June 2020 Review
by Gun Control Network on 15-07-2020
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 June 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 June 2020.
Figure 1: June 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 five reports in June concerning six gun deaths:
- Police and ambulance staff responded following reports of shots fired in Hackney, East London. A man was treated for gun injuries, but he died at the scene shortly afterwards. A man has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- A man died in hospital after being shot multiple times in a drive-by attack in Roydon, Essex. Police attended the scene following reports that several shots had been fired from a car occupied by a group of people. Two women were wounded during the shooting; their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. No arrests have yet been made.
- A man has died after being shot in Cheam, South London. Firearms officers found the victim on a residential street with gunshot injuries; he died at the scene shortly afterwards. No arrests have been made.
- A murder investigation has been launched after two men were fatally shot at a crowded lockdown party held in a car park in Manchester, Greater Manchester. The injured men were said to have self-presented at a local hospital with gunshot injuries; one man died shortly afterwards, while the other died later the same day. No arrests have been reported. Police confirmed they had been alerted to the gathering but had not broken up the party over “public disorder” fears.
- A man has been shot dead by firearms officers in Glasgow, Scotland. The man had reportedly stabbed six people, including two teenage boys and a police officer, at a hotel used to house asylum seekers during the Coronavirus crisis. An investigation into the shooting has been opened by Scotland’s Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.
We are aware of at least two reports of inquests in June relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Ashbourne, Derbyshire has concluded that he took his own life, cause of death being a shotgun injury. The man used his own shotgun to shoot himself in his car after becoming depressed. The inquest heard that he had been reluctant to report his low mood to his GP as he was afraid he would lose his firearms licence.
- An inquest into the death of a man in Llay, North Wales in May this year has been opened and adjourned. The man was found dead in his car in the staff carpark of a police station, with a shotgun on his lap. A provisional cause of death was given as a gunshot injury to the head.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least four reports in June 2020 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- A man has been jailed for two years and eight months after admitting causing actual bodily harm, breaching a restraining order and possessing a CS canister (classed as a firearm) when prohibited. In March of this year, the man rowed with his former girlfriend and her sister at a fast food restaurant in Leicester, Leicestershire before repeatedly spraying CS gas at their faces. Paramedics attended after the women suffered swollen and bloodshot eyes. The court heard that the man, who had previously set fire to his ex-partner’s home, had been angry about social media posts he felt his victims had been involved with.
- A 35-year-old man has been sentenced to sixteen years in prison with a further five years on licence after pleading guilty to fourteen offences, including Section 18 wounding, two counts of possessing a firearm while prohibited, two counts of possessing ammunition while prohibited, possessing five firearms while prohibited, two counts of possessing disguised firearms and three counts of possessing prohibited weapons. In June last year, following a row with his ex-girlfriend, the man discharged a firearm at her brother’s car and followed up by sending her threatening texts. Two weeks later, following an argument over money being taken from his grandmother’s account, the man had a “hostile exchange” with his uncle during which he pointed a handgun at him. The following morning, he and his uncle exchanged threats at his grandmother’s house in Manchester, Greater Manchester and their row culminated in the man shooting his uncle in the foot with a handgun, causing bleeding and a “significant fracture”. He was arrested later the same day and police officers found five stun guns at his home address. The court heard that the man had been using alcohol and drugs to cope with mental health problems at the time of the offences.
- A man has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of possessing a prohibited firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In February this year, he threatened his girlfriend’s father and brother with a sawn-off shotgun at their home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. After the two men smashed his rear window with bricks as he drove away, he stopped and fired the shotgun into the air. Following his arrest, police officers recovered the shotgun, and six cartridges from behind a fireplace at his home. The court heard that he had rowed with the two men about his girlfriend’s drug use.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for a year after admitting having an imitation firearm with intent to cause a person to believe that violence would be used against others, as well as threatening or abusive behaviour. After falling out with co-members of a vigilante group that targeted alleged paedophiles, the man contacted one of them by video call and showed her what appeared to be a black gun. He also showed her gold bullets with pointed ends before putting them in the gun and saying “bang, bang”. He then named two people he planned to shoot and later told one of those people that he was a “dead man”. When police officers went to the suspect’s home in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, he showed them where he had dumped a BB gun and pellets in nearby woods.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in June 2020 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquest above − A coroner reached a verdict of suicide relating to the death of a licensed gun owner in Derbyshire.
- An investigation into the shooting dead of a man in Glasgow, Scotland has been opened by Scotland’s Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. Police Firearms officers have been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct after a man was shot dead by firearms officers in Scotland.
- After two men were shot and injured by police in two separate incidents, one in East Yorkshire, the other in Wiltshire, both incidents have been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
- An investigation into an incident in November 2018, during which armed police officers fired five shots wounding a man in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, has concluded that the level of force used was proportionate and appropriate.
We note at least six reports involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- It has emerged that a man fell down some stairs at his home in Tottenham, North London after being Tasered by a police officer in April this year. A police spokesperson said that officers had attended the address as part of an operation tackling drugs supply; however, the man Tasered was not arrested. After an internal review found that there was “no indication of misconduct”, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for an urgent review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eleven reports in June 2020 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Two cats belonging to neighbouring families have died within six days of each other after what are believed to have been airgun attacks in Hertfordshire; a cat had to be put to sleep after being shot with an airgun in South Yorkshire; three cats are recovering after being shot in Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire and Oxfordshire; several dead pigeons that appeared to have been shot, were found by a dog walker in Lancashire; a number of chickens have been found shot dead on allotments in Norfolk; a badger has been found dead in North Wales, X-rays revealed it had been shot several times in the head with an airgun and also had injuries consistent with snaring; a cygnet has been shot in the beak in Oxfordshire; and two swans have been found shot dead in West Yorkshire.
- Armed police were deployed following reports of a man shooting at ducks in a park in Walworth, South London. A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm, and Class B drugs and an air rifle were seized.
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 two reports in June 2020 relating to illegal firearms:
- A 53-year-old man has been jailed for 21 months after admitting possessing offensive weapons, possessing a knife in a public place and possession of an imitation firearm. In February this year, Border Force officers searched the man’s car in Dover, Kent and discovered 28 bladed weapons in the boot, as well as a starter pistol and ammunition in the footwell. He told investigators that he had bought the weapons at a car boot sale in Croatia, planning to give the gun to his son and sell the knives at his shop in Bermondsey.
- A 28-year-old man has been handed a fifteen-and-a-half-year prison sentence after being found guilty of helping others to import guns from mainland Europe. Following a tip-off from the Organised Crime Partnership in 2017, Border Force officers in Coquelles, France seized 79 handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from a van en route to the UK. After another man was arrested for conducting the imports, armed police officers detained the 28-year-old and another man in Slough, Berkshire, where nine firearms were recovered from the passenger footwell of their van. Another gun was discovered in a shipping container and a further six firearms were recovered from across the UK. The two other men were each jailed for 26 years in March this year.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 39 reports in June 2020 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A man has been jailed for four years and two months after admitting making threats to kill, possessing an offensive weapon, affray, criminal damage, and other charges. In November last year, after a taxi driver pulled up in front of his car in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire to pick up a group of men, the man fired a paintball gun at the taxi and one of its passengers. After a second passenger kicked his car, the man fired the paintball gun six more times before driving off. Once the men were in the taxi, he returned and drove into its path before blocking the road with his own vehicle. He then used a crossbow to smash the back window of the taxi, pointed it at the passengers inside and said, “I’m going to kill you.” As he repeatedly tried to fire the crossbow, which failed to discharge, the men got out of the taxi and brought him to the ground. He escaped and fled in his car but was tracked down and arrested in December.
- A 58-year-old man has been handed a suspended eighteen-month prison sentence and ordered to complete thirty days of rehabilitation activity and fifteen hours of unpaid work after he admitted pointing an air rifle at police officers. In February this year, members of the man’s family contacted police to report a concern for his welfare. When officers called to his home in Scarning, Norfolk, he told them to go away before grabbing an air rifle from his cabinet and pointing it at them. The officers ran for cover and armed police were deployed to the address. In the meantime, the man’s brother managed to disarm him and he was arrested. The court heard that the air rifle had been unloaded during the incident and its safety switch had been on. The man, who suffers mental health difficulties, was said to have reached “a particularly low ebb” on the day in question.
- A 29-year-old man was handed a six-year prison term after he was found guilty of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate, and other drug-related charges. The man was arrested in October 2019 after police officers found him outside a hotel in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire carrying a loaded pistol. Drugs were subsequently seized from his hotel room and 100 rounds of blank ammunition, drugs, cash and valuable jewellery were recovered from his home address.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for eight years for possession of a prohibited firearm, handling stolen goods, being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and possession of criminal property. In 2018, police officers stopped the man while he was driving a stolen car. They found a handgun and blank cartridges in the passenger footwell of the vehicle and £8,000 in cash during a search of his home address. In addition, they discovered text messages that revealed he and his mother were both concerned with drug dealing in Salford, Greater Manchester. She was sentenced for drug offences while his two sisters, also involved in the “family” business received a suspended sentence and a community order respectively.
- A 19-year-old man has been handed a five-year prison term after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition, two charges of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply and possessing cannabis. The court heard that he had been forced to store a firearm for drug dealers to whom he owed money. In April this year, his mother and father alerted police after finding the weapon in his wardrobe at the family home in Kempton, Bedfordshire. The gun was examined and found to have been converted from a starting pistol to one capable of firing live rounds.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for twelve months after pleading guilty to three firearm offences. When police officers raided his home in Eston, North Yorkshire, they found Nazi memorabilia and a stash of weapons including crossbows, knives, swords, an air pistol, a replica AK-47 gun and ammunition. He had only just completed a suspended sentence for affray and criminal damage at the time of the raid and was prohibited from possessing firearms, air weapons and ammunition.
- A 39-year-old man has been jailed for twenty months after firing a BB gun at the windows of a house and a passing van in Folkestone, Kent.
- A man was handed a suspended twelve-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to possessing a weapon he was banned from owning for life. In March this year, while he was in prison for possessing firearms, police officers searched his mother’s home in Mexborough, South Yorkshire and found an air rifle and a box of ammunition under a bed. They also discovered a receipt in his name proving their purchase, as well as a second air rifle and two grenades in a wardrobe. The court heard that the man, who has autism, is obsessed with weapons and the army. The judge said he accepted that the man had the weapon with the intention of adding to his collection and “not for a violent purpose”.
- Six men have been jailed for a total of nearly 40 years after they all pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary. After learning on social media that a house in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire was rumoured to contain £10,000 cash and designer clothing, the gang armed themselves with a handgun, an axe, a machete, a hammer and a knife and travelled from London to the property identified. When a woman answered the door to them, the men pointed a gun at her face and demanded to know where the cash was. They then searched the house before fleeing with a handful of designer clothes, trainers and a small amount of cash. The gang’s van, tracked by Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, was stopped on the M2 and the men were arrested.
- Five men have been jailed for a total of almost 100 years for armed robberies across the West Midlands. Beginning in Northfield, West Midlands in October 2018, the gang robbed homes, shops, pubs and a bingo hall, scaring victims including young children with weapons such as sawn-off shotguns, machetes and knives. Four of the men were arrested from a stolen car the day after a house burglary and a jewellery box found in the vehicle was found to contain a note written by the victim’s children. Following their arrest, police searched a house and seized designer watches, a decoder key used to steal vehicles and a hunting knife used in several of the robberies. In another property, they discovered receipts for pawned jewellery and balaclavas.
- Two teenage boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have each been handed an 18-month youth rehabilitation order with a four-month curfew from 7pm to 7am. One of the boys admitted possession of a realistic imitation firearm with intent while the other pleaded guilty to possession of a bladed article. In March this year, the boys threatened a shopkeeper in Southampton, Hampshire with a BB gun and a knife before stealing cigarettes and tobacco. The boys have been banned from going to the shop and from contacting each other or their victim for eighteen months.
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: June 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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