August 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 30-11--0001
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 2021 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 2021.
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 August 2021 concerning nine gun deaths:
- A man reportedly killed five people and injured two others with a shotgun in Plymouth, Devon before turning the firearm on himself. The gunman fatally shot his mother at an address in the city before shooting dead a 3-year-old girl and her father on the street outside. He went on to shoot another man and a woman on a nearby street, both of whom survived the attack. The gunman then moved on to a park where he fatally shot a man and a woman before shooting himself dead. It has since emerged that the gunman had his firearms licence suspended last December following concerns about his suitability to hold a weapon; however, after attending an anger management course, his licence was reinstated. The man had expressed misogynistic and homophobic views on line and spoke of being “beaten down” and “defeated by life”. It has been confirmed that he had been in contact with a mental health helpline service during the last eighteen months. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has received a mandatory referral from Devon and Cornwall Police in relation to the shooting and to their prior contact with the gunman, including the force’s role regarding firearms licensing.
- A man died after reportedly shooting himself at his home in Chard, Somerset on the day he was due to be sentenced for raping a teenage girl thirty years ago. Police officers found the man’s body after being sent to carry out a welfare check when he failed to attend his sentencing hearing.
- A man died in hospital two day after he was found with gunshot wounds in Upton Park, East London.
- Police have appealed for information after a man was fatally shot on a street in Glasgow, Scotland. The victim, found seriously injured, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and died two days later. Police are treating the shooting as a targeted attack.
We are aware of at least two inquest reports in August 2021 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Ripley, Derbyshire in July last year has recorded a verdict of suicide. The inquest heard that the man shot himself at home with a shotgun after a health condition “deteriorated rapidly”. N.B. The coroner failed to reveal whether or not the victim was a licensed gun owner.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man at his home in Stourbridge, West Midlands has concluded that he was a victim of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound. The man phoned his son one morning last month and told him that he had a shotgun and was feeling suicidal. After the son alerted police, paramedics and armed officers attended the man’s address, where he was found dead. Officers recovered a shotgun, cartridges and a handwritten suicide note from the property. Accepting that the man’s death was “totally unexpected” by relatives, the coroner said she was satisfied from the evidence that he had intended to take his own life. N.B. The coroner failed to reveal whether or not the victim was a licensed gun owner.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least five reports in August 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- See Deaths above — The mother of a gunman believed to have been involved in a multiple shooting in Devon, has been found dead with gunshot wounds.
- A 62-year-old man has been handed a suspended 20-month prison sentence with rehabilitation after pleading guilty to two counts of possessing a firearm without a certificate and possessing a bladed article. His daughter called the police in March last year after he began behaving “erratically and aggressively” at his home in Cleadon, South Tyneside while under the influence of alcohol. His son disarmed him of an air pistol and a sword after he threatened to harm himself, but he went on to shoot an air rifle at a door and in the porch. Police officers recovered numerous air weapons from the property, as well as two antique shotguns (one loose in the property), machetes and 205 shotgun cartridges. The court heard that the shotguns, though in poor condition, were not exempt from legislation as they were capable of being fired. The man’s shotgun certificate had been revoked in 2015 after the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police considered it unsafe for him to have a shotgun.
- A man has been handed a suspended ten-month prison term after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to cause a person to fear that unlawful violence would be used. In January last year, he brandished a pistol at his girlfriend at their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire before pointing it at his own head. The court heard that, after losing his job, he had become increasingly paranoid and argumentative with his partner. On the day of the gun incident, his partner found him crying over a failed job interview and claiming to have taken some pills. As she left the house on seeing the gun, the man followed her, saying: “Go and phone the coppers I will do you and the coppers.” Police officers subsequently recovered a silver revolver-type air weapon bought just weeks previously.
- A 49-year-old man has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to making threats to kill, assault, possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a bladed article. In November last year, he forced the barrel of a blank-firing pistol into his wife’s mouth after accusing her of having an affair. He went on to hold the gun to her head before pushing it into her mouth again after their struggle spilled onto the street outside their home in Ipswich, Suffolk. The court heard that the man had been drinking before the attack and could not remember much about his actions.
- An 80-year-old man has been jailed for eighteen years after being convicted of attempted murder and admitting possession of a prohibited firearm. In October 2019, he used a double-barrelled pistol to shoot a former acquaintance in the shoulder as he was sitting in his home in Brandon, Suffolk. Despite his injury, the victim managed to grab the gun from his attacker and restrain him until neighbours rushed in to assist. The court heard that the victim suffered extensive gunshot wounds to his shoulder and has gun pellets in his heart that cannot be removed. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said that the man had expressed “no remorse or explanation” for his actions.
Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in August 2021 which we believe to relate to licensed/former licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Deaths above — Five people have been shot dead in Devon, apparently by a licensed gun owner.
- See Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above — former legal gun owner in South Tyneside, whose licence was revoked in 2015, sentenced after pleading guilty to possession of firearms and other charges.
- Police have appealed for information after a shotgun, cartridges, an air rifle, a knife and jewellery were stolen from a property in Newton-on-Trent, Lincolnshire. It is believed that the shotgun and air rifle were legally registered and kept in a locked cabinet.
We note at least six reports in August 2021 involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least sixteen reports in August 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- At least eight cats have been shot and injured in attacks in Buckinghamshire, Devon, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Scotland, Tyne and Wear, Wales and Warwickshire, and another cat has died after being shot in Merseyside.
- A peregrine falcon has been found shot dead in Buckinghamshire, another was found injured in Scotland. A goshawk had to be put to sleep after being found shot in Staffordshire. A goose was found shot dead in Wiltshire. A number of seagulls and pigeons have been shot and injured in East Sussex, Suffolk and Wales.
- A wildlife rehabilitation centre in Hinckley, Leicestershire has stopped taking in injured animals after nineteen of its rescued birds were killed. One of the ten birds killed in July was found to have pellets from an air rifle inside it, while a further nine birds were killed with a suspected airgun in August. Police have opened an investigation, but no arrests have yet been made.
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 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 failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations. In response, the Home Office has launched a further review which, at the outset, clearly rejects licensing for airgun owners in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are aware of at least two reports of illegal firearms in August 2021:
- After receiving information from Border Force officials regarding intercepted parcels, police officers recovered weapons including an imitation firearm, air rifle, CS spray, batons, knuckle dusters, Tasers and knives from a property in Nelson, Lancashire.
- A 54-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to two charges under the Firearms Act. After Border Force officials intercepted a parcel addressed to him that contained a stun gun disguised as a torch, police officers raided his home address in Glasgow, Scotland in April last year and found two more similar weapons. The court heard that the man was a “shopaholic” who made hundreds of impulsive online purchases and that he had bought the stun guns without checking their legality.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 33 reports in August 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 21-year-old man was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, two counts of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply and possessing a prohibited firearm. The man was a member of a County Lines drug gang that exploited a vulnerable teenage boy, using him as a drugs runner in Wales. In October last year, investigating officers searched the man’s home address in Harlow, Essex and recovered a self-loading pistol, ammunition, a Taser disguised as a torch and Class A drugs.
- Seven men have received life sentences totalling two-hundred-and-ten years imprisonment for their parts in a fatal shooting following a long-running feud. One shot, fired from a car towards the intended victim’s business premises in Blackburn, Lancashire, struck a teenage woman who was walking by at the time, and she died at the scene. A woman, convicted of manslaughter for her role in driving the men to collect the car used in the shooting, will be sentenced at a later date.
- A man has been jailed for six years after admitting possessing a prohibited weapon, requiring someone to perform forced or compulsory labour, making or supplying articles for use in fraud, being concerned in money laundering and five counts of facilitating travel of a person with a view to exploitation. He was also made the subject of a ten-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order. The man reportedly used a 30,500-volt stun gun to control and discipline a male slavery victim at his home in Leicester, Leicestershire, making him sleep alongside his dogs and do household chores. The man also commandeered his victim’s wages, as well as those of four other men he trafficked to the UK on the promise of a well-paid job. The court heard that the victim, who has learning difficulties, was locked inside the house, slapped, deprived of food and forced to work in a factory and at the perpetrator’s home. A proceeds of crime confiscation hearing will decide on using any assets seized to compensate the victims.
- A 19-year-old man has been handed a five-year prison term after pleading guilty to possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of a prohibited weapon. In August last year, the man was arrested after police officers seized crack cocaine and other drugs from his home in Thornaby, North Yorkshire. While he was on bail for this offence, officers recovered an unloaded 12-bore shotgun with cartridges, a balaclava, a Samurai sword and a lock knife from his home. The court heard that the man had been given no choice other than to allow the firearm to be stored at the property by people who were “leaning on him”.
- An 18-year-old man has been handed a twelve-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs after admitting possession of an imitation firearm (airsoft shotgun) in a public place in Reading, Berkshire in March 2019.
- A 19-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in a young offenders’ institution after pleading guilty to two charges of sexual activity with a child, two charges of possession of an imitation firearm with intent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, making malicious communications, criminal damage and using threatening words or behaviour. In November last year, after drinking alcohol and taking cocaine, the man brandished what looked like a pistol at two girls in a house in Fenton, Staffordshire, threatening to kill them. He went on to cut one girl’s wrist as she tried to disarm him of a knife. The man chased responding police officers and pointed the gun at one of them, before running back into the house as the officer discharged PAVA spray towards him. After firearms officers were deployed to the scene, the man surrendered and was arrested. The court heard that the man had committed other offences and that he is to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for ten years.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years and his co-defendant, a 19-year-old woman, received a five-year sentence following a shooting in Brighton, East Sussex. In October last year, the man used a converted antique pistol loaded with ammunition made by the woman to shoot at a man over a suspected drug dispute. When the ammunition failed and the gun backfired, both defendants fled the scene with the intended victim chasing them. The woman confessed to police that she had converted the antique American gun and made the ammunition using molten lead and gun powder from shotgun cartridges. However, she later claimed that the man had been given the gun by Albanian drug dealers and that she had lied to protect him.
- After firing shots from a handgun towards a funeral party at a cemetery in Manchester in April 2020, a 24-year-old man has been jailed for six years, having admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of ammunition.
- A 28-year-old man has been ordered to complete 30 days’ rehabilitation after admitting using threatening behaviour. In June this year, the man shouted and pointed an airgun into the air outside a supermarket in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, causing distress and alarm to a woman and her children, nearby. The court heard that the man appeared intoxicated as he behaved in a “vulgar and abusive way” and shouted, “something about the gun being loaded”.
- A 54-year-old man has been jailed for a total of nine-and-a-half years after being found guilty of a number of offences including money laundering, possession of a working revolver, possessing military ammunition and possessing forged identity documents. He was arrested after a long investigation into his criminal activities, during which police officers recovered the handgun and ammunition at a storage unit in Leatherhead, Surrey.
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 2021 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. See five gun deaths in Plymouth in August, involving a perpetrator who was apparently a licenced gun owner. 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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