April 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 13-04-2019
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. Figure 1: March 2019 incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summary for 2017-18 is available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least five reports in March 2019 concerning six gun deaths:
- Police officers and paramedics attended following reports that a man had been shot in West Norwood, South London. The victim died at the scene shortly after the attack. Two men have since been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police have appealed for information, particularly from anyone with relevant dashcam footage.
- A 42-year-old man was declared dead shortly after an apparent rifle shooting accident that occurred during a pigeon shoot on a rural estate in Kinnaird, Perthshire.
- Police attending after reports of gunshots at a house in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, discovered the bodies of the two homeowners, a married couple, inside. A police spokesperson said that the circumstances are being investigated and that no-one else is being sought in connection with the deaths.
- A man has been fatally shot in Maidstone, Kent. A male suspect has since been charged.
- A man who was shot by an armed police officer during a dawn raid in Birmingham, West Midlands, suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the scene. The incident is being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
We are aware of at least two reports in March 2019 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Clun, Shropshire in September last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being gunshot wounds to the head.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a 17-year-old boy at Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire in June last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound to the head. The young man’s body was found in a car after armed police responded to a report that he had gone missing in possession of a gun. Knowing where the keys were kept, the youth had removed his father’s shotgun and ammunition from a gun cabinet at his home before driving to a lonely spot on the North Yorkshire Moors.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least one report in March 2019 which we believe to be armed domestic violence:
- See Gun Deaths above — The bodies of a married couple were discovered in their home with fatal gunshot injuries.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least eleven reports in March 2019 which we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition. Six of these, including one fatality and another victim in a life-threatening condition, involve police guns and/or Tasers:
- See Gun Deaths above — A man was fatally shot during a commercial shoot. Another man suffered a cardiac arrest and died after being shot by armed police. The bodies of a married couple were discovered in their home with fatal gunshot injuries.
- See Inquests above — A man was found with fatal gunshot wounds in his home. A 17-year-old boy, who accessed his father’s licensed gun and ammunition kept in his home, used them to take his own life.
- A man, allegedly armed with knives and making threats to kill at a residential address in Hackney, East London, was shot by an attending armed police officer. He remains in a life-threatening condition. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has launched an investigation.
- A man, a licensed shotgun owner since 2016, has been jailed for six years after admitting a number of firearms offences. Acting on information, a police search of his home in Ipswich, Suffolk revealed a cache of illegally-held weapons, ammunition and equipment to make ammunition. Two of the weapons recovered were found to have been reported stolen, one in 2016 and the other in 2013.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in March 2019 relating to stolen guns and ammunition:
- A 28-year-old man was jailed for eight years after admitting to stealing three training drill purpose rifles, dummy rounds and five gun slings from an army cadet base in Newport-on-Tay, Fife, where he had once been a cadet. A camouflage bag, £100 in cash and a rucksack were also stolen. The court heard that the man climbed into the building through a smashed window and had planned to sell the rifles, which had “the capacity to be converted into viable weapons”. A crude map, found by police two months later in a flat occupied by the sister of one of his friends, led officers to some woods where they discovered the stolen guns. The man’s DNA was discovered on the map, drawn on paper from Perth Prison where he had been remanded for other offences. Confronted with the evidence, the suspect confessed to the break-in and theft.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least six reports in March 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- A cat and a kitten have died and another cat has been injured in airgun attacks in Devon, Merseyside and Yorkshire. Two swans have been found dead in Wiltshire and another had to be put down after being found shot in West Midlands. The body of an owl has been discovered having been shot at close range and stuffed into a wall in West Yorkshire. A spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, has encouraged walkers in the area to report finding any injured animals and birds in traps or snares and those that have been shot. He added: “It’s a grim reality that wildlife is being wiped out by trap, snare and gun on some of the region’s most popular moorlands to boost red grouse numbers for shooting.”
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 34 reports in March 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 22-year-old man has been given a life sentence, with a minimum of seventeen years, after being found guilty of the attempted murder of a man in Nuneaton, Warwickshire; he also received a concurrent sentence of seven years for firearms offences. A woman who told the convicted man the whereabouts of his victim in the knowledge that he would be harmed, was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, with a concurrent two-year sentence for perverting the course of justice.
- A man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after admitting possession of firearms and ammunition, and another man received a five-year sentence for possession of a pistol. Police, called to an address in Liverpool, Merseyside on an unrelated matter, discovered several weapons, one of which was found to have been discharged three times at a man on a bike in Anfield nine days previously.
- A man has been jailed for six years after admitting possession of an imitation firearm and robbery; his accomplice received a sentence of four years, eight months for robbery. The pair raided a newsagent shop in Poole, Dorset in November last year. A member of the public noted the registration of the getaway car, which was traced to an address in the town.
- Four men have each been sentenced to 23 years in prison, plus three years on extended licence, after being found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent. Police pursued the four men as they went on a ‘ride out’ in a stolen BMW to target gang rivals in East London. When the suspects were apprehended, officers retrieved a loaded sawn-off shotgun and bladed weapons.
- Four men have been jailed for a total of almost 35 years for their involvement in the sale of a revolver. In June last year, undercover police witnessed the men meeting at an address in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. When officers swooped on their cars a short time later, they discovered a revolver and ammunition custom-made for the weapon. In a further search of the address where the men had met, police recovered £3,220.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for two years, ten months after pleading guilty to robbery and possessing an imitation firearm. A 61-year-old former soldier went to the aid of the shop-keeper in Swindon, Wiltshire during the attempted robbery, and, with the aid of another member of the public, detained the suspect until the police arrived.
- A man has been handed a sixteen-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to possessing a bladed article and two stun guns. Border Control officers at East Midlands Airport, near Castle Donington, Leicestershire found the suspect in possession of the weapons on his return from a trip to Bulgaria. One of the stun guns was disguised as a lipstick container, the other as a torch.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years for offences including possession of a firearm. After admitting to two robberies, possession of a knife and assaulting a police officer, the man’s home in Stockbridge, Merseyside was searched, and police discovered a sawn-off shotgun on the premises.
- A man has been handed a five-year custodial sentence after admitting possession of a prohibited weapon. The man threatened another man with an unloaded firearm outside a nightclub in Brierley Hill, West Midlands before discarding the handgun in some bushes as he left the scene. The incident was captured on CCTV.
- A 65-year-old man has been fined £500 and ordered to pay £250 compensation and £135 costs after admitting charges of criminal damage. Under the influence of alcohol, the man fired an air rifle twice, hitting the door of a neighbour’s house with one shot and smashing a window with the other. The neighbour called the police, who later discovered the firearm behind a bath panel in the man’s house in Holyhead, Anglesey.
- A 34-year-old man has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of a firearms offence. The man, who had been banned from keeping guns after planting a fake bomb on a bus, was found to have an air rifle in his bedroom at his flat in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Police officers searching his home in May last year, also discovered a machete and two fake guns.
- A 48-year-old man has been jailed for two years, nine months after a jury found him guilty of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of harm. In June 2016, the man told a taxi driver that he needed to go to his home in Pitsford, Northampton to fetch money to pay the fare; however, he emerged from the house with a gun over his shoulder causing the taxi driver to drive off in alarm. The following day, police officers discovered two air rifles, a deactivated shotgun and a deactivated musket at the man’s home.
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: March 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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