January 2017 Review
by Gun Control Network on 01-03-2017
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: January 2017 reports by incident type
We are aware of at least one report in January 2017 of a gun death. A 28-year-old man was shot dead by police in a planned operation during an investigation into illegal possession of a firearm in Ainley Top, West Yorkshire. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun an investigation into what was the fifth fatal shooting of a person by police in England in the last nine months.
We are aware of at least two reports in January 2017 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- An inquest into the death of Allison Muncaster, 48, found that she had been unlawfully killed by her husband Stephen Muncaster, 47, who is then thought to have taken his own life with the gun at their home in Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, Norfolk in July 2016. Stephen Muncaster was a licensed shotgun owner.
- An inquest into the death of Christopher Cobb, 64, discovered in his work van with shotgun wounds in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire in August 2016, found that he had taken his own life when his building business was in severe financial difficulties. Christopher Cobb was a licensed shotgun owner.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least nine reports in January 2017 of armed domestic violence:
- A 55-year-old man from Risca, Caerphilly, has been given a nine-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of brandishing an air pistol from a car window outside his ex-partner’s daughter’s house while on bail for a similar offence.
- A 52-year-old man has been jailed for five years and been given a non-harassment order preventing him from contacting his former partner after being found guilty of threatening her and others outside a pub in Glasgow while holding a stun gun disguised as a torch.
- A couple have been jailed for 12 and six months respectively after threatening neighbours with an air pistol in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
- A 45-year-old man has been jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to threatening to kill a neighbour with a double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun in Hartlepool, County Durham. The gun was later found to be deactivated.
- A woman has been handed an eight-week suspended sentence, been given a two-year restraining order and been ordered to pay £100 compensation, £85 costs, and £115 of charges after making threats to kill her partner’s ex over social media from her home in Carlin How, North Yorkshire.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We are aware of at least eight reports in January 2017, relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns.
- See reports above of one death and two inquests into deaths.
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission will begin an investigation after police in Bristol shot a 63-year old man with a Taser. The victim was a founding member of an Independent Advisory Group which works with Avon and Somerset Police on relations between officers and the local black community. He was reportedly shot outside his home after being mistaken for a wanted suspect who was also black.
- A licensed shotgun owner has been given a warning by police after he left his legally owned gun on a train when he disembarked in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway.
We know of at least one report in January 2017 of an incident involving a stolen gun. A replica pistol was stolen from an Airsoft shop in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We know of at least fifteen reports in January 2017 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Three cats have died and five have been injured in airgun attacks in a number of locations including Herefordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Hampshire, west London, and Flintshire. A pet cat in Cornwall was found with 20 shotgun pellets in its body and had to have a leg amputated. Two swans have died and ten have been injured in airgun attacks on a river in the centre of Windsor, Berkshire, and four buzzards have been shot in several locations in the West Country.
Imitation, Airsoft, 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. Airgun owners in Scotland are required to have a licence as of January 2017.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 26 reports in January 2017 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A soldier in the Queen’s Guard has been jailed for eight months after pleading guilty in a military court to unlawful possession of ammunition and three counts of misconduct. Officers found 30 chain-link bullets in his home in Wigan, Greater Manchester, and smoke grenades, a parachute flare, 20 blank rounds, and 28 used shells in his Army accommodation.
- Two teenage university students have been jailed for a total of six years and eight months for threatening a man with an imitation handgun in Romford, Essex.
- A 58-year old man has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and possessing an imitation firearm in Streatham, south London.
- A man has been jailed for six years and eight months for possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear, robbery and dangerous driving and breaching a restraining order in Leicester, Leicestershire.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for six years and eight months for threatening a pub owner and firing a shotgun in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire two days after being discharged from a mental health unit where he was being treated for paranoid schizophrenia.
- A prison librarian has been jailed for seven years and six months for drug offences and for attempting to purchase a handgun and ammunition on the dark web from his home in Penge, south-east London. A search of his home revealed stolen passports and a police uniform. A storage device was also discovered containing cell numbers for inmates at the prison where he worked and a list of prison employees’ personal details. When re-arrested he was found to be in possession of cash, cocaine, Class B drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia.
- Three men have been jailed for a total of 36 years for their involvement in armed robberies of an off-licence and two newsagents in Bootle, The trio brandished realistic imitation guns and knives and escaped with cash in a vehicle which was found on the following day bearing the fingerprints of two of the men.
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.
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: January 2017 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, 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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