August 2020 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-09-2020
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 August 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 August 2020.
Figure 1: August 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 seven reports in August 2020 concerning gun deaths:
- A man died in hospital after being shot at his home in Upper Enham, Hampshire. A woman at the property suffered minor injuries during the attack. The alleged assailant subsequently died in a police chase after he fled by motorcycle. Police “do not believe there are any outstanding suspects in this investigation”.
- Emergency services attended following reports that a man had been shot outside his home in Kilburn, North West London. Despite treatment by ambulance staff, the victim died at the scene. It is believed that a number of males approached the man’s front door before one of them allegedly shot him in the chest. Police have appealed for information.
- An 18-year-old man died in hospital after being shot in the chest in Bury, Greater Manchester. The victim had been in a car with four men when they became involved in an altercation with another group of men in a BMW. As he stepped out of his vehicle, the teenager was shot at from the other car. Four men have since been arrested: three on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and one on suspicion of possession of a firearm.
- A man died in hospital shortly after he was shot in the back garden of his home in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire. The victim was attacked by a male assailant who fled the scene by car. Police are treating the shooting as a targeted incident.
- Armed police were deployed following the fatal shooting of a man in Carlin How, North Yorkshire. The victim died in hospital after suffering gunshot injuries to the chest. Three men and a woman have been since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- A man has been fatally shot in Birmingham, West Midlands. Police officers responding to reports of gunshots discovered the victim at the scene. Detectives have appealed for information.
- A man died in hospital after he was shot in the stomach in Birmingham, West Midlands. A man has since been charged with murder, three counts of attempted murder and possession of a prohibited weapon. In addition, six people were arrested in connection with the shooting: a teenage boy and a man on suspicion of murder, and two men and two women on suspicion of assisting an offender.
We are aware of at least three reports of inquests in August 2020 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Burton, Staffordshire has concluded that his death was an accident. In April this year, the man attended hospital after accidentally shooting one of his testicles with a BB gun but was “reluctant” to give a full version of what had happened. The man was prescribed antibiotics three days later after samples showed he had a urinary tract infection; however, he did not start taking the medication for a further three days. He returned to the hospital after six more days and was declared “unfit” to undergo a surgical repair. He died later the same day, cause of death being sepsis and multi-organ failure due to an abscess caused by his injury. A police investigation into the use of firearms found there had been no criminal activity.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, East Yorkshire has concluded that he took his own life, cause of death being shotgun injuries. In February this year, the man left a note in his gun cabinet and took his shotgun into some woodland near his farm. His son found his body there later the same day. The inquest heard that the man had received psychiatric treatment for recurrent depression and that he had suffered a relapse in January this year.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Wells, Somerset in May this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the head. The man was declared dead at the scene after his wife found his body alongside a shotgun in a spare bedroom at their home. Though he suffered from depression, the inquest heard that the man “never wanted to see a doctor with regards to his mental health as he felt it would affect his job and guns licence”. However, he had been visited by a doctor on “multiple occasions” since 1989 regarding his anxiety and stress.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least six reports in August 2020 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- Armed police officers raced to an address in Colchester, Essex following a report that a man “believed to have access to a gun” had threatened to harm himself and a woman. The man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill and possession of a firearm. No one was injured during the incident, which police described as “domestic in nature”.
- A 49-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting two counts of illegal possession of a firearm. In December last year, following a disagreement with his parents at their home in Bootle, Cumbria, the man fired an Enfield revolver into a bookcase. He was found by police officers the following day in nearby woodland where he had buried the revolver and a double-barrelled derringer pistol. The court heard that the man, who has bipolar disorder and had suffered an “acute depressive episode” at the time of offending, had found the firearms during a renovation of his home. He was ruled as mentally fit to be sentenced.
- A 53-year-old legal gun owner was handed a suspended sixteen-month prison sentence with 30 days of rehabilitation activities after he pleaded guilty to having a firearm with intent to make another fear violence would be used. The court heard that the man became frustrated after Coronavirus restrictions affected his business and prevented him from visiting his mother in a care home. In May this year, after spending some hours drinking wine, he told his wife, “I might as well get the gun out of the garage and shoot myself.” As she was contacting police, he took his 12-bore shotgun into the living room of his home in York, Yorkshire, where his son managed to disarm him. The judge said that it was clear that the man had suffered “a breakdown of sorts”. He will lose his gun licence and not be permitted to hold another.
- A 43-year-old woman has been jailed for fifteen months after admitting possession of an imitation firearm. In April this year, two social workers visited the woman at her home in Sunderland, Tyne & Wear and found her to be “unpredictable and abusive”. She paced around and threatened to kill herself before running to another property where she combined two items to make an imitation firearm. On her return, she ran towards one of the social workers with the weapon, causing her to be “entirely terrified”. The victim has since received counselling and has changed her job as a direct result of the incident.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for four years and eight months after threatening his partner with “imitation” guns”. In May last year, the man’s girlfriend attended a local hospital with facial wounds and told staff that she had been assaulted by her partner five days previously and held at their flat in Chippenham, Wiltshire to prevent her from going to the police. She told police that her partner had threatened her with Air Soft guns, holding a pistol to her head on one occasion, and officers subsequently retrieved seven such weapons from the flat. In a statement, the victim said that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was too scared to fall asleep as she knew she would have nightmares. The Judge imposed a restraining order banning the man from contacting his ex-partner.
- Armed police officers were deployed following reports of an assault and a male with a firearm inside a property in Alnwick, Northumberland. Two men, known to each other, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least seven reports in August 2020 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquests above − A coroner reached a verdict of accidental death relating to a man in Staffordshire following a self-inflicted BB gun wound. Other coroners reached verdicts of suicide relating to the deaths of two legal-gun-owning men, one in East Yorkshire, the other in Somerset. The victims were known to be suffering from depression, despite which both remained with access to guns in their homes.
- See Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above − A 53-year-old, legal-gun-owning man sentenced in Yorkshire.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below − Three air rifles stolen from an outbuilding in Suffolk; two shotguns stolen from a home in North Yorkshire; and a BB gun stolen from a home in Aberdeenshire.
We note at least ten reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in August 2020 believed to relate to stolen guns and ammunition:
- Three air rifles, a quadbike, remote-controlled cars and tools were stolen from an outbuilding in Rushmere St Andrew, Suffolk.
- A man has been jailed for 32 months with a further twelve-month supervision for his involvement in a brutal assault on a female teenager. Wearing masks, the man and three other men entered a home in Turriff, Aberdeenshire in the early hours of a morning in February this year. One of the men produced a blade and asked the teenager the whereabouts of two people, accusing her of hiding them. The man then brandished a meat cleaver before he and the others grabbed the teenager by the hair, dragged her into the bathroom and assaulted her with a heavy object. Four distinctive samurai swords, a BB gun, cash, bank cards and a purse were stolen from the house and the man later admitted stealing the items while acting with others. The court heard that the perpetrator had a longstanding drug problem and claimed he had been pressured into committing the offence.
- A cabinet containing two shotguns, jewellery and other items were stolen after a house was broken into in Worsall, North Yorkshire. Police appealed for information.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in August 2020 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Three cats have been injured in gun attacks in East Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Surrey. A cat has died after being shot in Cheshire and a further three cats suffered injuries so serious that they had to be put to sleep after being shot in Dorset, Exeter and Warwickshire. Two lambs survived after being shot in the head in Anglesey. A swan was left covered in blood after being shot in the head in a park in South East London. Two gulls had to be put to sleep and a third gull was found dead following airgun attacks in Neath.
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.
Sentences and Convictions
- A 39-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting having a Taser and knife in his possession. In December last year, the man discharged a Taser outside a nightclub in Edinburgh, Scotland. He claimed to have pulled out the Taser by mistake when a woman asked him for a light, later telling police that he carried the weapons for his own protection.
- A 28-year-old man has been jailed for eighteen months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a Class B drug. In March this year, he fired a self-loading blank-firing pistol at a house in Batley, West Yorkshire to frighten a man with whom he had previously fought. While his intended target slept through the incident, a woman in a neighbouring property “dived for cover” after hearing loud bangs and seeing sparks come from the man’s gun. After police were alerted, 8mm blank cartridges were recovered from the scene and a sniffer dog traced the perpetrator.
- A 46-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years after pleading guilty to supplying a firearm, two counts of possession of a firearm and possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply. A second man aged 33, received a sentence of six years after admitting possession of a firearm, ammunition and a silencer. In May this year, armed police officers conducting an intelligence-led operation observed them passing a bag between them outside a lock-up garage in Mottingham, South East London. When police intercepted the second man, they discovered the bag contained a Glock handgun with a silencer, 50 rounds of ammunition, £10,000 cash and an encrypted Encrochat phone. The first man was found with a similar phone, while approximately £4,000 cash and 11kgs of cocaine were recovered from his home address. A revolver and a Beretta handgun with six rounds of ammunition were subsequently discovered at the lock-up.
- A man has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to importing a Section 5 firearm, attempting to convert a firearm, possession of a Class B drug and possession of extreme pornography. Following an FBI investigation into cybercrime, police officers raided the man’s home in Warrington, Cheshire and discovered a Zoraki 9mm blank firing handgun. After buying the weapon online from Spain, he attempted to convert it into a viable firearm using a drill. Officers also found cannabis and shotgun cartridges, while his computer revealed guides on how to make submachine guns, explosives and gunpowder, as well as explicit pornographic videos. The man claimed to have bought the gun to scare off potential burglars.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and ammunition without a certificate. When police officers raided his home in Birmingham, West Midlands in May this year, they recovered two pistols, a revolver, cartridges and bullets. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson urged communities to report anyone suspected of being linked to guns.
- A 34-year-old man has been handed a prison term of four years and two months after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In July this year, the man brandished a firearm at students attending a noisy party in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, telling them, “Shut up or I will shoot you all.” He pointed the weapon at one victim’s chest and held it behind the ear of another, saying that next time he would pull the trigger. A BB gun subsequently found in the man’s car matched the description of the firearm given by one of the victims. The court heard that the perpetrator had reacted the way he did because his mother-in-law, who lived next door to the party venue, had complained about the noise.
- A 37-year-old woman has been handed a nine-month prison term after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Police officers carrying out a warrant at her home in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire in November last year, discovered a secret compartment behind an oven. Inside was a wooden box containing a dismantled double-barrelled shotgun with cartridges.
- A 36-year-old man was handed a suspended eighteen-month prison sentence after he admitted affray. The man waved a decommissioned black Beretta handgun at a man whom he believed had given his girlfriend “unwanted attention” while the couple were out in Southend, Essex. A member of the public alerted police and firearms officers were deployed. While the man was arrested without incident, his girlfriend did not comply with instructions and attempted to throw the handgun away; she subsequently received a twelve-month community order for her actions.
- A man has been jailed for two years and eight months after admitting robbery and possessing a firearm. In March this year, he entered a betting shop in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear and threatened a member of staff with a BB gun while demanding cash. As he was leaving, he turned back and apologised, saying, “Sorry, I’m desperate.” Camera operators tracked the suspect’s movements and he was arrested shortly afterwards. Police officers found him with a quantity of cash and a gas-powered BB gun, loaded and cocked.
- A 21-year-old man has been jailed for ten months after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In June this year, the man pointed an air rifle from a bedroom window at his mother’s house in Swindon, Wiltshire towards a woman, two men and a child in a neighbouring garden after the woman complained about him playing music too loudly. He later appeared at the window with a knife and saying, “I’ll slice you up”. A nearby school was placed in lockdown as police officers attended and retrieved a Milbro Explorer air rifle from the property. The perpetrator left the house before officers arrived but was arrested later.
- A 26-year-old man has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent, possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs. In November last year, he shot a man in the leg with a shotgun in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. The shooting took place in a busy area and was witnessed by a number of people, including two children. The victim, not the perpetrator’s intended target, suffered significant injuries and required surgery. The perpetrator had aimed the weapon at another man’s face but 30 pellets lodged in the victim’s leg.
- A 23-year-old man and a 22-year-old man were jailed for seven years, nine months and six years respectively after they admitted two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear and possession of a shotgun. In March this year, the pair entered a shop in Walsall, West Midlands and threatened the shopkeeper with a sawn-off bolt-action shotgun. The shopkeeper grabbed the barrel of the firearm before chasing the men out of his shop with a cricket bat. The suspects were arrested at a nearby address where police officers recovered the shotgun, a slam gun and shotgun cartridges. The court heard that the duo had been drinking and had threatened a pedestrian with the firearm earlier in the day. The shopkeeper said he “acted on instinct” to defend his business and family.
- A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to five years in a young offenders' institution after admitting possession of a sawn-off shotgun in a public place. He also received two three-year sentences, to be served concurrently, for two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. In December 2018, he and another man were stopped by police officers in Basingstoke, Hampshire. As they ran off, they dumped a rucksack that contained a loaded and cocked sawn-off, double-barrelled, 12-bore shotgun. The court heard that the perpetrator, and the seven accomplices sentenced along with him, were part of a county lines gang that supplied Class A drugs in the town.
- A 27-year-old man and a 26-year-old man were each jailed for six years after they pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm. After also admitting to possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate, one received a further two-year concurrent sentence. In May this year, armed police officers stopped the men’s van in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. They discovered a Colt revolver in a concealed compartment and a mobile device that used the EncroChat platform to exchange encrypted messages in relation to the gun. EncroChat, a secretive phone network, was recently decoded in an international operation against organised crime. Officers subsequently found five rounds of ammunition compatible with the gun at the man’s home address. The judge said that, although he accepted the defendants were transferring the weapon only and not intending to use it, a deterrent sentence must be given. He added: “This city is sadly not alone in that it is rife with illicit firearms that kill and maim. This one was quite capable of doing one or both…It was designed to be capable of killing or causing real serious injury. It was intended for use for criminal purposes that brings with it high risk of serious disorder and physical harm.”
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: August 2020 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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