October 2019 Review

by Gun Control Network on 13-11-2019

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 October 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 October 2019.

                                     Figure 1: October 2019 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 and 2018-19 are available at www.gun-control-network.org

 We are aware of at least one report in October 2019 concerning an earlier gun death:

  • It has emerged that a teenage male gamekeeper, found dead on a country estate in Longformacus, Bewickshire in December 2015, had apparently died in a shooting accident. A police spokesperson said that there appeared to be “no suspicious circumstances”.

Inquests

We are aware of at least two inquests in October 2019 relating to gun deaths:

  • An inquest has been opened into the death of a man in Southampton, Hampshire. Police officers responding to concerns for his wellbeing, found the deceased had suffered a shotgun wound to the head. The death is not being treated as suspicious.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Dronfield, Derbyshire in November last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot injury to the head. The victim, a licensed shotgun holder, was said to have been suffering from work-related stress and had spoken to his GP regarding lack of sleep and fleeting suicidal thoughts.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of at least five reports in October 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:                                             

  • Five men have been handed custodial sentences ranging from eighteen to forty months after they all pleaded guilty to violent disorder. In April last year, the gang forced their way into a flat in Salisbury, Wiltshire with a BB gun and other weapons. One of the occupants was shot in the chest, leaving a mark on his skin. The raiders fled with an expensive piece of jewellery. The court heard that the thieves knew some of their victims and deliberately targeted them.
  • Armed police officers were deployed following reports of a domestic incident at a property in Salford, Greater Manchester. A man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill and possession of a firearm with intent to kill.
  • A 33-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen years after being found guilty of thirteen charges including kidnap, assault, aggravated burglary, having an offensive weapon, attempted robbery and possession of a firearm at the time of committing an offence. In January this year, the perpetrator forced his way into a property in Gillingham, Kent and assaulted a woman with whom he had a dispute over money. He forced her into his car and drove to another property where he demanded money from a male occupant. The woman escaped to another property, only to be followed by the perpetrator who continued to be violent and also poured petrol around the property. He left the scene but was tracked down by police who subsequently retrieved a number of weapons at his home address.
  • Police launched an investigation following a report that a teenage boy on a bike in Colchester, Essex had been shot in the back with an air rifle five times. It is believed the victim was followed by a teenage male who shouted abuse at him before opening fire. Police believe the youths knew each other and are treating it as a targeted attack.
  • Two men have been jailed after one of them aimed an imitation gun at a man in a dispute over dog mess left on the doorstep of a home in Dudley, West Midlands. One was jailed for fourteen months after being found guilty of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and the other received a one-year prison term after pleading guilty to the same offence. The court heard that the victim and his family suffered “considerable anxiety” over the incident and have since moved away from the area. 

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition.

We are aware of at least six reports in October 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:

  • See Gun Deaths above — Teenage gamekeeper on shooting estate in Scotland, believed to be licensed shotgun owner.
  • See Inquests above — Licensed shotgun owner from Derbyshire, known to be suffering from work related stress, sleeplessness and fleeting suicidal thoughts.
  • See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — A 28-year-old man was handed an extended fifteen-year prison sentence after being convicted of burglary of a shotgun left unsecured in a garage at a property in Warwickshire while owner was away.
  • Two men have been jailed for stealing two shotguns, two air rifles and ammunition from a property in South Wales.
  • See Sentences and Convictions below — A man, whose firearms licence had expired, was handed a suspended sentence after admitting two counts of possessing a shotgun without a certificate and illegally repairing them at his home in Essex
  • A legally-held shotgun has been confiscated from a licensed gun owner after he reportedly threatened to shoot noisy “electrics” following building work in Wooslery, Devon.
  • In addition, we note one incident involving police firing a baton round and at least seven incidents that involved the use of police Tasers, including one concerning a dog that had attacked and bitten people in Wales.

Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least two reports in October 2019 relating to stolen guns:

  • A 28-year-old man has been handed an extended fifteen-year prison sentence after being convicted of burglary, shortening a shotgun, possessing an altered firearm and possessing said firearm with intent to endanger life. In April this year, the man stole a shotgun and three boxes of cartridges from the garage of a home in Leamington, Warwickshire. The owner of the firearm had left the weapon out on a workbench in the garage and had asked his father to clean it and put it away. His father did not do this and, when the owner returned after a few days away, it was discovered that the shotgun was missing. The thief was arrested after the gun owner recognised him on CCTV footage and police retrieved the stolen shotgun from his flat.  
  • Following the theft of firearms and ammunition, one man was jailed for three years after admitting burglary while another man received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to burglary, possession of heroin and witness intimidation.  During a burglary at a house in Ysalyfera, South Wales, the men stole two shotguns and two air rifles from a locked gun cabinet, as well as six boxes of shotgun shells and other items. A mobile phone, retrieved at the scene, led police officers to the home of a defendant. Subsequently, the air rifles were found at another address, while a member of a Liverpool drugs gang was found in possession of the missing shotguns as well as a sawn-off shotgun and more than £29,000-worth of drugs.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least eleven reports in October 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:

  • Five cats have been either shot dead or have had to be put to sleep due to the severity of their injuries in Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Kent, Leicestershire, and West Yorkshire. Two cats have been shot and injured in Essex and North Yorkshire. Two dogs have been shot in separate airgun attacks in East Sussex; one is recovering, but the other had to be put to sleep. A marsh harrier has been found with a broken wing having been shot in North Yorkshire, and another tagged marsh harrier is missing from the same area. 

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 four reports in October 2019 relating to illegally-imported firearms:

  • A 24-year-old man has been handed a three-month curfew order between the hours of 9 pm and 7 am after admitting possession of illegal firearms. UK Border Force officials at Gatwick airport intercepted a parcel addressed to his home in Dudley, West Midlands and found it contained 20 stun guns disguised as torches. The judge said that he was able to pass a lenient sentence because the stun guns were not capable of causing injury, just a possible “short term debilitating effect”, and because the man had no relevant previous convictions.
  • A 33-year-old man has been sentenced to 27 months in jail after admitting being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of prohibited weapons and possessing one of the guns (designed as a gas or alarm pistol) at his home. After a tip-off that a firearm had been purchased from a Spanish website and forwarded to the man’s home in Kircaldy, Fife, the parcel was intercepted and found to contain an Atak pistol. A subsequent search of his home led to the discovery of a second firearm which had been altered to fire projectiles.
  • Four people have been sentenced after assault rifle parts were posted from the USA to an address in Retford, Nottinghamshire in June 2017. Two of the perpetrators arranged for a US resident to buy the guns from a legitimate firearms collector before posting parts to the United Kingdom. However, one parcel was intercepted by Homeland Security agents and National Crime Agency officials discovered a second parcel also containing rifle parts.
  • A man has been jailed for fourteen years after pleading guilty to possessing a disguised firearm, two counts of possessing a prohibited weapon, possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate, drugs offences and failing to surrender. In addition, he was found guilty of fraudulent evasion of a prohibition. After a van driver was caught at the French border in June 2014 with guns and ammunition hidden inside a laundry bag and a music speaker, he told border officials that the items were to be delivered to a home in Cambridgeshire. Police officers subsequently raided that home and retrieved Class B drugs, a gas canister two stun guns, pepper spray, six brass bullets and other items. The occupant fled the UK two days before he was due to attend court but was re-arrested in Spain in 2018 by National Crime Agency officers.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 54 reports in October 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

 

  • Four men, involved in 22 armed robberies and two attempted robberies during 2018, have been jailed for a total of more than 70 years. The thieves targeted shops across South London and in Bristol, Bicester, Rugby and Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire threatening staff with knives and guns before stealing cash, tobacco and alcohol.  
  • Four men have been sentenced for their part in an attempt to move a shotgun from Southampton, Hampshire to London. In January, surveillance officers observed a van from which one occupant emerged to collect “a three-foot-long item wrapped in polythene and a towel”. Armed officers subsequently stopped the van and retrieved the firearm. Three men were arrested at the scene and all pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm without a licence. A fourth man was arrested at his home where police found an “expensive and sophisticated” cannabis factory. Sentences ranged from 36 months in prison to a 16-month suspended sentence with 300 hours of unpaid work.
  • Eight criminals have been jailed for a total of over 66 years for their involvement in a cannabis supply network in Liverpool, Merseyside that has been linked to firearms attacks. The court head that the ringleader of the network had access to a Beretta handgun, an Uzi submachine gun and a sawn-off shotgun, two of which firearms had been used in at least 22 shootings in the UK.  Sentences ranged from 21 years for conspiracies to possess firearms with intent to endanger life and other charges, to twelve years for similar charges, while five were jailed for drug offences.
  • One of ten drug dealers, sentenced following an undercover operation, has been jailed for four years and four months after admitting drugs offences and possession of a shotgun and two compatible cartridges. The man arranged for the firearm and ammunition to be sold to covert officers posing as addicts for £800. The sting saw officers spend over £12,000 on heroin and crack-cocaine test purchases from the gang in Leicester, Leicestershire and Loughborough while they gathered evidence.
  • A teenage male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been sent to a young offender institution for three years after pleading guilty to two charges of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs, possessing a knife in a public place and possessing a firearm. In December last year, the defendant was released under investigation after being detained for drugs offences and possession of a knife. In June this year, his stepmother reported him to police for causing damage to the family home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. When officers responded, they discovered a knife and a BB gun in a den in the garden, as well as a shortened shotgun in a hole in a wall. The court heard that the teenager had been “exploited” by a county lines drug gang.
  • Three men, wanted for a range of drug and gun offences, were arrested as they attempted to hide out in a hotel in Warrington, Cheshire. Acting on information received, police officers raided the hotel and found two of the men in the spa and the third asleep in a room along with a loaded Glock pistol. An encrypted mobile phone and the key to a stolen Audi car were also retrieved. The first man received fourteen years for possession of a firearm and arson with intent to endanger life.  The second received eight years for possession of a firearm and drugs offences, and the third previously received four years for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin in a county lines network.  
  • A man has been handed a custodial sentence of 46 months after admitting possession of four illegal handguns and four air rifles without a certificate. In May this year, police officers searching his home in Loanhead, Midlothian, discovered four blank-firing starting pistols in a secure room in a basement garage. The court heard that the pistols, ordered online from Spain, are illegal in the UK because they can easily be converted to fire real ammunition. The man had previously applied for a shotgun licence and an air weapons licence; he was denied the shotgun licence and claimed not to have realised his application for the air gun licence had been rejected.
  • A man has been jailed for fourteen years for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, with a five-year concurrent sentence for possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence. After a man damaged his mother’s car, the defendant cornered him in a vehicle in Bradford, West Yorkshire, demanded £10,000 and shot him in the leg with a shotgun. A victim statement, read out in court, revealed that the shooting had contributed to the victim breaking up with this partner and had prevented him from working.
  • During a police investigation into drugs, gun and other offences in the Speke area of Liverpool, Merseyside, ten firearms have been retrieved, including revolvers, self-loading pistols, a sawn-off rifle and sawn-off shotguns. Officers also recovered ammunition, improvised explosive devices, £61,246 in cash, Rolex watches and drugs with a street value of over £100,000. Twenty-two people were convicted in connection with the investigation and handed custodial sentence for firearms and drug-related offences ranging from three to 31 years. 
  • A 27-year-old man has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to two counts of burglary, handling stolen goods and possession of a prohibited weapon. In February this year, the man broke into an elderly woman’s home and removed two rings from her fingers, terrifying her in the process. On another occasion, he threatened a man in his 90s with a hammer before ransacking his home. He was arrested at the scene of the second burglary and, during subsequent searches of his home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, police officers found a Taser disguised as a torch, as well as evidence that included photos stolen from the elderly woman’s property.
  • A 62-year-old man has been remanded in custody pending sentencing after pleading guilty to nine charges of possessing weapons and ammunition. Following a tip-off that illegal firearms were being stored in the man’s flat in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, police officers raided the address in June this year and seized a slam fire firearm, a stun gun, five air weapons and ammunition. The Court heard that the man, who had recently joined a gun club, had bought the weapons online. 

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: October 2019 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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