to hide the sawn-off shotgun used in the attack. After initially being told that someone would collect the gun from him, the 21-year-old was asked to get rid of the weapon. In September 2019, he buried the firearm in some woodland in Whitchurch, Hampshire and hid a cartridge in the wall of a bridge. He later showed police where the items had been hidden and gave evidence that helped convict four members of an organised criminal gang, two members of which have been found guilty of manslaughter and two others found guilty of murder; all four are now awaiting sentence.
- Three men have been jailed for a total of over 40 years following the attempted murder of a man in August 2019. After a fight at a nightclub in Soho, London, during which a man was stabbed, the two groups involved continued their conflict outside. The first man chased another down a busy street and shot him twice in the back with a Beretta handgun before fleeing the scene by car. The victims of the shooting and the stabbing suffered non-life-threatening injuries. A police investigation revealed that the first man met a second man on the following day to get rid of the gun. Police officers arrested the second man after finding cash, drugs, ammunition and five firearms, including the gun used in the attack, at an address linked to him. The court heard that he provided firearms and ammunition to individuals on request. After hearing of the arrest, the first man was helped by another man to “lie low” in a hotel room to evade arrest. The first man was sentenced to fifteen-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to offences including attempted murder; the second man received a sentence of fifteen years after being found guilty of a number of offences; and the third man received a sentence of twelve-and-a-half years after pleading at an earlier hearing to assisting an offender and other charges.
- Two brothers associated with a gang known as the Linacre Young Guns have been jailed for the murder of a man at his home in Litherland, Merseyside. In a revenge attack after a brick was thrown at their mother’s house in April last year, the brothers went to the young man’s home, where one discharged a firearm twice through the kitchen window, fatally wounding the victim. The victim, who had been standing next to his father when he was shot, was pronounced dead a short time later in hospital. He had been wrongly targeted and had nothing to do with the earlier incident. One brother was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 30 years, while the other received life with a minimum of 28 years after being found guilty of murder and possession of a firearm, with a concurrent sentence of five years for an unrelated firearms offence. The brothers’ uncle, their mother and a neighbour were all sentenced for perverting the course of justice. The trio had become involved “in the aftermath” of the attack by storing clothes and a bike and by damaging a phone.
- After threatening a woman with an imitation firearm outside her home in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, a 48-year-old man was jailed for three years and two months for possession of an imitation firearm.
- A 22-year-old man of no fixed abode has been sentenced to twenty years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm and one count of possession of a firearm. During a targeted attack at an address in Skelmersdale, Lancashire in October 2019, the man shot three men with a handgun before fleeing on a bike. All three victims are said to be recovering from their injuries. Investigators discovered incriminating phone data, CCTV footage and evidence at the scene, as well as a bullet case and traces of gunshot residue in the man’s jacket. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “The level of violence used was significant, careless and totally unnecessary. We’ll never be certain what his motive was that day, but we believe he had a grievance against one of the victims and as a result entered the address with a handgun and shot all three people he came across.”
- Four men have been jailed for a total of 95 years for their involvement in the fatal shooting of a man in July 2019. After being convicted of murder, two 30-year-old men received life sentences, to serve a least 35 and 28 years respectively, while a 41-year-old man and a 27-year-old man were sentenced to seventeen years and fifteen years respectively after being found guilty of manslaughter. After getting into drug supply debt with the victim, the first 30-year-old man arranged to meet the victim in a quiet layby in Corhampton, Hampshire. When the man arrived, he was shot in the head and neck with a sawn-off Beretta 12-bore shotgun, fired from a car occupied by two of the other men. The duo then set their car alight in a field before being collected by the 27-year-old accomplice. The shotgun was supplied by the 41-year-old man.
- Nine men have been jailed for their involvement in the shooting of two men in November 2019, an attack described in court as an attempted “contract killing”. The men were shot when a passenger in a car that drew up alongside theirs in a supermarket carpark in Liversedge, West Yorkshire opened fire with a 9mm revolver. The victims required hospital treatment to remove bullets. Six of the men involved have been found guilty of conspiracy to murder and handed life sentences with minimum terms attached, while three were sentenced to a minimum term of eight years, two months after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life. The court heard that one of the six convicted for conspiracy to murder was the “organising force” behind the attack, while the other five participated in what the judge described as “what was to be a professional execution”.
- One man has been jailed for thirteen years, and another man has been jailed for seven years, nine months, for their involvement in the robbery of a shop in Strood, Kent, during which a member of staff was shot in the face with a BB gun.
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, 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.
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: April 2021 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.
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