February 2021 Review

by Gun Control Network on 10-03-2021

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 February 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 February 2021.

                                                Figure 1: February 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, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org

 We are aware of at least one report in February 2021 concerning a gun death:

  • A post-mortem has revealed that a woman, found dead at her home in Bexhill, East Sussex, died from injury consistent with gunshot wounds. A man, who had suffered a serious injury, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of at least nine reports in February 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:

  • A 35-year-old woman from Hull, East Yorkshire has been jailed for six months after threatening her neighbour with an air rifle, breaking a suspended sentence and being found drunk and in possession of drugs while caring for her daughter.
  • A 28-year-old man from Darlington, Co. Durham has been handed a suspended eight-month custodial sentence after he discharged a Taser disguised as a torch at a friend during “drunken high jinx”.
  • A 59-year-old man has been handed an eighteen-month community order after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In September 2019, the man reported to police that there was a man with a gun on a street in Stoke, Staffordshire. When armed officers responded, they discovered that it was the man himself who had the gun. As his partner explained to the officers that he was suffering a schizophrenic episode, he came to the doorway and pointed an air rifle with a telescopic sight towards one of the officers. The armed officer pulled the man’s partner to the floor, fearing for her safety. After forty minutes of negotiation, the man threw the air rifle out onto the street.  The weapon was found to be unloaded. The judge ordered the man to complete fifteen rehabilitation activity days and to abide by an electronically-monitored curfew of two months, between 9pm and 5am.  
  • A 42-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen years after being convicted of two counts of robbery and two counts of possessing an imitation firearm. Despite repeatedly targeting a vulnerable man who lived in a residential care flat in Hull, East Yorkshire, the man was acquitted of robbery in 2018 after his victim’s evidence was found to be “inconsistent” with his earlier statements. In May last year, after the victim had begun to show “clear signs of dementia”, the man assaulted him at his home, stamping on him and holding an imitation firearm to his neck, before stealing £200. The victim’s support workers failed to alert police, believing his reports to be “too far-fetched”. The following month, the man visited the victim’s flat again and threatened to kill him while holding a loaded imitation gun. On this occasion, a neighbour heard the victim shouting and called police.  Despite the victim’s complaint that he was being robbed, the officers took the perpetrator’s word that he was the man’s nephew and failed to search him. However, as the perpetrator went to leave, he dropped the gun.
  • A 21-year-old man has been jailed for ten-and-a-half years with a six-month extended licence for possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, robbery, criminal damage and breach of a non-molestation order. In September last year, after discovering his ex-partner may have met someone new, he threatened her over the phone, saying he would stab her and hold a gun to her neck. Later the same day, he visited a house in Coventry, West Midlands looking for the person he assumed to be her new partner. On discovering he wasn’t at the address, the perpetrator pointed an imitation gun at a young man’s head, threatening to shoot if he did not tell him the whereabouts of the person he was seeking. A young woman at the property was also left fearful after the incident, during which the perpetrator shot the gun at a window, causing it to shatter.  The man was arrested about a week later, after he attempted to steal a car.
  • A 37-year-old man has been handed a two-year community order with a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, a four-month curfew and a ten-year-restraining order after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault and possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In August 2019, the man visited his ex-partner’s home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, where he shouted threats and used force before firing a BB gun at her and at a window.  The woman sustained an injury to her side.
  • A Teaching Regulation Agency hearing has described a school deputy head’s shooting of a pupil as a “momentary lapse” and ruled that he can carry on teaching. The man shot the student in the abdomen and leg with plastic pellets from an airgun at a private school’s shooting club in Macclesfield, Cheshire in January 2019. The student had asked what it would feel like to be shot before running around, shouting “shoot me”. The teacher resigned from the school and, in June 2019, was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay victim compensation of £125 after being charged with common assault.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least four reports in February 2021 that relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:

  • The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has found that an officer who shot a man in the leg in Swindon, Wiltshire in June last year acted proportionately. Armed police officers were deployed following reports that a man had stolen a lorry at gunpoint. After the officers found the suspect, challenged him verbally and attempted to Taser him, he fired a ball bearing from a gun at one officer, hitting him in the face. Another officer then fired a single shot that hit the man in the leg. An IOPC spokesperson said: “The man’s actions caused armed officers to have a genuine and legitimate fear for their own and others’ safety. After the man was shot, officers swiftly began first aid to help preserve his life. The officers involved dealt with an armed confrontation in a highly professional manner.” The officers were said to have followed operational guidance, with the IOPC concluding that there were no lessons identified for Wiltshire Police.
  • Two of three investigations into the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer in Culcheth, Cheshire in 2012, have concluded with the Independent Office for Police Conduct finding that the officer involved did not breach professional standards.
  • The Independent Office for Police Conduct has concluded that no officer committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings following an investigation into the shooting of a man in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in January 2017.
  • A 27-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting burglary, kidnapping, engaging in coercive or controlling behaviour and two counts each of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault and criminal damage. In July 2019, the man stole seven hunting shotguns from a shop in Colchester, Essex. He was identified as the offender after his phone was found at the scene of the robbery. A member of the public found the firearms hidden in some bushes near the shop two months later. The court also heard details of the man’s abusive behaviour towards his partner, whom he met in May last year. On sentencing, the judge said: “I’ve asked the rhetorical question, what you do when you have stolen shotguns? An obvious answer is make money. It seems to me that it was almost inevitable that they would have entered the criminal fraternity. I have no doubt that was what he was proposing to do.”

We note at least eight reports involving the use of police Tasers including:

  • In June 2019, a Metropolitan police officer Tasered a man nine times as he damaged property, assaulted members of the public and ran out into traffic in London. The officer has now received a final written warning after a misconduct hearing concluded he had used “unreasonable force to the extent that it was not necessary, proportionate or reasonable in all the circumstances”.

Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least five reports in February 2021 that relate to stolen guns and ammunition:

  • See Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition above − seven shotguns stolen from a shop in Essex.
  • Six men have been arrested for conspiracy to steal and handling stolen goods after 330,000 rounds of stolen ammunition were recovered in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
  • Thieves reportedly broke into the greenkeepers’ shed at a golf club in Oakhampton, Devon and stole items including an air rifle.  
  • An undisclosed number of air pistols and accessories have been stolen from a shop in Petersfield, Hampshire.
  • A 30-year-old man and a 23-year-old man have been jailed for a total of twenty-one years and ten months relating to firearms charges and possession of articles for use in connection with the conversion of imitation firearms. After police found a previously-stolen shotgun and cartridges under a garden shed at an address in Birmingham, West Midlands, forensic testing revealed DNA and fingerprints linking both men to the stolen items. On searching the home address of the older suspect, officers found imitation handguns that had been worked on to convert them to viable firearms, though none had been fully converted.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least nine reports in February 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:

  • A cat has been injured in North Yorkshire. A swan, one of a breeding pair, is recovering after being shot in the neck in Buckinghamshire. A herring gull had to be put to sleep after being shot in West Midlands. One pigeon has been found dead and a second had to be put to sleep after both were shot in Wales. A hundred ducks have died after being shot on or near the River Hull in East Yorkshire and reports have been received of ducks being shot at a park in South Yorkshire. A dog has been found shot and injured in Scotland. One buzzard had to be put to sleep after being found shot in Bedfordshire, and another buzzard was found dead after being shot in Cambridgeshire.

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 that the failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations is undemocratic.

We find it deplorable that the Home Office has chosen to ignore the statistical evidence from Scotland regarding the country’s significant reduction in airgun crime since the introduction of licensing for airgun owners, and launch another review which, at the outset, clearly rejects licensing for airgun owners in England and Wales.

Border Force and National Crime Agency

We are aware of at least one report in February 2021 relating to illegal firearms: 

§    A man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to importing a prohibited weapon, unlawfully and maliciously wounding one police officer, and unlawfully wounding another. In May last year, Border Force officials at Birmingham Airport intercepted two packages addressed to the man that contained a blank-firing pistol and a quantity of blank-firing cartridges. The pistol was a prohibited firearm designed to discharge gas and irritant substances. When two police officers went to the man’s flat in Bradford, West Yorkshire, he refused to open the door to them. After they forced entry, the man struck one officer twice on the head with a khukuri knife and cut the second officer’s arm. A khukuri is a large, heavy fighting knife or machete used by the military in Nepal. The court heard that the man has autism and a learning disability and had suffered “some breach in his mental state” after family bereavements led him to stop taking his medication and start drinking heavily. Both police officers suffered physical and psychological impacts from the attack.

 

Sentences and Convictions

 We are aware of at least 54 reports in February 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 19-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months after admitting attempting to have in his possession a prohibited weapon. After US law enforcement authorities intercepted a parcel addressed to the man’s accomplice that contained a pistol, a replacement “placebo package” containing a recording device was sent in its place. The 19-year-old collected the parcel from his accomplice’s address and was recorded saying, “I am telling you – once I get it out the box, I’ll put it in a bag. Once I know there is no tracing devices in the box, tomorrow, we will move it somewhere.”  When police called at the man’s home in Inverkip, Renfrewshire, he claimed to have believed the parcel contained a car part that he was collecting for someone else; however, officers recovered the fully-working semi-automatic firearm and arrested the man.
  • Three men have been jailed for a total of over 25 years after they kidnapped and assaulted a teenage boy as punishment for his refusal to sell drugs for a gang. In October 2019, two of the men pulled up in a car alongside their victim, who felt “compelled through fear” to get into the vehicle.  The boy was punched several times before the pair drove to another location to pick up two more men, one of whom remains unknown. The boy was kicked and punched, and a stun gun was used on him several times. The men attacked the boy again after dragging him from the car in a park in Hull, East Yorkshire and threatening to hurt his family if he told anyone what had happened. The boy was then stripped naked before his captors allowed him to run away. A member of the public took the boy into her home and alerted police.
  • A 65-year-old man was handed a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to undertake ten rehabilitation day after he admitted possession of a self-loading rifle, possession of a revolver, possession of a sound moderator, three counts of possession of ammunition and possession of an offensive weapon (an extendable baton). A mechanic conducting an MOT on the man’s car alerted police when he discovered a loaded antique revolver behind panels in the boot. Officers subsequently searched the man’s home in Gurnard, Isle of Wight and found a loaded rifle leaning on a wall.  The man told the officers that he had inherited the weapons from his father and believed them to be deactivated. The judge imposed a reduced sentence due to what he believed were exceptional circumstances, citing that the weapons “were not tied to any criminal fraternity, were never going to be used, were not discharged and no injuries were caused”. He ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all the firearms, ammunition and the baton.
  • A 19-year-old man was handed a suspended eight-month detention sentence, ordered to pay £250 costs and ordered to complete fifteen day of rehabilitation activity and 180 hours of unpaid work after he admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In the early hours of a morning in August last year, the man ran towards three people on a street in Leicester, Leicestershire gripping what looked like a handgun in his outstretched hands and shouting, “I’m going to shoot you.” He was ushered away by some friends, before being arrested nearby shortly afterwards. He told the responding officers that they were “wasting” their time as the weapon was a toy gun that had been bought for his nephew’s birthday. The court heard that the man had been drunk at the time of the incident and, once sober, had realised he’d made a “colossal mistake”. 
  • A 59-year-old man has been jailed for twelve-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to blackmail, possession of a firearm or imitation firearm whilst committing or being arrested for a schedule 1 offence, robbery, false imprisonment, actual bodily harm (against a police officer), assault on an emergency worker and breach of bail. In June last year, while on bail for trying to blackmail his former employer, the man armed himself with a gas-powered air pistol and stole a lorry from his former place of work in Swindon, Wiltshire. When intercepted, he fired shots at police officers, hitting one in the face. An armed officer then shot the man in the leg and he was detained.
  • Three teenage boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have received custodial sentences for their involvement in the shooting of a teenage male in Liverpool, Merseyside in January last year. The boys were detained for nine years, eight years and four months, and seven years and nine months after being convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Following what was believed to be a “gang related dispute”, the offenders, armed with a knife and a semi-automatic handgun, chased their victim and cornered him in an alleyway. One of the attackers then shot the teenager, leaving him with a perforated bowel and fractured vertebra. The incident took place near a retail park, in front of children and adults.
  • A 25-year-old man has been ordered to complete a two-year community order with 25 rehabilitation activity requirements after being convicted of sending threatening and abusive messages and possession of an imitation firearm. Armed police officers responded after the man was seen waving a gun in the air on a street in Birkenhead, Merseyside in February last year. On seeing him reaching for a gun tucked into his waistband, one officer pointed a firearm at the man who then surrendered what was found to be an imitation gun. The man was also sentenced for incidents in 2017, when he threatened violence towards an ex-partner. The court heard that the man had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had responded well to antipsychotic medication while on remand.
  • A man has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years after admitting possession of illegal guns and ammunition, possession of Class A drugs and cannabis cultivation. His accomplice received seven-and-a-half years for firearms offences and cannabis cultivation. After receiving intelligence that the pair had access to firearms, police officers searched a flat in Birmingham, West Midlands and recovered three revolvers, a black handgun, nearly 80 rounds of ammunition, lead shot, casings, ammunition-making equipment and an instruction leaflet on how to make bullets. Cocaine worth around £19,000 was also seized. A police spokesperson said that the revolvers, manufactured in the late 1800s were all “fully functioning, lethal weapons” but none of the weapons were linked to any recorded shootings in the West Midlands. Furthermore, there was no evidence the men had actually manufactured their own rounds.
  • A 41-year-old woman was handed a suspended sentence of twelve months in custody with a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and a Prohibited Activity Requirement after she pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear or violence and possessing a bladed article. In November last year, police officers found her on a street in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire with a BB gun in her waistband and pellets in her pocket. A machete was found nearby. The woman told the officers that, after drinking vodka, she had decided to go looking for a man whom she believed had stolen money from her. She claimed to have taken the weapons along for protection.
  • A 30-year-old man has been fined, and his air rifle has been forfeited and destroyed after he was convicted of having an air rifle with him at a property in Bournemouth, Dorset, which he used for firing a pellet beyond those premises.

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: February 2021 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 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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