August 2019 Review

by Gun Control Network on 02-10-2019

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 August 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 August 2019.                             

                                                     Figure 1: August 2019 incident reports by type

Gun Deaths

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 three reports in August 2019 concerning four gun deaths:

  • A man and woman have been found dead at their home in Rowledge, Surrey; their injuries were found to be consistent with gunshot wounds. Two dogs at the property had also suffered gunshot injuries. Police officers recovered a weapon from the scene and a spokesperson said that the incident is being treated as isolated with no third-party involvement.
  • A man has died after being shot in the head in Erdington, West Midlands. A car pulled up alongside the victim before an occupant reportedly fired a shotgun at him. A murder investigation has been opened.
  • Police have revealed that a man, whose body was found inside a burning car in Blantyre, Lanarkshire in February this year, had been shot in the head. The victim had links to a man who was jailed for helping to organise a fatal shooting in 2010.

Inquests

We are aware of at least one inquest in August 2019 relating to a gun death:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in East Garston, Berkshire earlier this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being severe head trauma consistent with a gunshot wound. The victim, who was suffering from terminal cancer, used his own shotgun to kill himself. He spoke with a colleague on the phone before he died, asking him to call the police.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of at least nine reports in August 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:                                                 

  • See Gun Deaths above — a couple found shot dead in Rowledge, Surrey.
  • A man was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid community work and pay a £500 fine after he admitted possession of a Taser and assault by battery. He punched his brother in the face and threatened him with a Taser during a violent dispute at their mother’s house in Tiverton, Devon.
  • A 40-year-old man has been jailed for five years after he pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm. After he sent threatening messages and pictures of himself posing with a gun to his ex-partner, police searched an address in Derby, Derbyshire and found an Atak Zoraki 914B self-loading pistol. The firearm is designed to fire blank rounds but a firearms expert discovered that the retrieved weapon had been modified to fire projectiles, though not necessarily live rounds. The man’s mobile phone revealed threats to his ex-girlfriend’s new partner as well as photos of himself with the gun.
  • Police officers called to “a domestic-related assault" at a residential address in Plymouth, Devon, found that a woman had been shot in the stomach with an air weapon. The following morning, firearms officers located and arrested a male suspect on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm by wounding.
  • A man was sentenced to three years in prison after he admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and an unrelated charge of breach of a restraining order. In December last year, He visited his mother’s house in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, but was asked to leave by his stepfather, with whom he didn’t get on. As he walked towards the front door, the son pulled a firearm from his jacket and waved it in his stepfather’s direction, threatening to shoot him. Police officers later found the weapon, a BB gun, at the son’s home. He was also handed a seven-year restraining order to keep him away from his mother and stepfather's home.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least four reports in August 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:

  • See Inquest above — A licensed gun owner from East Garston, Berkshire took his own life with a gun.  
  • See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — guns have been stolen from properties in Norfolk and Cheshire and a man has been sentenced following the theft of a police Taser in Wales.
  • See Sentences and Convictions below — A licensed gun owner has allegedly been selling weapons illegally to unlicensed buyers through social media sites. Police raiding an address in Doncaster, South Yorkshire recovered a number of weapons and ammunition. 

In addition, we note at least six incidents that involved the use of police Tasers.

Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least three reports in August 2019 relating to stolen guns, including:

  • A shotgun was stolen from a residential property in Freckenham, Suffolk after a burglar or burglars reportedly broke through the front door and gained entry to a gun cabinet.  
  • An undisclosed number of firearms, stolen from an address in Congleton, Cheshire earlier this month, have been recovered by police. A man, arrested in connection with the incident, has since been charged with burglary and possessing a firearm when prohibited to do so for life.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least seven reports in August 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:

  • Two dogs were found shot along with the bodies of a man and a woman who also apparently died from gun injuries at an address in Surrey. A kitten and several cats have been injured, and one killed, in attacks in Dunbartonshire, Essex, East Sussex, Northumbria, South West London and  Surrey. Two ravens have been found shot dead in Staffordshire.

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 since 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 unacceptable delay in announcing the outcome of the Home Office review of air weapon regulation, which was announced in October 2017.

Border Force and National Crime Agency 

  • Border Force and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers in Dover, Kent seized a cache of sixty guns hidden in the bumper and rear quarter panels of a car arriving from Calais. A man was arrested and charged with illegally importing firearms. The haul, which included a Sig Sauer P226 blank-firing handgun converted to fire live ammunition, is believed to be the largest seizure of lethal-purpose weapons at a UK port. An NCA spokesperson said that the find would make "a significant impact" on the organised crime group that tried to import them.
  • Acting on intelligence, police officers raided an address in Doncaster, South Yorkshire and recovered 24 air rifles, four rifles, four shotguns, 3179 rounds of ammunition and over 200 knives. Although licensed to own firearms, the occupant had allegedly been selling weapons illegally to unlicensed buyers through social media sites. 

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 31 reports in August 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

 

  • A 46-year-old man was jailed for 30 months after pleading guilty to two counts of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and possession of a prohibited weapon. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for seven years and made the subject of a seven-year sexual harm prevention order (SHPO). After sending explicit messages and arranging to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old girl, the man was confronted by members of the Online Child Abuse Activist Group outside his home in Bungay, Suffolk. The group members, who had been communicating with him via a decoy account, alerted police who subsequently found a stun gun in the glove box of his car.
  • A 20-year-old man was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and be supervised for nine months after he admitted behaving in a threatening or abusive manner by brandishing an imitation firearm. After the man overtook a vehicle on a road near Blackdog, Scotland in July this year, the driver shook his head at him. When the cars next came side by side, the man pointed what looked like a black handgun at the other driver, causing him “considerable fear”. When later interviewed by police officers, he said he had wanted to “annoy” him.  
  • A 57-year-old man has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm without a certificate, possessing a prohibited weapon, possessing and disguising a firearm, and dealing goods with fraudulent intention. During a search at the man’s home in Bridgend, South Wales in December last year, a sawn-off shotgun was found in a mobility car outside his home; he claimed to have bought the firearm at a car boot sale. Stun guns, one of which was disguised as a phone, were also retrieved. The court heard that the man, who had been through a difficult time after losing his wife and having both legs amputated, had sold cigarettes for a short time after his benefits were stopped. Other gun parts were also recovered from the property.
  • Eight people who were involved in an armed robbery at a pub in Morden, South West London have been jailed for a total of over 100 years. The gang members were convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery. In October 2017, four of the men entered the pub and forced eight people into the back office. The victims were forced to kneel and were repeatedly threatened with a knife and a firearm while demands were made for money. One of the captives was stabbed in the thigh during the incident. After failing to get a large safe into their getaway vehicle, the gang dumped it outside the pub and fled. Two of the people present in the pub on the night of the robbery were later revealed to be complicit in the raid.
  • A 38-year-old man has been found guilty of stirring up racial and religious hatred after posting photos of himself posing with a fake shotgun on Instagram and writing a series of racist comments and religious insults. Police were alerted after the posts appeared on a WhatsApp group later the same day. On arrest, the man said that the photos had been taken at a friend’s house in Cardiff, Wales with an ornamental gun. He admitted posting the messages after an evening of drinking but denied intending to incite racial hatred.
  • A 26-year-old man has been sent to prison for four years after admitting possession of a prohibited weapon, drugs offences and driving without insurance. The man, who was wanted on recall to prison, was found by police officers when they stopped a van in Beccles, Suffolk in May this year. Following his arrest, officers found a stun gun on the ground and £3,000 worth of drugs in the van. The court heard that he had started selling drugs after getting into debt.
  • A 34-year-old man and a 31-year-old man have each been found guilty of possession of a firearm without a certificate. In addition, one was found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. After a woman found a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition wrapped in bags at the bottom of her garden in Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire in October 2017, both were forensically linked to the firearm and cartridges. 

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: August 2019 reports by weapon type

Notes

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 in crime (See above — licensed gun owner in Doncaster) 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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