July 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 09-08-2021
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 July 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 July 2021.
Figure 1: July 2021 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 July 2021 concerning a gun death:
- A man has died after being shot twice in the chest on a street in Huyton, Merseyside. His assailant reportedly fled by bike following the attack. Police have appealed for information but no arrests have yet been made.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least four reports in July 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- A 20-year-old man has received a ten-year prison sentence with a further four years on licence after being convicted of aggravated burglary and possession of a firearm. In August last year, he and three other men forced their way into a family home in Swinton, Greater Manchester. Armed with a homemade slam gun, the man demanded cannabis from a male occupant — an alleged drug dealer and former schoolmate — threatening harm to his family if he called the police. A second offender, armed with a knife, threatened the man’s mother, stabbing her phone to prevent her calling for help. The gang stole cannabis, cash and an iPad before fleeing. The perpetrator was arrested a few days later and police officers recovered the firearm and live cartridges. The court heard that the man had arranged to meet the male victim two days before the burglary, ostensibly to buy cannabis from him. When they met, however, the offender threatened him with a gun, saying “Give me your weed or I will take your legs.” The victims reported feeling “paranoid” and “really low” after the attacks.
- A 43-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen months after pleading guilty to robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. After being invited to his daughter’s house in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester in December last year, the man became abusive, brandished what looked like a handgun and stole a PlayStation and a Dyson fan. The man’s daughter called the police and he was arrested at his home a few days later. The court heard that the man’s daughter, who had previously spent time in care because of her father’s drug use, had a difficult relationship with him and was terrified of him. Since the incident, she has been “unable to seep” and doesn’t feel safe in her own home. The judge imposed a five-year restraining order against the man.
- Following an altercation involving four men at an address in Alnwick, Northumberland, one man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
- After harassing an ex-partner and sending her a picture of an imitation gun, despite having spent a year in custody for causing her fear or alarm, the perpetrator has been handed a two-year supervision order, together with non-harassment and electronic tagging orders. The man admitted breaching bail by contacting the woman repeatedly, causing her more fear or alarm by sending threatening messages and having an imitation firearm at his home in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire with intent to scare her.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns, Ammunition and Stolen Guns
We are aware of at least seven reports in July 2021 which we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns, ammunition and stolen guns, including:
- After police officers found live shotgun cartridges in unsecured places within his home in Pentney, Norfolk, a 37-year-old man was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs for not complying with the storage requirements stipulated on his firearms certificate.
- It has emerged that, during an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, officers discovered four live bulleted cartridges at a man’s home in Cambridgeshire in November 2019. The man, a member of a gun club and a former Police and Crime Commissioner, held a shotgun certificate but not the separate firearms certificate the ammunition required.
- After two unloaded shotguns were stolen from a clay pigeon shooting range in Tapnell, Isle of Wight, three men from London were arrested on suspicion of theft. Police appealed for information and confirmed that the weapons have not yet been recovered.
- A man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was fined £500 and had his firearms licence revoked after admitting failing to comply with a condition of a shotgun certificate. After his grandson used one of his shotguns to shoot a 15-year-old boy in Kesgrave, Suffolk in September last year, police officers visited the man’s home and found an air rifle and a shotgun insecure on a cabinet. The man told officers that he had been cleaning one shotgun earlier and that another shotgun had been left out for cleaning the previous day when his grandson had visited. The charge does not relate to the gun used in the shooting.
- A 34-year-old man has been jailed for seven years and eleven months after admitting drug offences, handling a previously stolen shotgun, possession of a shotgun and ammunition without certificates, possession of prohibited weapons and possession of a bladed article. In January of this year, he told a mental health counsellor that he had a shotgun and had thought about shooting himself. Police officers seized the shotgun from the man’s home in Bartestree, Herefordshire, with other weapons, including a stun gun, CS spray and a sword, being recovered later. WhatsApp messages indicated that the man, barred from having any type of gun, kept the weapon for “security in relation to his drug dealing enterprise” and that he knew the shotgun had been previously stolen. The recorder ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs, drugs paraphernalia, weapons and ammunition.
- Four men have been jailed for their involvement in an armed robbery, during which a man was shot twice. In July 2019, the offenders broke into a farmer’s home in Aughton, Lancashire and demanded money, before the first man shot him in the knee for not reacting quickly enough. The victim’s girlfriend was prevented from helping him as the thieves stole cash, jewellery and watches. When the farmer denied having any more money and hesitated to answer an enquiry about guns being kept on the property, the first man shot him again, this time in the ankle. The victim was also hit in the mouth and groin with a gun before the thieves stole four shotguns, a poacher’s gun and a gold bracelet, removed from the man’s wrist. As they left the property, the thieves warned the couple not to call the police for at least an hour or they would be killed. It was subsequently discovered that bank cards had also been stolen and used to withdraw cash. A car belonging to another conspirator was identified at the locality of the withdrawals and detectives linked him to the other defendants. The court heard that the victim is due to have his foot amputated, despite nineteen operations to save it. After three of the men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and having a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, they were jailed for nineteen years, twenty years and twenty years, respectively. The first man admitted the same offences, as well as grievous bodily harm with intent, and was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of fifteen years.
- Armed police officers seized shotguns and bolt action rifles from a property in Sandridge Common, Wiltshire after discovering they were not being stored securely. The owner’s firearms licence has been revoked.
We note at least eight reports concerning the use of police Tasers.
- At least four cats have been shot and injured in Aberdeenshire, Gloucestershire, North Wales and West Sussex. Another cat had to be put to sleep after being shot in Leicestershire. Two men have been arrested after allegedly firing an airgun from a rooftop in Tyne and Wear and reportedly hitting a pet dog.
- Passengers on a bus witnessed a man shooting pigeons under a railway bridge in Devon. Police appealed for information following reports of a man shooting seagulls from a flat in East Sussex. A swan has been released into the wild after being shot in the face and receiving treatment from the RSPCA in Leicestershire. Another swan has died after being shot in Kent and a cygnet has died after being shot in West Sussex. A goshawk has been found dead in Inverness-shire with apparent gunshot injuries. A calf has been seriously injured after being shot in the eye in North Wales.
- A horse has been put to sleep after being shot in the hip in Hull, East Yorkshire. Police believe the horse was shot with an air rifle, while its owner, a vet and a gun expert agree that the animal’s injury was too severe to have been caused by such a weapon.
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.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 54 reports in July 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Two 21-year-old men have been jailed for a total of seventeen-and-a-half years after admitting conspiracy to rob. In May last year, the pair were part of a gang that broke into a home in Oxford, Oxfordshire, occupied by a woman and her four children. One of the assailants pointed what appeared to be a sawn-off shotgun at the woman before the gang was scared off by the family dog. The court heard that the attackers had mistakenly believed the house to be a drugs den.
- A 31-year-old former soldier was handed a suspended twelve-month prison term and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, complete a ten-day rehabilitation activity requirement and pay a £156 victim surcharge after he pleaded guilty to possession of a Taser and drug offences. Following a tip-off in August 2019, police officers recovered a stun gun disguised as a phone, cannabis and cocaine from the man’s home in Newport, South Wales. The court heard that the man has suffered poor mental health and struggled with drug misuse since being medically discharged from the army in 2010.
- A 49-year-old former navy sailor has been handed a suspended six-month prison term and ordered to complete twenty days of rehabilitation activities and 80 hours of unpaid community work after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In May this year, the man called police to say he had a gun and that he wanted to be shot. The two responding officers retreated after the man pulled a gun on them and aimed it at one officer’s head. Armed officers were called in and a police negotiator persuaded the man to surrender the gun. After he was arrested at his home in Paignton, Devon, the weapon was found to be an unloaded air-powered handgun.
- A father and son have been jailed for twenty years and twelve years, respectively, after being found guilty of conspiracy to rob, while an accomplice received a six-year sentence after admitting the same offence. The three men were involved with a gang that advertised cars for sale on eBay. When victims arrived to view or buy the vehicles, they were attacked with hammers or machetes, or threatened with guns, before having their money stolen. On one occasion, a woman who had travelled with her two-year-old child to view a vehicle in Gorton, Manchester, escaped after armed men tried to get into her taxi. In court, the father was described as a “manipulative” criminal who distanced himself from the crimes, while his son was involved in setting up the eBay accounts. The third man’s DNA was found on a hammer recovered by police, but he denied brandishing weapons or injuring anyone. It is believed that other gang members remain at large.
- A 40-year-old man has been handed a five-month prison sentence, to be added to the sentence he is currently serving for an arson offence, after pleading guilty to assisting the possession of a firearm and ammunition without a certificate. In March last year, the 40-year-old was paid £500 to buy a sniper rifle and ammunition from a second man in Liverpool, Merseyside and deliver it to a third man outside a pub in Leeds. National Crime Agency officers, linked to an ongoing investigation into an encrypted phone network, recovered the bolt-action rifle and 213 non-compatible rounds of ammunition from outside the home of the third man the following month and he has since been found guilty of possessing an automatic pistol, a bolt-action rifle and two counts of possession of cocaine. The second man, whose DNA was found on the rifle, has since been sentenced to sixteen months in prison for his involvement.
- A 35-year-old former police support officer has been jailed for 27 months after admitting making an improvised explosive device (IED), three counts of possession of a prohibited weapon and two counts of inappropriately importing goods, namely butterfly knives. When police officers searched her home in Lincoln, Lincolnshire in October last year, they recovered a stun gun, knives, an illegal electric fly swatter, dangerous substances and an IED made from a modified shotgun cartridge. Nearby homes were evacuated as a bomb disposal team safely disposed of the items. The court heard that the woman ran a YouTube channel dedicated to “survivalist purposes” and experimented with setting fire to things and causing explosions. The judge accepted that she “had no malicious intent to cause deliberate harm to anybody or to damage property”.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for two years and eight months after pleading guilty to attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April this year, the man demanded money from the owner of a pizza shop in Eston, North Yorkshire while threatening him with a “long barrelled black gun”. When an employee called the police, the assailant fled, empty-handed, being arrested shortly afterwards. The court heard that the man had planned the robbery because he wanted money to buy a puppy after his own dog died. Having learning difficulties, autism and ADHD, he had “depended heavily on the dog for emotional support”. In a victim statement, the shop owner described how the attack had affected his “mental and psychological health”, having believed the gun was real during the “terrifying” attack.
- A 63-year-old man has been handed a suspended fourteen-month prison term and ordered to undertake a 35-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a twelve-month alcohol treatment programme after admitting affray. In September 2019, the man called the police to say he was feeling suicidal. When two officers called to his home in Dereham, Norfolk, he pointed an air pistol at them. After they disarmed and arrested the man, the officers reported that they had felt terrified, believing they were about to be shot with what looked like a black revolver. The court heard that the man, who has a long history of alcohol dependency and depression, apologised to the officers after the incident.
- A 36-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing ammunition without a certificate, possessing Class A and B drugs and money laundering. In January this year, police officers saw the man drop a bag as he ran away from a parked car in Harpurhey, Manchester. The bag was found to contain a magazine for a self-loading pistol, loaded with twelve cartridges. The man was arrested nearby and officers subsequently searched his home, recovering drugs worth between £85,000 and £200,000, as well as a self-loading handgun and 30 rounds of ammunition. The court heard that the man had developed a cannabis habit while off work with a back injury and had agreed to look after “these items” after getting into drug debt.
- A 20-year-old woman has been jailed for five years for possession of a firearm, with a concurrent fifteen-week term for possessing ammunition without a certificate. In November last year, a man with whom she had “an on–off relationship” asked her to store a bag under the stairs at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester, adding that she wasn’t to ask questions or tell anyone where it was. A few days later, while the woman was visiting a neighbour’s house where two other women and children were present, a group of masked men entered the property. One of them held a knife to the 20-year-old woman’s throat and demanded to know where the firearm was. During her subsequent police interview, the woman failed to mention the bag she’d been given. However, after finding it contained a modified pistol and five bullets, she told her mother who, in turn, alerted police. The court heard that the woman has since changed address several times for fear of her own safety. The judge did not consider the woman’s recent epileptic seizures or her current pregnancy to be exceptional circumstances that would enable him to reduce the minimum mandatory sentence.
- A 35-year-old man, a 30-year-old man and a 29-year-old man have been jailed for their involvement in a firearm transaction in January last year. The trio helped two men from Hemel Hempstead set up a meeting to collect a gun from an armourer living on a residential street in Oldham, Greater Manchester. After surveillance officers witnessed the transaction, armed police stopped the men’s car and recovered a loaded Turkish pistol and eleven rounds of ammunition. Phone data revealed the defendants’ involvement, despite them ceasing contact with each other after the weapon transfer. The two older men were sentenced to thirteen years and fourteen years, respectively, after being convicted of conspiracy to transfer a firearm and ammunition, while the youngest man was jailed for eight years and three months after pleading guilty to the same charge. The three men were also made subject to a Serious Crime Prevention Order, which will ban them from having more than one electronic device for five years on release from custody. The two men who collected the gun are due to be sentenced at a later date.
- Four men have been jailed for their involvement in a targeted shooting. One evening in March 2019, two of the men knocked at an address in Northolt, West London before one of them pointed a shotgun through the letterbox and shot at a man as he approached the door. Fortunately, the man turned sideways and the shot only grazed his chest. His assailants fled in a previously stolen car that was later pursued by police officers who noticed it was being driven erratically. When they crashed into bollards, the two men were arrested on suspicion of driving offences before two large hunting knifes were found in the vehicle, with more weapons subsequently found at their homes. The court heard that the victim had been targeted because he refused to “give up” the whereabouts of his brother, who had angered two drug lords operating in the area. The four offenders, trusted drug runners for the dealers, were recruited to carry out the assassination attempt, with one carrying out reconnaissance beforehand and another being linked to the case when phone and data evidence proved contact with the other defendants, and his fingerprints were discovered inside the getaway vehicle. Three men were sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder, with concurrent sentences for other offences, while the man who carried out the reconnaissance was jailed for eighteen years for his lesser role.
- Four men involved in a criminal network that arranged for drugs, firearms and ammunition to be imported into the UK have been failed for a total of 42 years. The first and second men organised the purchase of pistols, ammunition and heroin from Turkey while a third brought them into the UK, hidden in his lorry, before handing them to a fourth man in Thetford, Norfolk. Following a surveillance operation, armed police officers arrested two of the men and recovered six pistols, 126 rounds of ammunition and over 1kg of heroin with a street value of approximately £100,000. Simultaneously, the other two were arrested while they waited at a safe house in Aylesbury. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “I am satisfied that this operation has kept the lethal weapons from the hands of criminals and this has prevented serious if not fatal shootings within London or further afield.”
- After he “randomly” fired a paintball gun at houses, fences and cars in a residential area of Thurso, Caithness, a 20-year-old man was fined £200, having pleaded guilty to culpably and recklessly discharging the gun.
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: July 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. 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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