October 2020 Review

by Gun Control Network on 10-11-2020

 

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 October 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 October 2020.

                                                Figure 1: October 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 October 2020 concerning six gun deaths: 

  • Two men, whose bodies were found inside a car at an industrial estate in Dudley, West Midlands, had been shot dead. The scene was sealed off for forensic examination. Police have since charged a man with two counts of murder.
  • After police received a report of concern for the safety of a woman at a house in Little Baddow, Essex, officers discovered a man and a woman suffering from gunshot wounds at the property. Both victims have since died in hospital. A police spokesperson said that they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.
  • A man has died after being shot on a street in Hayes, West London. Three miles from the scene, police found a burned-out car, believed to have been involved in the attack. Two men, arrested in connection with the shooting, have since been released with no further action.
  • A man has died after being shot in a car park in Telford, Shropshire. Four men and two youths have since been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police have appealed for information, particularly regarding a car that was believed to have been at the scene and which was later found burned out.

Inquests 

We are aware of at least four reports in October 2020 relating to five gun deaths: 

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in July last year has concluded that he took his own life. The man called police from a van and told them that he intended to shoot himself, giving the location of the van so that “no-one else would have to deal with it”. When armed officers responded, they found a shotgun next to the deceased. The inquest heard that the man had been worried about losing his sight and issues at work, becoming “increasingly withdrawn” in the weeks before his death. 
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Pentrecelyn, Denbeighshire in February this year has recorded a conclusion of suicide, cause of death being a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man’s father contacted police after finding a rifle missing and being unable to locate his son. Officers subsequently found the young man’s body at the family farm. The inquest heard from the man’s family that there had been no indication that he had been unhappy or intended to take his own life, and that he had been “the most perfect son and brother you could ever wish for”.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Kingston St Mary, Somerset in December last year has concluded that he took his own life, cause of death being a single gunshot wound to the head. After a missing person’s appeal, the man was found injured in a field. He died in hospital the following day. Firearms experts and police established that the nature of the injury was such that it was deemed impossible to have been accidental; third party involvement was also ruled out. The inquest heard that the deceased had no mental health issues and that no note or explanation had been left.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the deaths of a man and his mother at their farm in Abergwili, Carmarthenshire in March this year has recorded verdicts of suicide and unlawful killing, respectively, cause of death being shotgun wounds in each instance. The inquest heard that the man shot his mother and himself after telling relatives that he was worried about the Covid lockdown and whether he would be able to travel to look after his sheep kept on land a few miles away, particularly during the lambing season. The man was known to keep a shotgun to shoot rabbits and foxes. 

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator 

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

  • See Gun Deaths above − Officers discovered a man and a woman suffering from gunshot wounds in a property in Essex, both of whom have since died in hospital.
  • See Inquests above − The coroner recorded verdicts of suicide and unlawful killing respectively, regarding the deaths of a son and his mother, both of whom were found with shotgun wounds at their farm in Carmarthenshire.
  • A 53-year-old man has been jailed for life, to serve a minimum of thirty years, after being convicted of murder. In January this year, after discovering his wife was having an affair with a friend of his, the man lured his friend to a remote farm in Cwmffrwd, Carmarthenshire and shot him dead with a rifle. The perpetrator then drove his friend’s car to a riverside car park and sent messages to the deceased’s wife and children, indicating that the murder victim had taken his own life. Following this, he took his victim’s body to his home and burned it in an oil drum, a small portion of the remains being subsequently found therein. After the perpetrator admitted to police that he had enticed his victim to the farm, a missing person inquiry was launched. Subsequent phone CCTV and DNA evidence, however, revealed that the perpetrator had moved and disposed of his victim’s body. The perpetrator later claimed that the rifle had gone off as he struggled with his friend and that he had only taken it to the farm to frighten his victim.  
  • An 18-year-old man has been handed a 24-week term in a young offenders’ institution after admitting theft and possession of an airgun and cannabis. In July this year, the man fired an airgun towards a teenage boy whom he believed had damaged his parents’ car. He then stole the boy’s bike and mobile phone. Police subsequently found a gas-powered air pistol at the man’s home in Warton, Lancashire.
  • A man has been jailed for five years having previously been found guilty of possessing a pen gun and attempting to pervert the course of justice. In July 2016, the man discharged the firearm at a house in Glasgow, Scotland, accidentally hitting his sister-in-law in the head; she subsequently required surgery to remove the bullet. The man, who had been given the weapon by a friend, claimed not to have known the firearm was loaded or capable of firing bullets. Following the accident, he hid the weapon in a wall but later told police where it was. 

Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition 

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

  • See Gun Deaths above − Officers discovered a man and a woman suffering from gunshot wounds in a property in Essex, both of whom have since died in hospital.
  • See Inquests above − The coroner recorded verdicts of suicide and unlawful killing respectively, regarding the deaths of a son and his mother, both of whom were found with shotgun wounds at their farm in Carmarthenshire. Other coroners also recorded verdicts in the cases of three other men who had taken their own lives in West Yorkshire, Denbeighshire and Somerset. 

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

Animal Death and Injury

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

§  A cygnet has been partially blinded after being shot with an airgun in Berkshire, and a cat has been shot in the head in an airgun attack in Worcestershire. 

  • It has emerged that a cat, shot and seriously injured with an airgun in Bristol in August this year, died shortly after being rushed to a vet’s surgery. X-rays revealed that a pellet had lodged in the pet’s chest. The cat’s owners are now backing the Cats Protection’s campaign for air guns to be licensed in England and Wales. A spokesperson from the charity said: “Many people are shocked to learn that these lethal weapons can be owned by anyone aged over 18 in England and Wales. This is in contrast with Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both have sensible, modern laws in place that require licensing of air guns.” In February 2018, the Government concluded a review into airgun legislation to which at least fifty thousand responses were received; the outcomes, however, have not been published.
  • The RSPCA has appealed for information after footage was posted on Facebook last month of a hamster being shot several times with an air rifle. A man’s voice can be heard on the clip but none of those involved could be identified. A spokesperson said: “We know that sadly seeing videos like this on social media may mean some people become desensitised to this kind of violence but this is totally unacceptable behaviour and we are keen to find out more information about this video.”   

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 five reports in October 2020 relating to illegal firearms:

  • Two men from Southwark, Central London have been jailed after pleading guilty to firearms offences. A 28-year-old received eight years and nine months’ imprisonment for the sale or transfer of a firearm and the importation of two firearms and pepper gas ammunition, while a 23-year-old was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison for possession of a firearm when prohibited and driving a motor vehicle taken without the owner’s consent. In May 2019, the younger man was followed home by police officers after they saw him driving a stolen motorbike. Officers discovered a partially-converted firearm in a cupboard at the property and a burner phone that revealed incriminating messages exchanged between the two men. An investigation began and Border Force officials subsequently intercepted a parcel addressed to the older man that contained two imitation revolvers and 20 rounds of pepper gas ammunition. Police officers then observed the man buying two replica imitation Colt firearms and blank rounds of ammunition from a replica weapons store in East Sussex. Arrested as he left the shop, he made comments that revealed his knowledge of the items seized by Border Force.
  • A 36-year-old man has been jailed for nine years and four months after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition, the supply of Class A drugs and money laundering. In June this year, as part of a joint operation carried out by the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service Organised Crime Partnership, armed officers arrested the man in a taxi in Kensington, West London after discovering he had given a sawn-off shotgun and shotgun cartridges to an associate.  When arrested, the man was carrying five mobile phones, one of which was an encrypted EncroChat device that provided evidence of his drug dealing.
  • Four men have been jailed for a total of over 51 years for their involvement in a plot to import handguns into the UK, while a fifth man received a suspended sentence. After receiving intelligence, UK police intercepted parcels sent from America to addresses in Bristol and London and recovered three new Taurus handguns bought legally in the US, from inside Bluetooth speakers. After alerting their US counterparts, officers in Miami intercepted a parcel containing 330 rounds of ammunition, also concealed inside a speaker. During their investigation, police recovered a video on an encrypted social media platform showing one of the men holding weapons and advertising them for sale to criminals. The court heard that the bullets seized “had the capacity to kill or maim” and that the weapons were “destined for the hands of criminals”. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson praised the “invaluable support” of the National Crime Agency.
  • As part of a National Crimes Agency investigation into organised crime, three handguns and 24 rounds of ammunition were seized and four men were arrested, in the Isle of Dogs, East London.
  • National Crime Agency personnel arrested four men after observing an alleged handover of four Albanian migrants from a lorry into two cars at a service station near Gravesend, Kent. All four suspects were subsequently charged with facilitating illegal entry into the UK, while two were further charged with possessing a firearm. A charge of possession of a knife was also brought against two of the suspects.  

Sentences and Convictions 

 We are aware of at least 53 reports in October 2020 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including: 

  • Following an unprecedented five successive trials, a jury has found a 28-year-old man guilty of two counts of murder. He has been jailed for life, to serve a minimum of 40 years. Juries at two previous trials failed to reach verdicts, while a further two trials were stopped due to a judge’s ill health and the Coronavirus pandemic. In September 2016, the man used a vintage Western-style revolver to fatally shoot a woman and her nephew after creeping into the family’s home in East Finchley, North London. It is believed that the man had intended to kill the woman’s son after he and others allegedly attacked him and shared footage of the assault on Snapchat; however, he, instead, shot a visiting nephew in the back of the head as he lay asleep in the flat. He then shot the woman in the chest as she came out of her bedroom to investigate. The perpetrator denied any involvement in the killings but CCTV footage revealed evidence that his car had travelled to and from the scene, while gunshot residue was discovered on a gun case retrieved from under his bed.
  • A 25-year-old man has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of nineteen years, after being found guilty of attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. His co-accused, aged 26, was jailed for ten-and-a-half years after he pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property and was found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life. In January of this year, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, the 25-year-old fired a handgun from a stolen car, seriously injuring a 12-year-old boy. A second boy escaped harm “by centimetres” when a bullet passed through his hood. The court heard that the boys were probably not the man’s intended targets and that a second man had also fired a gun from the car. The 25-year-old was part of a gang whose activities had “engendered enormous fear” in the community and following the attack, he posted a rap online, referencing the shooting. This was remarked upon by the judge, who said: “In the rap vocal endeavour…  you were making obvious mention of the shooting with a high level of glee and pride. It revealed not a shred of remorse for what you did. You simply made mention of the fact a young boy was hit by mistake.” He went on to say that the perpetrator posed “an enormous danger to the general public” and that “…those who involve themselves with the supply of drugs and make use of firearms to protect, assist, or promote that evil trade, must receive and will receive very severe sentences”.
  • A 35-year-old man has been handed a prison sentence of three years and four months after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and threatening a person with an offensive weapon in a public place. In September this year, the man pointed an imitation sawn-off shotgun at two men in a café in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire. The victims forced the perpetrator to leave the café but he later returned with a knife and made a stabbing gesture towards one of the men. He was arrested later the same day. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “This would have been a terrifying incident for everyone who was in the café at the time. They wouldn’t have known that the firearm wasn’t real or what the man’s intentions were. Brandishing any kind of firearm in a public place is an incredibly serious offence and will always be met with a swift and robust response.”
  •  A 31-year-old man has been sentenced to eight years in prison after admitting possession of guns and ammunition without the relevant licenses and possessing explosives. In July 2018, police officers raided a man’s flat in Liverpool, Merseyside and, inside a locked bedroom found three antique rifles, a de-activated machine gun, a sawn-off shotgun, air rifles, ammunition, grenade casings, explosive substances and instructions on how to make bombs. The occupant denied any knowledge of the items, saying his carer had helped him move into the flat but had banned him from going into the locked room. When officers subsequently searched the carer’s home, they discovered more explosive substances. On arrest, the 31-year-old carer told police that the items belonged to his client; however, the carer’s DNA was found on most of the items while his client’s was not present at all. Police officers discovered that the carer had used his client’s name and bank account details to set up profiles on PayPal and Amazon, buying stripper clips for one of the antique rifles, knuckledusters, batons and, most significantly, a personalised bib for his daughter. 
  • A man has been jailed for nine years after admitting robbery, possessing an imitation firearm and possessing cocaine. In June this year, while dressed in a camouflage suit and balaclava, the man carried out an armed bank robbery in Hartlepool, Co. Durham, telling staff and customers to get on the floor while he pointed an imitation gun at their heads. He then fled the scene with £15,000 but was arrested soon afterwards. The court heard that the man’s victims had been terrified, believing they would be shot.
  • A 36-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after admitting robbery and possessing an imitation firearm. In February this year, the man threatened staff at a travel agent’s office in Chatham, Kent with a BB gun before fleeing with a large quantity of cash stolen from a till. Police officers visiting his home two weeks later, discovered the firearm and clothing that he had used during the robbery. In court the man admitted to other thefts.
  • A 38-year-old man must complete 250 hours of unpaid work and be placed under supervision by the local authority for twelve months after he pleaded guilty to possessing an air rifle and .22 calibre pellets, and being drunk in a public place while in possession of the rifle and ammunition. In November last year, the man went out shooting on a riverbank in Linwood, Renfrewshire before drinking a bottle of wine at his sister’s house and falling asleep on the street while still carrying the weapon and ammunition. The court heard that the man had not realised he needed a licence for the air rifle, legislation having changed after he bought the weapon.
  • A 49-year-old man has been jailed for five-and-a-half-years after admitting attempting to possess a prohibited firearm and ammunition, being concerned in the importation of cocaine and possession of Class A and Class B drugs. After police became aware that he had ordered an illegal self-loading Clock pistol and ammunition under the name of a previous tenant, they intercepted the delivery and replaced it with a fake weapon. Once the man had opened the parcel, officers raided his home in Elmstead Market, Essex and found the fake gun and ammunition concealed in a punch bag in the garage. They also recovered a variety of drugs from the property, as well as equipment to purify them. His laptop revealed that he had been ordering cocaine from as far afield as Peru and Columbia under an assumed name.  

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 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. See Gun Deaths above and Inquests above. 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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