September 2020 Review
by Gun Control Network on 14-10-2020
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 September 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 September 2020.
Figure 1: September 2020 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, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least one report in September 2020 concerning a gun death:
- A policeman has died in hospital after being shot in a custody suite in Croydon, South London. His alleged attacker, who had been arrested on suspicion of possession of ammunition, managed to pull a gun from his trousers despite being handcuffed. After reportedly shooting the sergeant in the chest, he turned the gun on himself, causing critical injuries. It is believed that the sergeant was shot as he went to assess the suspect and take his temperature in accordance with new Covid booking rules. Following the attack, the sergeant’s colleagues attempted to administer first aid before he was rushed to hospital. The suspect had been arrested by special constables after being seen acting suspiciously and enquiries are being made as to how the gun was missed when he was searched. Two days after the shooting, police arrested a man in Norwich on suspicion of supplying a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least eight reports in September 2020 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- A 29-year-old man has been handed a three-year prison term after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and intimidation. In December last year, after becoming enraged at finding the names of men on her Snapchat app, the man attacked his former girlfriend at his flat in Newport, Wales, punching, kicking and whipping her. He went on to pour a bottle of Lucozade and milk over her before head-butting her as she tried to get out onto a balcony to escape him. He then held an imitation handgun to her head and threatened to kill her. After neighbours called the police, officers forced an entry and arrested him. The court heard that the man had become possessive and jealous during his relationship with his victim, threatening to kill himself when she tried to end things. After they broke up in November last year, his behaviour “escalated”. Following his arrest, the man continued to “emotionally blackmail” his ex-partner from prison, calling her under an assumed name. In a statement the victim said: “I’m having nightmares and I still have dreams about him threatening me. I’m really worried he’ll kill me when he gets out, I think he really means it when he says he wants to kill me. I am left with scars on my legs and seeing them brings it all back.”
- A 29-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, common assault and assault of an emergency worker. In June this year, the man assaulted his girlfriend at her flat in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, hitting her on the leg with a plastic airsoft gun. Both parties called the police, with the man telling a call handler that he had a working rifle and that he would use it if he had to. After armed police officers were deployed, the man told them he would shoot out of the door and shoot himself. He was arrested after an hour and the firearm was recovered. The court heard that the man, who suffers from borderline personality disorder, had not been taking his medication and had consumed about two-and-a-half litres of cider on the day of the offence.
- A former soldier with the Army Reserves who saw active service in Afghanistan and Iraq was handed a suspended 21-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to controlling and coercive behaviour, and assault. Over several months, the man from Neath, South Wales, subjected his partner to bullying and abusive behaviour, including driving erratically while she was in the car and threatening to murder her. He also armed himself with an air rifle and threatened to shoot her dog. On another occasion he assaulted his partner’s brother, squeezing him by the throat until he was pulled away by others. The court heard that there was a possibility that the man was suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and that his abusive behaviour was exacerbated by the use of alcohol and cocaine. The judge ordered him to complete a building better relationships course and a rehabilitation programme. She also made him subject to a nightly curfew for the next three months and a restraining order banning him from contacting his former partner for the next five years.
- A teenage boy was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries after being shot while walking to school in Ipswich, Suffolk. It is believed the victim was shot in the face with a shotgun following a confrontation with another teenage boy. Witnesses reported that the assailant was driven away after the attack and police recovered “a long-barrelled firearm” from a car, seized shortly afterwards. A teenage male has since been charged with attempted murder, possession of a firearm — a 12-guage Beretta over and under shotgun — with intent to cause fear of injury of another person, and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.
- A forty-year-old man has been jailed for six years and eight months after admitting possession of a firearm and ammunition. In February this year, the man had a row with a friend at his flat in Birmingham, West Midlands. During the quarrel, the man produced a pistol and pointed it at his friend’s head, threatening to shoot him. The victim, who later reported he “genuinely feared” his life was in danger, managed to escape and alert police. Officers subsequently found the perpetrator with a pistol and 232 rounds of ammunition. The items were wrapped in a carrier bag and hidden in his pants.
- Armed police officers responded following reports that a man had been shot in Soham, Cambridgeshire. The victim, believed to have been known by his attackers, was treated in hospital for serious injuries. Three men have since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
- Police have named a male suspect they wish to speak to after two vehicles were damaged and a gun was fired at a person in Bristol. A police spokesperson said that no one was injured during the shooting, which they believe was a targeted incident involving two people known to each other.
- Emergency services responding to reports of gunfire in Liverpool, Merseyside found a woman who had been struck in the face by a shotgun pellet. She was treated in hospital and discharged later the same day. On the same afternoon, a man self-presented at a local hospital with gunshot wounds to a leg. A police spokesperson said that the male victim was believed to have been the intended target and added: “To fire a shotgun in broad daylight on a residential street always carries the risk of causing injury to completely innocent bystanders and sadly in this case, that has happened.” No arrests have yet been reported.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2020 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- A 52-year-old Gulf War navy veteran has been jailed for three years and nine months after admitting two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In July last year, the man became drunk at a neighbour’s party in Maulds Meaburn, Cumbria and threw a wooden play brick at his wife. After he was asked to leave, his neighbour’s brother followed him home and tried to defuse the situation. The man went into his house but came back out with two shotguns. With his fingers on both triggers, the perpetrator pointed one of the firearms at the neck of the man who had followed him home and the other at his body. The man grabbed both gun barrels and a struggle ensued, during which one of the shotguns discharged. The perpetrator was then overpowered by his victim, who was unhurt. The judge described the perpetrator’s actions as “reckless and impulsive”.
- A 52-year-old man was fined £250 after he admitted failing to ensure 187 rounds of .22 calibre ammunition were stored under lock and key, as per the terms of his licence. In July this year, police officers attended the man’s address in Exnaboe, Shetland on an unrelated matter and found the ammunition on top of a gun cabinet in the unlocked house. The court heard that the man had opened the cabinet to clean his gun, forgetting to put the ammunition back afterwards. The ammunition was confiscated but the gun, which had been stored securely, was returned to him.
- A bodyguard protecting the British Foreign Minister, Dominic Raab, allegedly left a loaded semi-automatic Glock 19 pistol on a plane after it handed at Heathrow Airport, Middlesex. The firearm was discovered by a cleaner. A police spokesperson said that the officer involved has since been “removed from operational duties” and that an internal investigation would be carried out. In similar circumstances last year, a bodyguard to former Prime Minister, David Cameron, reportedly left his firearm in a plane toilet. The weapon was discovered by a passenger.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — An air rifle and other items have been stolen from a home in the East Midlands. Two shotguns and ammunition have been stolen from a house in Lincolnshire. One of five deactivated firearms that were stolen from a house in North London has been found dumped in a field near Roydon’s railway station.
We note at least eleven reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in September 2020 believed to relate to stolen guns and ammunition:
- After two shotguns and ammunition were stolen from a house in Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire, police arrested a man on suspicion of burglary.
- One of five deactivated firearms that were stolen from a house in Enfield, North London in March this year has been found dumped in a field near Roydon’s railway station. The weapon, which was used as a prop in a James Bond film, was part of a specialist collection. Police have released CCTV images of a car they believe three male suspects used as a getaway vehicle.
- An air rifle, jewellery and other items have been stolen from a residential address in Langham, East Midlands. Police have appealed for information and given details of two vehicles of interest seen in the area.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eleven reports in September 2020 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Four cats and an eight-week-old kitten have been injured in gun attacks in Co. Durham, East London, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. A fifth cat suffered injuries so serious that it had to be put to sleep in Lincolnshire, and a sixth cat died after being shot in Hertfordshire. A man was “given advice” after reportedly shooting pigeons off the roof of homes in Essex. The RSPCA lunched an appeal for information after a gull and a pigeon were found in Ceredigion with airgun injuries. The gull had to be put to sleep, but the pigeon will be returned to the wild when it has recovered from its injuries. A rare peregrine falcon has been found dead in Gloucestershire.
- It has emerged that a visibly distressed dog was found wandering in Newhouse, Lanarkshire last month. After he was caught by a dog warden, vets acted quickly to remove pellets lodged in his body and tail. It has been suggested that a farmer may have shot the dog after he came too close to farm animals.
- Two men wearing face coverings and armed with shotguns allegedly forced their way into a house in Litherland, Merseyside, pushed a man to the floor and searched the property. Before leaving, one of the intruders shot and killed a pet dog. Police have issued descriptions of the suspects and appealed for information.
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 September 2020 relating to illegal firearms:
- Two men have been jailed for a total of fourteen years after they pleaded guilty to possession and supply of a firearm and ammunition. In December 2019, a National Crime Agency investigative team saw one man collect a rucksack from the other’s house in Rochester, Kent. When they stopped the first man a short distance away, officers found the bag contained a Glock 42 firearm with several rounds of live 9mm ammunition. The second man was arrested at his home shortly afterwards and officers searching surrounding rooftops discovered 17g of cocaine and more bullets that matched those recovered from the first man. It is believed these items were thrown from the windows as police approached the house.
- Following a tip-off from UK Border Agency officials who intercepted an imported Taser, police officers searched a house in Greetland, West Yorkshire and discovered a second Taser, a CS spray canister and cannabis plants. A man was arrested on suspicion of importation of a prohibited weapon, possession of a Taser, possession of CS spray and production of a Class B drug.
- In the last week of September, all 43 police forces in England and Wales, alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA) and British Transport Police, have taken part in a crackdown against County Lines drug dealers. As a result, eighteen guns, over £500,000 cash and around £1.2million worth of Class A drugs have been seized. Officers also rescued 30 vulnerable people and arrested 255 suspects. 102 “deal lines” were shut down, around a tenth of these estimated to be active in the UK. The Director of Investigations at the NCA said in a radio interview that the coronavirus pandemic may have helped the operation as “drug dealers were a lot more visible on empty trains and on roads that were less busy”.
- As part of an operation to combat serious violence, police officers raided an address in Hastings, East Sussex occupied by “a person of interest” — a woman who had attempted to import a Taser disguised as a torch. The item was intercepted by UK Border Force. Officers discovered a small amount of cannabis at the address and took the woman in for a voluntary interview. After admitting the attempted importation and possession of cannabis, the woman was served a community resolution requiring her to acknowledge receipt of an official warning letter for the importation offence and ordered to complete a Drugs Link Referral to an online training course.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 30 reports in September 2020 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A woman lost her job and was cautioned by police after she took a stun gun disguised as a torch into work at a Ministry of Defence (MoD) HQ in Wethersfield, Essex. The woman, who was part of a team that taught trainee MoD police about firearms, brought the stun gun home after a holiday in America and showed it to colleagues and students. She later revealed that she had previously taken a catapult, baseball bats, flick knives and even a crossbow into class to make the lessons “more interesting”. At a workplace disciplinary hearing, she told her bosses that she had not realised a stun gun was a prohibited weapon.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for six years after admitting possessing an imitation firearm, possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear, aggravated burglary, assaulting an emergency worker, harassment, breach of a restraining order and other offences committed earlier. In June this year, the man swallowed £200 worth of £20 notes after becoming paranoid about a friend “bullying him and demanding money”. He went on to breach a restraining order by contacting his ex-girlfriend and threatening her new partner. The 24-year-old spoke to a man through a house window in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, asking him for a lift because “someone was after him”. As the man went to close the window, the 24-year old pulled out an imitation gun and tapped on the front door with it before fleeing. Shortly afterwards, he forced his way into a home and demanded car keys from a woman while threatening to shoot her. The woman’s husband managed to drag him out of the car before he drove away. When armed police responded, the man put his hands up, saying he had mental health issues and needed help. The court heard that he had had a difficult childhood and used cannabis as a “coping strategy”.
- A 42-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to robbery and possessing an imitation firearm. In March last year, the man entered a shop in Wigston, Leicestershire and pointed what looked like a shotgun wrapped in a clear plastic bag at a female worker’s face. As the woman cowered away, he put the weapon on the counter and grabbed money from the till before fleeing. The victim managed to note the number plate of his getaway car and he was detained the next day following a collision with a police car. His DNA was found in the till drawer. The court heard that he had suffered “neglect, abuse and violence during his childhood and adolescence and turned to drugs to escape the emotional pain of his past”. In an impact statement, the victim described fearing what the gunman would do. She suffers severe ongoing psychological effects, including panic attacks and depression.
- A 28-year-old woman has been jailed for four-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to two counts of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and possession of a Taser. In July this year, police officers raided her home in Warrington, Cheshire and found her flushing drugs in a toilet. One of the attending officers, formerly a plumber, recovered 220 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine from an external pipe. A Taser was also found at the property, along with phones revealing messages regarding drug dealing. The court heard that she was trying to “raise funds” for her honeymoon.
- A 32-year-old man from Manchester, Greater Manchester, has been jailed for seven years after being found guilty of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In March this year, the man threatened his neighbours with a shotgun after hearing there had been an argument between their children and his. After shooting at their house, he threatened the male householder, pointing the shotgun at him and shouting: “You’re getting it, your missus is getting it, and your kids are getting it.” He then discharged the shotgun into the air several times. The targeted family cowered in their doorway during the attack, fearing for their lives. The court heard that the man was “heavily under the influence of drink or drugs” at the time of the offence. He was handed a restraining order banning him from contacting the victims for life.
- A 23-year-old man was jailed for fourteen months after he admitted possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. His 22-year-old accomplice received a suspended ten-month sentence after admitting possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and arson. In September last year, the pair threatened and assaulted a vulnerable young man in his room at a sheltered accommodation centre in Ilfracombe, Devon because the 23-year old man believed his victim had been spreading rumours about him. The victim, who suffers with severe autism, ADHD and a range of mental health issues, was forced into a chair before having a fake gun put to his head. The other perpetrator smashed a large claw hammer into a wall and started a fire in a bin before both assailants fled. The court heard that both perpetrators also suffer from autism, ADHD and other mental health issues.
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.
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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