December 2016 Review
by Gun Control Network on 01-02-2017
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: December 2016 reports by incident type
We are aware of at least three reports in December 2016 of gun deaths:
- A man in his 30s was shot dead while sitting in a stationary car in West Bromwich, West Midlands.
- A 21-year-old man was shot dead on a busy road during rush hour in Kilburn, north-west London. A 15-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man have been arrested.
- A 24-year-old man was shot dead in a targeted attack in Fulham, south-west London. A man and a woman have been arrested.
We are aware of at least one report in December 2016 of an inquest relating to a gun death. It found that 17-year-old Billy Plowman took his own life in Oxted, Surrey. The victim was known to have mental health problems and had made two previous suicide attempts. He accessed a legally-held shotgun belonging to his father, a licensed gun owner, who left his shotgun in a car in contravention of the conditions on his licence.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least seven reports in December 2016 of armed domestic violence:
- A man has been jailed for a minimum of 34 years for the murder of a man and the attempted murder of his victim’s son with a sawn-off shotgun in Ilton, Somerset, and the convicted man’s two younger brothers have been sentenced for 15 years with 4 years on licence and 12 years in a Young Offenders Institution for manslaughter. The shooting was the result of longstanding animosity between neighbours.
- A 54-year-old man has been given a community service order involving 190 hours of unpaid work after admitting assaulting his wife at the time in the mid 1980s by discharging a shotgun at her when she was in bed in their home in Rosyth, Fife. The man bragged about this to colleagues who contacted the police through the new Scottish Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Violence.
- A 60-year-old man has been jailed for nine years for shooting a 54-year-old man known to him in the torso as the victim sat in his car in Clerkenwell, central London. The convicted man believed his victim had become a police informant.
- A 22-year-old man was found on a street in Borrowash, Derbyshire following a nailgun attack. The man’s mother was found dead at the home they shared. A 44-year-old man known to both victims was later reported to have taken his own life.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We are aware of at least one report in December 2016, relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns. See Inquests above.
Animal Death and Injury
We know of at least four reports in December 2016 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Two cats have been injured, one in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex and another in Huyton, Merseyside. A badger was found shot in Mancetter, Warwickshire and had to be put to sleep due to the severity of its injuries. A swan was shot in the head 21 times in Hay-on-Wye, Powys and the animal also had to be put down.
Imitation, Airsoft, and BB guns do not currently require a licence in England, Scotland, or Wales. These guns are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals. Airgun owners in Scotland are required to have a licence as of January 2017.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 27 reports in December 2016 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A man has been jailed for 11 years for importing £41,000 worth of cocaine, and for possessing a prohibited weapon (a shortened pump-action shotgun) and ammunition at his home in Park Royal, north-west London. Border agents intercepted the parcel imported from the Caribbean.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited revolver loaded with six live rounds. He was arrested after police responded to reports of two men on motorbikes behaving suspiciously outside a student accommodation building in Leicester, Leicestershire.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for nine years and six months after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply, acquiring criminal property, possessing an offensive weapon, and possessing cannabis in Streatham, south London. He was arrested after police stopped and searched his vehicle.
- A man has been jailed for seven years for possessing a stun gun manufactured to look like a torch and parts of a pistol, and for supplying heroin and crack cocaine in Holyhead, Anglesey.
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.
Figure 2: December 2016 reports by weapon type
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
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 January 2017 airguns in Scotland 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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