June 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 June 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 June 2019.
Figure 1: June 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 three reports in June 2019 concerning gun deaths:
- Armed police officers and paramedics responded after a man was shot near a playground in Feltham, South West London. The victim died at the scene. Witnesses say the assailant, who fled on a bicycle, appeared to be “a boy of about 14 years of age.”
- Armed police officers were deployed following reports of a shooting in a car park in Plumstead, South East London. A man, found suffering critical injuries, died at the scene. Three teenage boys and one teenage girl have since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- It has emerged that a teenage boy, found dead at his home in Middleham, North Yorkshire last month, had suffered fatal gunshot wounds. Apparently, in the preceding months, the boy had become “irritable and short-tempered” and may have taken his own life while having doubts about his chances of becoming a professional racehorse trainer.
We are aware of at least two inquests in June 2019 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Fordingbridge, Hampshire in September last year has recorded a conclusion of suicide, cause of death being multiple injuries. After his wife became aware that her husband planned to kill himself, police triangulated his phone signal and found him attempting suicide in a remote area. He was taken to hospital but was discharged after two doctors assessed him as low risk. After spending the night at his parents’ home, he accessed a shotgun, which had been left unsecured, and used it to take his own life.
- An inquest into the death of a man in Nuneaton, Warwickshire in July 2017 has found that police action, which included restraint, punching and use of a Taser, contributed to his death. The man was restrained before being taken to hospital where he was found to be critically ill and blood results showed he was suffering from a drug overdose. The inquest heard that the cocaine the man had taken could have triggered Acute Behavioural Disorder and that restraining or Tasering people in this state can prove fatal. In a narrative verdict, the jury said that the man’s behaviour influenced the police’s decision to call for back up, including Taser officers, and that some of the restraint used "may have been excessive and at times probably avoidable."
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least seven reports in June 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- See Animal Death and Injury below — a man shot his ex-partner’s dog and dumped it in a wood in Hedge End, Hampshire where it was discovered alive five days later.
N.B. This insidious form of animal cruelty is used from time to time by domestic abusers to upset, frighten and intimidate their victim.
- We note a five-year-old child has sustained life threatening injuries after being shot with what police describe as a ‘pellet gun’ by a six-year old sibling in a garden in Enfield, North London.
N.B. Following a number of similar ‘child on child’ airgun deaths, we await the outcome of a Review into Air Weapon Regulations announced by the Home Office in October 2017 in response to a Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report after an inquest into the death of a child in 2016.
- A 28-year-old man was handed a custodial sentence of nine years after he admitted possessing a firearm with intent, wounding with intent and arson. After accusing a male co-worker in Newport, Wales of flirting with his ex-girlfriend, the perpetrator held an imitation gun to the man’s head and told him that he had ten bullets for the firearm. He also pistol-whipped his victim, causing serious head injuries and a broken nose. He then set fire to the man’s car before fleeing.
- After being cleared of murder, a man has been jailed for eighteen years for manslaughter and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. In December last year, in Willenhall, West Midlands, the perpetrator pulled the trigger of a gun he was playing around with and shot his friend in the head at point-blank range.
- A 29-year-old man has been sent to prison for seven years after being found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and possession of a loaded firearm in a public place; a 24-year-old man was jailed for two years after being found guilty of the latter charge. The court heard that an 18-year-old man was fatally shot in a car in Llanbedrog, Gwynedd after all three men had been out for a drink together. On returning to the vehicle, the victim sat in the back seat while the 24-year-old tested the other man’s loaded shotgun, which had been left in the foot well with the barrel pointing to the rear. The firearm then discharged, fatally wounding the victim. The judge ordered that the shotgun be forfeited and a police spokesperson said: "Those issued with gun licences for their work or for their leisure activities have a great responsibility to adhere to the strict licence conditions at all times for their own safety and the safety of others."
- A 46-year-old man has been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 31 years after being found guilty of murder. In January 2018, the perpetrator shot his estranged wife with a shotgun as she was sitting in a car outside her home in Newport, Shropshire. The victim’s daughter, fourteen years old at the time, witnessed the attack. Earlier that evening, the man had seen ex-wife in a pub with another man. He had traced her there by using a tracker device he’d had fitted to her car following their separation. After shooting his wife, in what the judge described as “a premeditated act of the most savage violence", he turned the gun on himself. The resultant severe facial injuries have left him unable to speak. A spokesperson from the Independent Office for Police Complaints, which organisation investigated the victim’s reports to police about her estranged husband's behaviour, said: "Police could not have reasonably foreseen the horrific event that transpired. While some inquiries could have been carried out more quickly or thoroughly, we found no indication that any officers or staff acted in a manner that would justify any disciplinary proceedings.” Following the verdict, it emerged that the perpetrator threatened to kill his first wife after breaking into her home in 2004; on that occasion, he was given a suspended sentence.
- A man was handed a twelve-month youth custody sentence, suspended for eighteen months, and ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work after he pleaded guilty to possessing a replica handgun with intent to cause fear of violence. Last November, the perpetrator went to his former girlfriend’s house in Coedpoeth, Wrexham to confront her new boyfriend. When a teenage girl came out of the house, he followed her and pointed a replica handgun at her stomach. He was arrested shortly afterwards but the gun was not recovered. A five-year restraining order was imposed, meaning he is not to approach the girl he threatened, his former girlfriend or her new boyfriend. The perpetrator was also ordered to pay the victim £500 compensation and prosecution costs of £535.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least ten reports in June 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:
- See Deaths above — A troubled teenage boy apparently took his own life after accessing a gun at home in North Yorkshire.
- See Inquests above — A suicidal man discharged from hospital to his parents’ home in Hampshire after a failed suicide attempt, accessed an unsecured gun in their home and used it to take his own life on the following day.
- A man died after being Tasered twice, hit with a baton and repeatedly punched by police officers In Warwickshire.
- See Sentences and Convictions below — A British Transport Police constable has been given a suspended sentence for assault following an incident involving an arrest and use of a police Taser in Derbyshire.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — A total of eight, presumed legally-held, guns and ammunition have been stolen from properties in Bedfordshire and Hampshire.
- After questioning a man in Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear about his possession of a fake Metropolitan Police warrant card holder, police decided to review his firearms licence. The man, who claimed to have bought the warrant card holder online for his police memorabilia collection, volunteered his two shotguns and his firearms licence to his local Firearms Licensing Department.
We also note at least four incidents involving use of police weapons.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least two reports in June 2019 relating to eight stolen guns:
- Four men reportedly broke into a house in Staploe, Bedfordshire and stole four shotguns, a rifle and a quantity of ammunition before fleeing by car.
- Burglars allegedly stole a locked cabinet containing three shotguns from a house in Lymington, Hampshire, as well as a Range Rover from outside the property. Police believe the robbery was targeted.
Animal Death and Injury
- Ten cats have been injured in airgun attacks in Bristol, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Shropshire, Somerset and South Wales. A heron found injured had to be put down by a vet in Greater Manchester. A number of chickens have been found shot dead on a community Allotment in Liverpool. A seagull is recovering after being found shot and with an arrow through a wing. Other seagulls have been found dead, having been shot in East Sussex and in West Sussex.
- A 37-year-old man has been ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service and pay £1,621.90 in costs after being found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. He has also been banned from keeping animals for ten years. He shot his ex-partner’s dog in the head four times with an air rifle before dumping the injured pet in woodland. The dog was found five days later, collapsed and with thousands of fly eggs around the pellet holes. The pet’s microchip enabled RSPCA officers to determine that the perpetrator’s former partner was the dog's owner. An air rifle, recovered from his home in Hedge End, Hampshire, was found to be the weapon used to shoot the animal. The dog has lost some vision and the hearing in one ear but is otherwise recovering well.
N.B. Whilst the perpetrator was banned from keeping animals for ten years, apparently no restraining order was imposed regarding contact with his ex-partner, and no order was imposed regarding the forfeiture or destruction of the air rifle.
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. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence.
N.B. Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League, other organisations and individuals are calling for airgun registration. 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 26 reports in June 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A British Transport Police constable has been handed a sixteen-week suspended sentence after being found guilty of assault. After being sent to deal with a disturbance at the railway station in Derby, Derbyshire in May last year, the officer Tasered a male suspect, while his colleague used incapacitant spray against him. The man later complained about the level of force used against him and the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges following an investigation by The Independent Office for Police Conduct. The constable must also complete 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 victim compensation, £775 court costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
- A 27-year-old man and a 26-year-old man have each been jailed for life after being found guilty of murder. A 22-year-old man received a sentence of six-and-a-half years for assisting an offender. The two older men shot their victim in a car in Northampton, Northamptonshire while discussing a drugs debt. The younger man helped them travel to London and attempted to destroy evidence.
- Three men have been sentenced to a total of thirty-two years and four months after pleading guilty to a number of charges relating to firearms, drugs and conspiracy to rob. The men fired a handgun at a car they were following in Hyde, Greater Manchester damaging the vehicle, threatening the occupants and cutting one across the head with a knife. A search of a home following an arrest resulted in the seizure of a shotgun and ammunition, and a handgun and ammunition.
- A 45-year-old man has been sent to prison for one year after admitting possessing an imitation firearm. After drinking half a bottle of whiskey and taking a large quantity of prescription medicine, he called paramedics to his home in Helston, Cornwall and pointed an imitation pistol at them. Not knowing whether the firearm was real, the paramedics left the property. Firearms officers were deployed, and the man was arrested. Officers subsequently seized a number of air rifles and pistols from the property and an outhouse.
- A 50-year-old man has been convicted of illegally importing handguns and ammunition. Police officers raided his home in Appin, Argyllshire in November last year after a parcel sent to him from the Czech Republic was intercepted by the UK Border Force and found to contain a handgun capable of firing blanks. Officers seized flares, gas alarm pistols, and blank and pepper spray cartridges from the property. The man will be sentenced next month.
- Two men have each been jailed for thirteen years after being convicted of two counts of possession of an offensive weapon, possession of ammunition, possession of a loaded revolver with intent to endanger life and possession of a loaded shotgun with intent to endanger life. A sixteen-year-old boy, found guilty of the same offences, will be sentenced at a later date. The three offenders, part of an armed gang, were apprehended following a surveillance operation in May 2018 during which they were witnessed acting suspiciously in a car park in Barking, East London.
- A 26-year-old student has been convicted of making a gun with a 3D printer. During a drugs search at his home in Pimlico, Central London in October 2017, police officers discovered parts of a 3D-printed gun. The man claimed to have been making the firearm for a university film project; however, his internet search history revealed he had watched videos demonstrating how to use a 3D printer to manufacture guns capable of firing live ammunition.
- A 51-year old man has been ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation days as part of a twelve-month community order after admitting assault by beating. While deputy headmaster of a private school in Cheshire, the man oversaw an after-school shooting club. When a male pupil asked him what it would be like to be shot, the man told him it would “bloody hurt” before shooting him with plastic bullets from an airsoft gun. The boy, said to be very upset by the shooting, was left with several red marks on his stomach, arms and legs. The court heard that the perpetrator was under a lot of strain at the time of the incident and has since resigned from his position at the school. He was ordered to pay victim compensation of £125 and £85 prosecution costs.
- A 33-year-old man was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence with mental health treatment and probation supervision after he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In October last year, the offender walked up to a man on a street in Plymouth, Devon and pointed a loaded imitation Glock BB gun at his head. The victim, said to have suffered lasting psychological harm, believed the gun to be real.
- A 17-year-old male has been jailed for three years, nine months for crimes that include possession of a shotgun, a handgun, ammunition and three wraps of crack cocaine, and drugs supply offences. The teenager was one of 53 people arrested in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire following an extensive investigation by police into the city’s Class A drugs trade.
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: June 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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