July 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 26-08-2019
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 July 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 July 2019.
Figure 1: July 2019 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 and 2018-19 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least five reports in July 2019 concerning gun deaths:
- A postmortem has confirmed that a man found dead in his car in Corhampton, Hampshire had been killed with a shotgun. Six men have since been arrested: Five were subsequently released pending further investigation, while one has been remanded in custody.
- A man, who was shot in Enfield, North London in April 2017, has died in hospital. The victim had remained in hospital in a critical condition since the attack. Police have launched a murder investigation.
- A man was pronounced dead at the scene after he was shot in the head on a park bench in Wembley, North West London. Police believe his killing — a possible revenge attack for a fatal shooting nearby two day earlier — was a case of mistaken identity.
- Armed police officers responding to reports of gunshots in Leyton, East London, found a man suffering a gunshot injury. Despite efforts to save him, the man was declared dead at the scene. The man’s identity has not yet been reported.
- Firearms officers were deployed following reports of a shooting in Wembley, North London. A man, found suffering critical gunshot injuries, died in hospital shortly afterwards. Police have appealed for information.
We are aware of at least five inquests in July 2019 relating to gun deaths:
- The jury at the inquest into the deaths of three men shot by police in 2017 has concluded that they were lawfully killed. In a terrorist attack, the men drove a van at pedestrians on London Bridge before using ceramic knives to stab members of the public in Borough Market, Central London; eight people died and 48 others were injured during the assault. Armed police officers responded, shouting warnings to the assailants before opening fire. The terrorists were wearing explosive belts, later found to be fake. The chief coroner praised the action of the police officers involved and directed the inquest jury that lawful killing was the only “safe” conclusion under the circumstances.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Deepcar, South Yorkshire in July last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a single gunshot wound to the chest. The victim had sought treatment for depression shortly before he died, following the break-up of a relationship. The inquest heard that the man had been a shotgun licence holder but had got rid of his guns when he moved in with his partner; however, he bought another shotgun just days before his death.
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a man in Crimplesham, Norfolk in June this year. The cause of death was given as a shotgun injury. A full inquest will follow later.
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a man who was found dead at home in his bed in Chichester, West Sussex in June, having apparently died from head injuries. A shotgun was found close by. A full inquest will follow later.
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a man found dead at his home in Mockbeggar, Hampshire in May this year, having apparently died from a traumatic brain injury caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A full inquest will follow later.
Public Enquiry Conclusions – Greater Manchester Police Firearms Unit
A public inquiry has concluded that, due to serious failings in its firearms unit, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was to blame for the death of a 36-year-old man in 2012. Suspecting that the man and two others were planning an armed robbery, a firearms officer shot the victim in the chest as he was sitting in a car in Culcheth, Cheshire; subsequently, no weapons were found in the vehicle. The report determined that GMP “adopted a cavalier attitude and collated flawed intelligence during the botched operation” and commanders within the tactical firearms unit were criticised for their “gung-ho attitude towards firearms operations and their inability to explore safer tactical alternatives”. The report lists nine recommendations, including that firearms officers be equipped with body-worn video cameras and that there be more transparency following the discharge of a police firearm. A spokesperson for the victim’s family said: “The chairman describes serious inaccuracies in threat assessments, seriously misleading briefings of firearms officers, a fundamentally flawed tactical approach, and planning of the operation that was incompetent and dangerous.” The victim’s mother is pursuing criminal charges against at least four senior officers.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least four reports in July 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- Armed police were deployed following a report that a man with a handgun was breaking into a home in Goring, West Sussex. The occupants, two women and four children, were helped by police to safely leave the house while the offender remained inside. Police communicated with the man for almost four hours before he came to the door. After he failed to comply with officers' instructions, he was Tasered prior to arrest. The suspect, who knew the occupants of the house, was arrested on suspicion of burglary, assault and firearms offence. His weapon was found to be an imitation handgun.
- A 33-year-old man has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to murder. In January, the man shot his girlfriend in the face at point-blank range at her flat in Southend, Essex. The woman died from “catastrophic injuries”.
- A 78-year-old man has been handed a custodial sentence of three years after admitting manslaughter by gross negligence. At his home in Sproatley, East Yorkshire in July last year, he fired an air rifle, hitting his six-year-old great grandson in the abdomen; the boy died later in hospital. The court heard that the man kept the air rifle, loaded and left on a kitchen shelf, for shooting rabbits. He had modified the weapon to make it more powerful but admitted he had not applied for a licence for the alteration as he knew it would be refused. The boy’s parents have since spoken of their grief and the difficulties experienced by the victim’s twin sister.
N.B. Following a number of airgun deaths involving children and young people, we await the outcome of a Review into Air Weapon Regulations announced by the Home Office in October 2017. The Review was instigated in response to a Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report after an inquest into the airgun death of a child in 2016. 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.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least ten reports in July 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:
- See Public Enquiry Conclusions — Greater Manchester Police Firearms Unit above, serious failings following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed man.
- See Inquests above — A man in Deepcar, known to be suffering from depression following a relationship breakdown, who took his own life with a licensed shotgun.
- Three men lawfully shot by police in Borough Market, London 2017.
- No information is currently available regarding the status of guns relating to three other deaths, the inquests into which have been opened and adjourned.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — A total of five, presumed legally-held, guns have been stolen: four from a property in Lancashire, one from a gun shop in Norfolk.
- See Sentences and Convictions below — A 74-year-old man from Cumbria charged for failing to comply with regulations regarding his legally-owned rifle.
We note at least two incidents which involved the use of police Tasers.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in July 2019 relating to stolen guns:
- Firearms officers were deployed after masked raiders allegedly shot a man at a farm in Aughton, Lancashire; the victim, who suffered knee and ankle injuries, required surgical treatment. Four shotguns, jewellery, watches and cash were stolen during the robbery.
- It has emerged that an air pistol was stolen from a gun shop in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk last month. Police have released CCTV images of two suspects they would like to speak to and have appealed for information.
- A police officer was treated in hospital after he was attacked in Bangor, Gwynedd. His Taser, stolen during the incident, has not yet been recovered.
- See Sentences and Convictions below — A shotgun stolen in 2017 has been offered for sale in Leicestershire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least thirteen reports in July 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Three cats have been injured in airgun attacks in Cheshire, East London and North Yorkshire; another cat in Cumbria sustained injuries so serious that it had to be put to sleep. A number of pigeons have been shot dead in Cambridgeshire, and boys have been seen shooting at pigeons with a BB gun in North Yorkshire. A female Hen Harrier has been shot dead on a grouse moor, also in North Yorkshire. A Marsh Harrier died after being shot in Norfolk; a Peregrine Falcon had to be put to sleep after being shot in Cheshire. A rare white squirrel died after being shot in Staffordshire. A man was seen shooting ducks and carrying their bodies away from a pond in Wales, and a dog died after being shot at the same time as the owner was shot in Merseyside.
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.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 29 reports in June 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Two 25-year-old men have been jailed for a minimum of 30 and 31 years respectively after being convicted of murder. In August 2017, they got into a conversation with a teenage male who had stopped his car in Stratford, East London because his passenger was feeling unwell. They asked the teenager where he was from before shooting him in the back from a short distance away. The victim died later in hospital. On sentencing, the judge said: "The actual reason for this senseless killing may never been known. To ask a man where he was from suggests some territorial rivalry. That might explain why he was shot — because he was somewhere he was not supposed to be.
- Five men have been jailed for a total of 53 years for their part in the murder of a man last year: The first offender, was sent to prison for life, with a minimum of 36 years, after being found guilty of murder and wounding with intent; others received lesser sentences. The first offender lured two men, whom he believed were dealing drugs on his patch, to a house in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, before shooting at them five times. One man was killed while the other managed to escape with leg injuries. In an impact statement, the victim’s father said: "We can’t believe that he’s gone and that he has been taken from us in such a horrific and cowardly act of violence.”
- A 74-year-old licensed gun owner from Millom, Cumbria has been fined and had his gun licence revoked and his rifle and ammunition forfeited. The man was found in a state of confusion and acting aggressively, having mixed alcohol and medication.
- A 53-year-old man was handed a twelve-month community order, with a two-month tagged curfew between the hours of 9pm and 7am, after he pleaded guilty to possessing a shotgun without a firearms certificate. He was also made the subject of a nine-month alcohol treatment requirement. His DNA was found on a shotgun that was offered for sale to undercover police officers in Leicester, Leicestershire, along with two live cartridges; the gun had previously been stolen during a burglary in 2017. The person who offered the firearm for sale is awaiting sentence.
- Sentencing was deferred for reports after a 24-year-old man pleaded guilty to assault by brandishing an imitation firearm and threatening violence, and to acting in a threatening or abusive manner. In July 2017, he brandished what looked like a handgun at a man and a teenage boy who were putting up a fence in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, telling them they were making too much noise. He pointed the firearm at them, saying, “I’ll make you shut up.” When firearms officers responded, Stewart shouted, “Go on shoot me, just shoot me, I’m not afraid of you.” He was restrained and the firearm, found to be a gas-powered soft air pistol designed to discharge 6mm BB pellets, was retrieved from a nearby house.
- A man has been jailed for 21 months for offences including wielding a realistic-looking BB gun in front of an elderly neighbour in Derby, Derbyshire. The court heard that he had been drinking excessively before the incident and that he believed he was going to be involved in a shootout with police. Officers later found the BB gun in the man’s home.
- A man has been sentenced to five months in custody, suspended for two years, after admitting possession of an air weapon. On two occasions in May this year, he alarmed members of the public when he brandished what looked like a handgun on the streets of Spalding, Lincolnshire. Armed police arrested him at a flat in the town and recovered a 4.5mm ball bearing air weapon from a bag in a kitchen unit.
- A 51-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting possession of a stun gun, but denying it was deliberately designed to have the appearance of a flashlight. On his return from a holiday in Mexico, the man was arrested at Birmingham Airport by officers from the National Crime Agency and Ireland's National Police and Security Service who were investigating the supply of drugs and firearms. During a subsequent search at the man’s home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, a 10,000-volt stun gun disguised as a torch was retrieved from a shelf above some kitchen wall units. Two other stun guns were recovered from a teenager's bedroom at the house.
- Three men have been jailed for a total of twenty-four years for their involvement in an armed robbery at a post office in Ashington, Northumberland. One watched the shop, and contacted two accomplices, after the branch received a delivery of cash. Wearing a mask, one of the men then entered the shop with what appeared to be a sawn-off shotgun and demanded cash from one of two terrified female shop workers. Another stood guard at the door holding a squeezy bottle of liquid. One man was jailed for conspiracy to rob the post office, while two were sentenced for armed robbery.
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: July 2019 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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