June 2017 Review
by Gun Control Network on 20-07-2017
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 the most serious crimes are included.
Figure 1: June 2017 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least five reports in June 2017 and seven gun deaths:
- Three male terrorists were shot and killed by firearms officers in Borough Market, Central London during a driving attack followed by knife attacks on members of the public that resulted in many injuries and eight deaths.
- An 18-year-old man died after being shot in the head in Liverpool, Merseyside in what police describe as a targeted attack. Two men have been arrested.
- A 48-year-old man died after sustaining shotgun injuries to the abdomen in Colnbrook, Berkshire. A 78-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman were arrested but the woman was later released without charge.
We are aware of at least one report in June 2017 of an inquest relating to a gun death:
- The Coroner recorded a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ in the case of 13-year-old Ben Wragge, fatally shot by his friend while playing with other children and a ‘homemade’ airgun in Thurston, Suffolk. The weapon, a .22 airgun, had a telescopic sight, a silencer, and no safety catch. It could be loaded with up to nine pellets without them being visible and was capable of discharging without the trigger being pulled. The Coroner and the boy’s family have called for tighter controls regarding airguns.
NB There have been many similar ‘child on child’ airgun deaths. As a result of new legislation in the Scottish Parliament, all airguns in Scotland now require a licence. There is currently no requirement for airguns to be licensed in England or Wales.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least seven reports in June 2017 of armed domestic violence:
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for sixteen months after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. The man threatened his ex-girlfriend by text and later pointed a BB pistol at her at a pub in Bristol, Avon.
- A 24-year-old man has pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence after he repeatedly fired BB gun pellets at close range into his girlfriend’s face, limbs and body as well as trying to strangle and suffocate her at a flat in Leicester, Leicestershire.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least five reports in June 2017 relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns and ammunition:
- See above deaths of three terrorists following being shot by police firearms in Borough Market, London and inquest relating to ‘child on child’ airgun shooting in Thurston
- A 67-year-old man, a licensed shotgun owner, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence after armed police were deployed to New Hutton, Cumbria following reports of a gun being fired. The man was later released and police are said to be going to investigate the man’s suitability to hold a shotgun licence.
- A 15-year-old boy, reportedly unhappy at school, angry and intending to harm anyone and end his own life, appeared in a youth court after allegedly taking his father’s loaded shotgun and 200 cartridges to school in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, initially with the intention of harming his classmates. The boy’s father is a licensed gun owner, and his licence stipulates that he store guns and ammunition separately in locked cabinets, and does not divulge the whereabouts of the keys to anyone.
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigating the death of a 39-year-old man arrested in connection with grooming offences, found that a message requesting the removal of his licensed gun from his home was not acted upon due to communication processes and volume of activity on the log, neither did Greater Manchester Police’s risk assessment raise concerns about the risk of self-harm. The suspect went on to take his own life near Church Stretton, Shropshire, using his legally-held gun.
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigating the fatal police shooting of a 28-year-old man in London in December 2015 decided not to charge a Metropolitan Police firearms officer with either murder or manslaughter in connection with the death of the suspect, who was later found to have been unarmed. An imitation Uzi machine gun was found in the back passenger footwell behind the driver’s seat of the car in which the suspect was travelling.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in June 2017 of animal cruelty involving guns:
Two cats have died and three have been injured in airgun attacks in a number of locations including Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Wales and Essex. Several seagulls were injured and had to be put to sleep in East Stirling and Somerset. A lamb has been found shot dead in field in Dorset and a horse has been injured in Anglesey.
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 31 reports in June 2017 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for 12 years after he pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, possessing an imitation firearm (a BB gun) and actual bodily harm, and having another offence taken into consideration, following his attack on a couple in their home in Barry, Wales.
- Six men who kidnapped and tortured a 20-year-old man in Luton, Bedfordshire have received custodial sentences ranging from three and a half years to twenty years. The men threatened their victim by putting a live shotgun in his mouth and also used a Taser-style weapon on him.
- A man has been jailed for at least thirty years after being found guilty of the murder of a 28-year-old male in an execution-style killing in Greater Manchester. It is believed the victim was killed following a dispute over drugs or money.
- A 43-year-old woman with learning difficulties received a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to possessing a weapon disguised as another object in Bristol, The defendant claimed she had confiscated the stun gun disguised, as an iPhone, in order to get it off the streets and that she did not know it was illegal.
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place, possession of a firearm and a charge of false imprisonment. The man, who moved to the area from London to set up a drugs supply chain, violently abducted two victims from their homes and threatened them on a clifftop area of Cliftonville, Kent, demanding repayment of a debt.
- Two 37-year-old men have each been jailed for sixteen years after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiring to possess an imitation firearm with intent to commit a robbery in Dronfield, Derbyshire, where a couple and their four children were threatened, injured, restrained and held hostage.
- A 20-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm. He was given a concurrent two-year sentence after admitting possession of an altered firearm without a certificate and ammunition without authority. The man, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, made threats to harm his mother. Following this incident, his grandfather, in whose home in Shipton-on-Stour, Warwickshire a number of weapons were stored, reported their presence to a mental health team.
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 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: June 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’) N.B. See inquest above regarding ‘child on child’ airgun death. 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 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.
The Office of National Statistics has published data relating to 2015 which demonstrate that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
- *From January 2017 airguns in Scotland require a licence.
- ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
Guns that require a licence: airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; 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 does 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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