July 2020 Review

by Gun Control Network on 11-08-2020

 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 2020 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 2020.

                                                      Figure 1: July 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 four reports in July 2020 concerning gun deaths:

  • A man has died after being shot in broad daylight near a children's playground in Islington, North London. Emergency services responded but the victim was declared dead at the scene. Witnesses said that shots had been fired by a person on a moped. No arrests have yet been made.
  • A man died after being shot in the back of the head in a park in Penge, South East London. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene after police officers and ambulance staff attended. No arrests have yet been made.
  • A man has died after being shot at a funeral wake in Harlesden, North West London, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the chest. Witnesses described seeing people fleeing as gunshots were fired at the gathering of more than 100 people. Two men have since been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police have appealed for information.
  • A man has died after being shot at close range while sitting in his car in Edmonton, North London. Paramedics treated the victim at the scene but he was declared dead shortly afterwards. It is believed the assailants approached the man’s vehicle on foot, fleeing by car after the attack. No arrests have yet been made.

Inquests

We are aware of at least two reports of inquests in July 2020 relating to gun deaths:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Newton Ferrers, Devon in February this year has concluded that he took his own life, cause of death being traumatic brain injury. The man, who had suffered from depression, shot himself with his son’s shotgun after leaving a letter to his wife expressing his love for the family but saying that he couldn’t “beat the demons that are there every day” and that he could see “no way out”.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Amersham, Buckinghamshire in March this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the head. A cleaner found the man’s body and a double-barrelled shotgun when she arrived to work at his home. His family believes that the Coronavirus restrictions left him fearful that he would be socially isolated and unable to work. Two notes found at the scene stated that he had had “no infection for seven days” and that he “could not take the situation”.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of at least seven reports in July 2020 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:

  • A man has been sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated burglary, assault causing actual bodily harm and theft of a motor vehicle. In October last year, the man broke into a home in Potto, North Yorkshire and threatened the male householder with a replica handgun. He demanded money and threatened to kill the man, hitting him about the head with the firearm as he tried to escape. He then forced the man to empty jars of money before making off with his car and £10,000. The victim, who had been locked in the bathroom, managed to smash a window and raise the alarm. The perpetrator was arrested two weeks later but released on bail pending enquiries. He was re-arrested after his DNA was found on a balaclava in a stolen car and his fingerprints were lifted from a glass in the victim’s home. In a statement, the victim described how he had offered the perpetrator employment several years before when he had been desperate for work. He said the attack had had a devastating impact on his life and his faith in human nature had been destroyed.
  • A 27-year-old man has been jailed for 32 months and handed an indefinite restraining order after admitting threatening a person with an offensive weapon and intimidating a witness. In November last year, the man entered his ex-girlfriend’s home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire without invitation and, when asked to leave, threatened to tie her up and Taser her. After he chased her outside and pointed a stun gun at her leg and face, the victim managed to escape and alert police. The perpetrator was arrested eight days later after sending threatening messages to his victim.  
  • A 75-year-old man has been handed a suspended 20-week prison term after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence on the basis that he had fired his airgun towards the back of his garden, but not specifically towards an intruder who turned out to be his neighbour’s son. The teenage boy had climbed over a fence into the man’s garden in Formby, Merseyside to recover a football when the man shouted at him and fired an airgun twice at a spot about 8-10 metres away from him. The judge accepted that the shooting was not influenced by a long-running dispute between the man and his victim’s father over the height of some leylandii trees. However, on sentencing he said: “This was outrageous behaviour, wholly unwarranted, even on your own basis. You discharged an air weapon in a way that was designed deliberately to frighten someone and that someone happened to be a 13-year-old boy.” He imposed a two-year restraining order to protect the boy.
  • A 54-year-old man has been handed a suspended six-month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April this year, the man’s neighbour confronted him about his frequent garden bonfires in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear. A row ensued, after which the perpetrator fetched a gas-powered BB-style gun from his house and approached his neighbour with it. After the victim’s wife witnessed the incident and alerted police, the perpetrator took the gun back inside his house and apologised. The 54-year-old, who suffers from severe mental health issues, was handed an indefinite restraining order banning him from contacting or communicating with his neighbour.
  • A 48-year-old man has been jailed for three years, three months after admitting possession of an air weapon intending to cause fear and common assault of an emergency worker. In January this year, the man moved in next door to his ex-partner and her daughter in New Ash Green, Kent. After the woman asked him to leave, he became abusive and threatened to kill her if she called the police. As the woman fled, she heard the click of air rifle and, when she reached her house, she saw a red laser from the rifle sights before a shot hit a window. At least one more shot was fired with a pellet hitting a police officer. After the woman barricaded herself and her child in a bedroom and pressed her panic alarm, the man broke into the house, shouted and banged on the bedroom door, saying: “I’ve got a gun and I’m going to kill you both.” Following a brief stand-off with police, during which he threatened to hurt anyone who came into the house, the man put the weapon down and was arrested.
  • A 52-year-old man has been jailed for four-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to charges including threatening to kill and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In September last year, he aimed an imitation pistol at a man’s head in Totton, Hampshire after a dispute arose between them. The 52-year-old was in a relationship with the man’s mother, who was in her 70s, and the victim felt that he was taking advantage of her. Police arrested the perpetrator but no firearm was found. While on bail, he  posted threatening messages online regarding revenge on the victim and when police arrested him a second time, they discovered an axe, black imitation pistol, gaffer tape, handcuffs and cable ties in the boot of his car. The judge handed him an indefinite restraining order against his victim and ordered the seized items to be destroyed.
  • A 34-year-old man has been sentenced to one year, eight months in prison and handed an indefinite restraining order after being found guilty of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In December last year, the man threatened to shoot his partner after she refused to fetch his cigarettes from his car. She contacted police “in fear of her life” and reported that he had brandished a gun at her during previous arguments. Police officers visited the man’s address in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and discovered a blank firing gun with blank ammunition in his vehicle.

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least four reports in July 2020 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:

  • See Inquest above − A coroner reached a verdict of suicide relating to the death of man in Devon who used his son’s licensed gun to take his own life.
  • See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below − Three rifles, a semi-automatic shotgun and ammunition stolen from a farm in North Yorkshire.
  • A 61-year-old man was handed a suspended sixteen-month prison term and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work after he pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a disguised firearm and two charges of possession of a shotgun without a certificate. When Jefferson moved back to his mother’s house in Lingdale, North Yorkshire following a divorce, he found a shotgun disguised as a walking cane, a double-barrelled shotgun and a single-barrelled shotgun in the loft. Though a registered shotgun licence holder himself, Jefferson failed to register or hand over the firearms before police arrived to search the property the following day as a consequence of an argument he had had with his former partner. Jefferson said that, having found the weapons on a Friday, he had planned to hand them in after the weekend, this plan being “derailed” by the search. Although the standard prison sentence for possessing a disguised firearm is five years, the judge said: “The circumstances which you came into possession of these weapons are highly unusual. It's a very fine line between you possessing them and you merely holding them having discovered them in circumstances outside your control.”
  • A woman underwent emergency surgery after she was shot in the abdomen by armed police officers in Liverpool, Merseyside. Firearms officers were deployed following reports that the woman, armed with a large knife, had allegedly threatened to stab a woman and her daughter. She had also been seen reportedly threatening a young man on a bike. A Taser was deployed at the scene, but it is unclear if it made contact with the suspect. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has opened an investigation.

We note at least eleven reports involving the use of police Tasers.

Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least one report in July 2020 believed to relate to four stolen guns and ammunition:

  • Thieves reportedly forced their way into a farm in Cononley, North Yorkshire and stole a gun cabinet containing three rifles, a semi-automatic shotgun and a quantity of ammunition, as well as a safe, cash and jewellery. Police issued a description of a car “of particular interest” and appealed for information, adding that the weapons “could be dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands”.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least nine reports in July 2020 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:

  • Three cats have been injured in airgun attacks in Scotland and Tyne and Wear and a further three cats have died following airgun attacks in Denbighshire, Devon and Wiltshire. One dog has been wounded in Oxfordshire and another, believed to have belonged to a gang member, had to be put to sleep after being shot in South Yorkshire. Two wood pigeons have died after being shot in Hertfordshire and a six-week-old cygnet has died after being shot in Tyne and Wear.

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

We are aware of one report in July 2020 relating to illegal firearms:

  • After an international team cracked the encryption of a secretive phone network, police have arrested 746 people in the UK’s “biggest and most significant” operation against organised crime. Agencies in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform in April this year and shared their information via Europol; the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the police have been monitoring around 10,000 UK users of EncroPhones ever since, including previously “untouchable” criminals who have evaded justice for decades. In a series of orchestrated raids across the country, officers seized £54m in cash, over two tonnes of Class A and B drugs, 28 million “street valium” pills, 77 firearms and grenades, and 1,800 rounds of ammunition. In addition, the identities of corrupt police officers and employees in different law enforcement agencies have been revealed. It is believed, also, that 200 “threats to life” have been prevented by stopping rival gangs carrying out kidnappings and executions. EncroPhones attracted organised crime groups as they claimed to offer complete anonymity with encrypted messaging and calls, self-destructing texts and even a “panic wipe” function. The deputy director of the NCA said that they had become “a requirement” for organised criminal groups involved in money laundering and the importation of drugs, guns and people to the UK. After EncroChat’s operators realised their platform had been penetrated in June this year, they sent a message to users, reading: “Today, we had our domain seized illegally by government entities… We can no longer guarantee the security of your device … you are advised to power off and physically dispose of your device immediately.” Following this, police intensified their activity and, according to NCA’s director of investigations, their efforts were helped by the Coronavirus crisis as it meant “more criminals were at home when we came calling”.

Sentences and Convictions

 We are aware of at least 38 reports in July 2020 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

 

  • It has emerged, as a result of a Freedom of Information request, that a constable from Norfolk Police has been convicted of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place.
  • A 38-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being found guilty of aggravated burglary. In October last year, the man was one of four who broke into a home in Kingsbury, North West London and threatened a family with a firearm and crowbar before stealing a safe containing a significant amount of money. The man was arrested a couple of weeks later, while the other three suspects remain at large.
  • A 53-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen years after admitting the manufacture of a firearm, two counts of manufacturing a prohibited firearm, three counts of possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate and the production and supply of Class B controlled drugs. In December last year, police officers searching the man’s home in Leeds, West Yorkshire found two rifles, ammunition and equipment to make homemade firearms hidden in a garden hedge. In a shed, they discovered items that could be used to make and convert guns, while in a bedroom around 40 plants were being cultivated. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said the man “had basically set up a firearms and drugs factory in his home…his prison sentence reflects the seriousness of his role in this criminal enterprise and the threat to life that his activity caused.”
  • A man, now aged 18, has been given a two-year community order with 200 hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation activity requirement days after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a Class B and Class C drug, and possession of extreme pornography. In March 2019, he bragged to a friend, with whom he was playing an online computer game, that he had a handgun. He went on to brandish the weapon and fire blanks from it, boasting that he had removed the word “blanks” from the cartridge box. After the friend told his mother about the incident, the police were alerted and officers arrested the suspect at his home in Draycott, Derbyshire. Officers retrieved the gun and some cannabis, and found extreme pornography on his computer. The court heard that the man, who has autism and ADHD, had bought the gun online from Spain as a replica, only later discovering it could fire blanks.
  • Six men have been jailed following a firearm incident in July last year. Two brothers armed themselves with a sawn-off shotgun before meeting a man near a primary school in Hitchin, Hertfordshire to resolve a drug debt. Following a row, the man fired a handgun at least three times and the brothers fired the shotgun at least once. No one was injured but bullets were found in parked vehicles and on the ground. All three men were arrested shortly afterwards. Three days later, two others passed the handgun to another man at a pub near Tring. Again, all three concerned were quickly arrested. Five men received sentences for firearms-related offences totalling over 42 years, with a sixth man awaiting sentencing for multiple offences including possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “This was a truly shocking incident and it was a miracle that no one was seriously injured. These men showed a total disregard for human life. They fired at each other in a residential road, in the middle of the day and at a time when the nearby school would be finishing.”
  • A 53-year-old man of no fixed address has been jailed for four years after admitting attempted robbery, two counts of possessing an imitation firearm and possessing a bladed article. In May this year, following a drinking session, he armed himself with a kitchen knife and a replica revolver before approaching a man near a van in Liverpool, Merseyside. Holding the gun in front of himself towards the ground, he demanded the man’s van keys, before following him as he fled to his daughter’s garden. Here, the man began waving the knife around, as witnessed by the victim’s daughter and her partner. Realising the police had been alerted, he left the scene. After the knife dropped from his sleeve at a nearby shop shortly afterwards, he was arrested. The court heard that the man had been living in a pigeon shed, drinking heavily and “battling long-standing drug problems” at the time of the offence.  
  • A man has been handed a prison term of six years, three months after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of ammunition and possession of cannabis with intent to supply. In March last year, the man was heard talking about buying a gun and ammunition after police officers bugged his brother’s car as part of an investigation into drugs importation. During a subsequent search of his address in Leeds, West Yorkshire, officers found a .44 calibre Smith and Wesson revolver containing five bullets in a kitchen cupboard. They also retrieved a balaclava, a bulletproof vest, scales and a quantity of cannabis.
  • A 28-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a Class A drug. In December 2018, the perpetrator and another man became frustrated when a car occupied by three men stopped in front of their vehicle in Watford, Hertfordshire, causing a hold up. The perpetrator’s accomplice shouted at the men and threatened to rob them before the perpetrator got out the car and fired two shots from a handgun at the ground near one of the men’s feet. He then shot twice more at the car as it was driven away. One round was later found in the rear passenger door and the other entered the driver’s seat. The perpetrator was arrested after a few days, while his accomplice handed himself in a week later. 
  • Two men have been jailed for ten years and nine years respectively after admitting conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to falsely imprison. One perpetrator, fifteen years old at the time of offending, was handed a two-year detention and training order. In October 2017, after attending a party in Coventry, West Midlands, a couple were contacted by someone who claimed they owed £30 towards the cost of the food and drink. When the man and woman took the money to a handover point as requested, they were kidnapped and taken to an address where the two perpetrators were waiting. The man was later robbed, assaulted with a Taser, hit with a steering wheel lock, burned with a cigarette and abused in other ways, while his girlfriend was told a gun with a silencer had been put against her head. The two men went on to hold a knife to her throat, cut off her hair and spray air freshener into her mouth. After being released the following day, the couple immediately alerted police.        
  • A 38-year-old man has been handed a 32-month prison term after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm. In March this year, the man threatened a husband and wife walking along a dimly-lit path in Pontefract, West Yorkshire with what looked like a large pistol, aiming it at the man’s head. Judging the gun to be an air pistol, the victim told his wife to get help. As she walked away, the perpetrator threatened her, telling her he would shoot and fill her “full of holes." The woman, however, ran to a house and, as she knocked on the door, the perpetrator told her to tell the police he was wearing a green top. He then left area but was arrested a short time later, admitting he had thrown the firearm into a beck. The court heard that the perpetrator, described as having severe mental health problems, had rowed with his girlfriend and drunk 12 pints at pub before carrying out the attack, his motivation being to force police officers to shoot him.
  • A man has been jailed for six-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear, dangerous driving and drugs offences. In March last year, the man failed to stop after his vehicle collided with two others in Chadderton, Greater Manchester, leaving one person injured. Following the second collision, he threatened members of the public with a handgun after they tried to stop him leaving the scene. He was arrested a few months later after he crashed a stolen car following a police pursuit in Oldham. Forensics confirmed he had been present in the car involved in the earlier collisions. 

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 2020 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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