September 2017 Review
by Gun Control Network on 18-10-2017
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: September 2017 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2017 of gun deaths:
- A five-year-old boy died in hospital four days after being shot in the head with what is believed to have been an airgun in Loughborough,
- A 14-year-old boy died after being shot in the head with a shotgun in Forest Gate, East London.
- A 34-year-old man died in hospital after being shot in Birmingham, West Midlands.
- A man died following an “incident involving police firearms” on the M5 at Portbury Hundred, Somerset.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2017 of armed domestic violence (victim known to perpetrator):
- A 50-year-old man from Porthcawl, Wales, with a history of domestic violence offences, has been jailed for fifteen months and been given a ten-year restraining order after pointing an air rifle at his girlfriend’s face, punching her and squeezing her around her throat.
- A man in his 60s has been arrested after armed police were deployed to a property in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire following reports of a domestic incident involving a man with a firearm.
- A couple from Blackpool, Lancashire, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have admitted five counts of child cruelty after shooting their children, aged between seven and thirteen, on a daily basis with a BB gun as punishment for minor misdemeanours. The 50-year-old father was jailed for two years, while the mother, aged 33, was given a suspended sentence and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
- A 22-year-old man, who pointed a BB gun at a friend’s face before firing it into his flat at a supported housing project in Hereford, Herefordshire, has been given a two-year community order, a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order and 30 days of rehabilitation activity requirements to address his offending behaviour. He has also been put on the sex offenders register for five years.
- A 72-year-old man, who brandished a BB gun at a neighbour who knocked at his door in Wallasey, Merseyside, has been sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least five reports in September 2017 relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns and ammunition:
- See above fatal “incident involving police firearm” at Portbury Hundred, Somerset. An investigation of the incident has been instigated by the IPCC.
- A 15-year-old boy has been sentenced to a six-year detention order after taking his father’s legally-held loaded shotgun and 200 cartridges to school in Nuneaton, Warwickshire intending to harm classmates. The boy’s father is a licensed gun owner. It is a condition of his licence that he is required to store guns and ammunition separately in locked cabinets, and not to divulge the whereabouts of the keys to anyone.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for four years after being found guilty of a burglary involving the theft of two 12-bore shotguns from a property in Holywell, Flintshire.
- A shotgun and other items have been stolen from a property in Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire.
- A father and his teenage son discovered twelve guns and gun parts while trawling a river with a powerful magnet in Greylake, Somerset. A police spokesperson said the guns are believed to have come from a nearby munitions factory which operated during World War Two and that similar items had been discovered in 2015.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2017 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:
- See above for thefts involving a number of shotguns believed to have been legally held by licensed gun owners in Warwickshire and Flintshire, and twelve guns and gun parts discovered in a river in Somerset, believed to have come from a nearby munitions factory which operated during World War Two.
- An air rifle and other items have been stolen from a house in Church Lawton, Cheshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least five reports in September 2017 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Six cats have been injured in what are believed to have been airgun attacks in a number of locations including Gloucestershire, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire. Two ducks have been shot and killed on a canal in the West Midlands. A goosander, a protected bird, has been found dead in the Scottish Borders after a member of the public heard gunshots and alerted police.
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 27 reports in September 2017 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 29-year-old man and a 30-year-old man have been jailed for total of 28 years after pleading guilty to importing firearms and possession with intent to endanger life. The men were being followed by officers from the Serious Organised Crime Unit when they retrieved a package of weapons and ammunition from underneath a tourist coach when it stopped in Coventry, West Midlands.
- Twenty-two men have been jailed for a total of 135 years following a 16-month operation targeting the supply of controlled drugs in Liverpool, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall. When the crime ring was shut down, police discovered Class A drugs stored in a house in Liverpool, Merseyside. Cash, stolen vehicles and a stockpile of guns were also recovered.
- A 50-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition. The man shot and injured himself in front of his wife at their home in Bristol, Avon following the breakdown of their marriage.
- A 29-year-old man has been jailed for 22 years after admitting charges including the illegal importation of firearms, selling ammunition and selling illegal weaponry including stun guns, 1,600 rounds of illegal ammunition and 50 revolvers, many of which were bought legitimately as obsolete antiques, bullets for which were sourced via the so-called dark-web. Items were smuggled into Britain and delivered to multiple addresses in Birmingham, West Midlands. A police spokesperson said that the man had been responsible for arming criminals across Britain.
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. (See pages 2/3 — child accessing father’s legally-held loaded shotgun and ammunition and taking them into school intending to harm classmates, twelve guns and gun parts found in river believed to have originated from a munitions factory, and other stolen guns.)
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: September 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 Death of five-year-old child believed to have been shot by an airgun. 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/ 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, airsoft, air pistols or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly-inflated reports of handgun crime.
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