June 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-07-2021
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 June 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 June 2021.
Figure 1: June 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 five reports in June 2021 concerning seven gun deaths:
- After being called to an address in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, police officers forced entry and discovered a child with serious injuries and a man, who was later confirmed dead. Officers deployed a stun gun at a second man in the property before firing shots at him. Despite receiving first aid from ambulance crews, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has opened an investigation into the incident.
- The bodies of a married couple have been found at their home in Southport, Merseyside. Post-mortem examination determined that the woman died from a shotgun wound to the chest, while the man died from a shotgun wound to the head. Detectives have opened a murder investigation but are not looking for anyone else.
- Police officers responded after a man was shot in the back of a taxi in Oldbury, West Midlands. The victim was treated at the scene by paramedics but died in hospital shortly afterwards. The taxi driver was not injured but was said to have suffered severe shock. No arrests have yet been reported.
- Emergency services responded after a man was found with gunshot injuries in Balham, South East London. The victim died in hospital shortly afterwards. Police have appealed for information.
- A teenage male, found suffering from gunshot injuries in Islington, North London, was pronounced dead in hospital shortly afterwards. Cause of death was given as a gunshot wound to the head. A man has since been charged with murder. Police have appealed for information.
We are aware of at least four inquest reports in June 2021 relating to five gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the deaths of a separated couple in Winsford, Somerset in February last year has concluded that the woman was unlawfully killed, while the man died by suicide. Two months after leaving her husband, the woman returned to their joint home with a friend to collect her possessions and two dogs. As she and her estranged husband walked the dogs, he shot her twice in the back with a shotgun. After confessing to the friend, the man locked her in an outbuilding before shooting himself. The woman managed to escape and alert the police, and officers found the wounded man nearby. He had suffered severe facial injuries caused by the shotgun and died in hospital five days later. The inquest heard that police had taken away nine of the man’s guns after he was stopped for drink driving seventeen days before the shootings and it remains unclear where the shotgun used had come from. The Independent Office for Police Conduct did not identify any learning from the incident.
- An inquest has been opened and adjourned following the death of an off-duty police officer, whose body was found in the gym at the police unit at Luton Airport, Bedfordshire at the end of last month. A police handgun and two bullets were found next to the man’s body and cause of death was given as a gunshot wound to the head. It is not believed that anybody else was involved. Bedfordshire Police has referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the incident.
- Jury members at the inquest into the death of a man shot by Metropolitan Police officers in April 2018, have unanimously concluded that he was lawfully killed. In what his long-term partner described as a “cry for help”, the man called police from a petrol station in Romford, East London and made threats, claiming to have a firearm and saying he had taken a drug overdose. Around an hour later, the man was shot as he lifted a firearm towards the responding officers; he was pronounced dead soon afterwards. The man’s weapon was subsequently found to be a modified air rifle.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man at a shooting range in Tameside, Greater Manchester has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a traumatic brain injury from a gunshot wound to the head. The man, a regular at the range, visited the site in November last year and asked a member of staff if he could try out a 22 calibre Rim Rifle. Once alone, the man discharged the firearm at his temple and, despite emergency first aid, died in hospital shortly afterwards. The inquest heard that the man had visited his GP in the summer before he died, reporting a “low mood” after the breakdown of a relationship. He requested counselling and was prescribed anti-depressants. A month before his death, the man told a friend that he wanted to die and, after his death, notes “of intent'” were found at the shooting range and on his laptop. Although a regular at the range, the man was not a member and, therefore, had not undergone a police vetting process, during which his medical history would have been sought. Evidence was also heard that, under the 1968 Firearms Act, a person can use a miniature rifle at a range without certificate and that, though the legislation comes with guidance about supervision, the level of supervision is not clearly stated. A new system has since been introduced at the range where the man died, whereby the firearms are tethered to the firing point. The coroner said that he would be filing a Regulation 28, Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Home Secretary, due to “the absence of coherent legislation about how miniature rifle ranges should operate”. A response must be given in writing by the Home Secretary within 28 days.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least seven reports in June 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- See Gun Deaths above — A seriously injured child and the body of a man were discovered in a Buckinghamshire home, where police shot a second man who later died.
- The bodies of a married couple were found with fatal shotgun injuries in Merseyside.
- See Inquests above — A woman in Somerset was unlawfully killed by her estranged husband, who later died from self-inflicted shotgun wounds.
- A 32-year-old man has been jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April this year, the man sent his ex-partner a video in which he threatened to shoot her and any boyfriend she had. Four rounds of ammunition and what looked like a real gun could be seen in the video. The victim confided in a midwife during a hospital appointment that she was scared of her ex-partner but refused to provide a statement. After the midwife reported the conversation to police, armed officers arrested the man at his home in Hilton, Derbyshire and recovered a starting pistol and ammunition.
- A 50-year-old former soldier has been jailed for eighteen months after being convicted of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and having admitted using violence to secure entry. After his partner broke up with him and stopped returning his calls and messages, the man forced his way into her new home in Sudbury, Suffolk and pointed a BB gun at her. The court heard that the incident had a “significant effect” on the victim, causing her to move out of her home because of what happened there. According to the judge, the perpetrator has not shown any real remorse for his actions. He has, however, been in contact with a veterans’ organisation, which has suggested he might be suffering from PTSD.
- After police officers saw him point a handgun at a house in Burnley, Lancashire before posting it through the letterbox in an effort to incriminate the occupants, a 37-year-old man was jailed for 26 weeks, having pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm, an air pistol, and possessing a knife in a public place.
- After his ex-partner took a screenshot of him holding an imitation gun while he threatened to shoot her during a video call, a 22-year-old man from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, has been jailed for two years and two months, having pleaded guilty to harassment and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear. He was also made the subject of a restraining order banning him from contacting his victim.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns, Ammunition and Stolen Guns
We are aware of at least nine reports in June 2021 which we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns, ammunition and stolen guns, including:
- See Gun Deaths above — A man died after being shot by police in Buckinghamshire.
- See Inquests above — An inquest has been opened and adjourned after the body of a police officer was discovered alongside a police handgun in a police facility in Bedfordshire.
- A man, who was later found to have been carrying a modified air weapon, died after being shot by police in East London.
- See Inquests above — A woman was found to have been unlawfully killed by her estranged husband, who later died from self-inflicted shotgun wounds in Somerset.
- Police are investigating a burglary at a property in Lakenheath, Suffolk, during which a locked gun cabinet containing five shotguns, three rifles and three sheath knives were stolen.
- A 22-year-old man has been handed an eighteen-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £180 in costs after he pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded shotgun in a public place and possession of a shotgun without a licence. In June last year, a member of the public reported seeing a shotgun being fired from the passenger window of a car in Cropredy, Oxfordshire. Police officers stopped the car shortly afterwards and recovered a Winchester semi-automatic, single-barrelled, pump-action shotgun and live cartridges from the rear seat. The court heard that the man’s father had lent the firearm to him to shoot vermin.
- Four members of a gang, who burgled homes across Leeds in June 2020, have been jailed. The gang stole Items including cars, watches, jewellery, cash and bank cards, damaging some homes to get rid of evidence by pouring oil and sugar or brandy over the floor, or by leaving taps turned on. At one house in Shadwell, West Yorkshire, a gun safe was forced open and two shotguns and ammunition were stolen. The following day, a shotgun and ammunition were taken from another house in the area.
- A 65-year-old man has been handed a four-month prison term after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm without a certificate. After receiving a tip-off, police officers recovered the dismantled parts of a rifle from a communal bin outside the man’s flat in Morley, West Yorkshire in August last year. A metal burr had been placed in the chamber to prevent the two bullets in the barrel being fired. Forensic examination revealed the man’s DNA and fingerprints on the weapon, which had been previously stolen from a gunsmith. The court heard that the man was a long-term drug user whose dealer had brought the firearm to his home. He told police that he had not made them aware of the weapon because he “feared for his safety as he would appear a grass”. Instead, he used knowledge gained in the military to dismantle the firearm.
- After police officers seized firearms from a property in Horsham, West Sussex, and a quantity of gunpowder was destroyed in a controlled explosion, a man was arrested on suspicion of failing to comply with conditions of a firearm certificate, possession of a prohibited weapon, and failing to comply with a condition of registration as a firearms dealer.
We note at least twelve reports concerning the use of police Tasers, including:
- A 43-year-old police officer has been jailed for eight years after being convicted of manslaughter. In August 2016, police officers were called to a disturbance at a property in Telford, Shropshire, where a man suffering a mental health crisis was acting in an “erratic” fashion. After trying to calm him down, the officer Tasered the man for 33 seconds — six times longer than the usual cycle — and kicked him at least twice in the head when he was on the ground. The man died around 70 minutes later after suffering a cardiac arrest. It is expected that the man will be sacked from the police following impending disciplinary proceedings.
- An inquiry by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has concluded that police officers acted lawfully when they Tasered a man at a petrol station in Stretford, Greater Manchester in May last year. The man was Tasered seven times in front of his five-year-old son after he resisted when officers tried to breathalyse him. The IOPC said that the evidence analysed “did not suggest that an officer may have acted in a way that justified disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence”. The investigation did, however, highlight several areas of learning, including improvements to electric weapon policies and training.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in June 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- At least three cats have been shot and injured in East Ayrshire, North Yorkshire and Warwickshire. Another cat had to be put to sleep after being shot in Essex.
- A herring gull had to be put to sleep after being shot in Denbighshire, and a swan suffered a slow and painful death after being shot in Berkshire. Police are investigating reports of wildlife shooting and poaching in Flintshire and, after a Freedom of Information Act enquiry, it has emerged that a dog was Tasered after it bit a police officer in Leicestershire.
- A Jack Russell dog had to be put to sleep after being found in Kent, badly injured and with maggots in an infected wound, believed to have been caused by a gun shot.
- An 80-year-old man has been fined £2,600 and banned from keeping animals after he pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering by shooting a cat with an air rifle. In September last year, the man shot a neighbour’s cat in the abdomen with an air rifle in Welling, Kent. The pet died the following day from complications of emergency surgery. Investigating the shooting, an RSPCA inspector said that man’s neighbour had kept a list of events leading up to the attack, including three threatening emails the man had sent her regarding the cat being in his garden. During a ballistics examination, the pellet extracted from the cat was found to be a match to the man’s air rifle.
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 48 reports in June 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 49-year-old man, of no fixed abode, has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of six years and two months after admitting two charges of robbery, two counts of having an imitation firearm with intent and attempted theft. In December 2019, the man threatened a cashier at a bank in Bournemouth, Dorset with an object that looked like a gun after passing her a note that began, “This is an armed”. When he demanded money, the cashier gave him a smoke-and-dye pack — a fake bundle wrapped in two twenty-pound notes. Five days later, the man carried out a similar raid at another bank in the town, fleeing with £590 after assaulting a member of staff. He was arrested after police officers recovered clothing, an imitation firearm and other items from a bin at a men’s toilet. The man’s DNA was found on the handle of the gun and on a demand note.
- After he brandished a paintball gun during a row about wearing a face mask at a takeaway restaurant in Pentre, Rhondda, a 57-year-old man, has been handed a twenty-month prison term, having pleaded guilty to cannabis production and possessing an imitation firearm in a public place with intent to cause fear of violence.
- After being found guilty of murder, a 19-year-old man and a 20-year-old man have been jailed for life, to serve at least 29 years in prison. In May last year, after travelling to an address in Haringey, North London on a stolen moped, they fatally shot a man in the head with a 9mm handgun as he opened the door to them. The court heard that the assailants had intended to carry out a targeted shooting to avenge the death of a friend who had been stabbed five days previously; however, they went to the wrong address and their victim was unconnected to the stabbing.
- A 55-year-old man has been handed a 27-month prison term after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with the intention to cause fear of violence and using threatening words/behaviour. After his neighbours complained to police about him playing loud music and banging on walls, officers called to the man’s home in Moston, Manchester. He brandished a BB gun and shouted from an upstairs window that he would shoot the officers “in the teeth”. Firearms officers were called in and, following six hours of negotiation, the man surrendered. The court heard that the man, who was struggling to deal with the death of his parents, had not taken his anti-psychotic medicine prior to his outburst, but had “downed” a bottle of vodka.
- Three men have been jailed after a police car was shot at during a high-speed chase in Worcester, Worcestershire. Sentences totalling over 32 years were passed after the men pleaded guilty to a number of firearms charges and two driving offences. In March last year, police officers in an unmarked vehicle noticed a Volvo car, occupied by the trio, suddenly speeding up. During the ensuing pursuit at speeds of up to 120mph, one officer heard a loud “crack” sound. Footage from the officers’ in-car camera later showed the driver's window of the Volvo being lowered, allowing a gun to be fired. The chase came to an end when the Volvo crashed into a fuel tanker and the police vehicle collided with another car. A pistol, a shotgun, 74 shotgun cartridges, a wooden axe, and a machete were recovered from the Volvo. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “This incident happened during the day when members of the public were going about their daily activities. Fortunately, no one was injured but this could have had a very different outcome.”
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and two counts of sending electronic communications with intent to cause distress or anxiety. After being evicted from his flat in Longsight, Manchester, the man returned to the property and pointed a firearm at the new occupant, demanding to know the whereabouts of belongings he had left behind. He told the woman to shout for her boyfriend before threatening to shoot them both. After firing the gun into the air five times, the man left. The gun, which has never been recovered, was said to have made a popping sound. The victim described it as a silver handgun but prosecutors accepted that it was probably an imitation firearm. The court heard that the man had been under the influence of cocaine and alcohol at the time of the attack and that the victim has sought therapy and anxiety medication, being left scared in her own home.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for eight years, eight months, with an extended licence of two years, four months for wounding with intent and being in possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In November last year, a police officer was called to a property in Desborough, Northamptonshire to investigate reports of a man with weapons. As the officer entered the property, the man shot him in the face three times with an airgun. The officer fired his Taser at the 40-year-old and, though it had no effect, managed to restrain him until backup arrived. The officer was treated in hospital where steel ball bearings were found lodged in his skull.
- Three men have been jailed for their involvement in a fatal shooting: A 28-year-old, a 22-year-old and a 20-year-old received minimum prison terms of 32 years, 28 years and 24 years respectively, for murder, with concurrent respective sentences of 20 years, 18 years and 17 years for attempted murder. Police officers responding to reports of a shooting in Queensbury, North West London in May 2018, found a male casualty with gunshot wounds; the victim died at the scene shortly afterwards. A second man self-presented at a local hospital with gunshot wounds, while a third man was taken to hospital for undisclosed reasons. All three men had been sitting in a car when one of two men on a stolen moped fired five shots into the vehicle. After the DNA of the 28-year-old was found on one of the bullet casings, he was arrested; however, at the time, there was not enough evidence to link him with the shooting. In March 2019, after a further five men were arrested and 131 mobile phones were recovered, forensic examination and data analysis identified the 22-year-old man as the shooter and pillion passenger, and the 20-year-old man as the moped rider. Officers also discovered lyrics at the home of the oldest man depicting his involvement in the murder. The case has only just been reported, following the conclusion of a linked trial.
- A 39-year-old man has been jailed for six years, and handed a three-year Serious Crime Prevention Order, after admitting being involved in serious organised crime between April and June 2020. An accomplice, who is yet to be sentenced for the same charge, was arrested after a major police operation resulted in two hand grenades, five slam guns, a revolver, more than 50 bullets and £27,650 worth of cocaine being seized from a property in Glasgow, Scotland. A Valium factory was also discovered in Renfrewshire, with 228,000 tablets recovered with a potential value of £114,027. The court heard that the police operation had been linked to Operation Venetic — an investigation into the top-secret Encrochat phone network used by criminals — and that the phone belonging to the 39-year-old man revealed incriminating messages, including one asking, ”Have you anywhere to put a toolbox with a few shotguns in it?” Officers also discovered that the accomplice had sent many photos of large quantities of drugs to the 39-year-old man, who had sent his collaborator a photo of firearms and messages regarding instructions about a variety of tasks. Two other defendants pleaded guilty to drugs charges: A 28-year-old man was jailed for two years and three months after admitting being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine, the other awaits sentence.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after admitting aggravated burglary and possession of an imitation firearm. In May last year, while on early release from a prison sentence for drugs offences, he disguised himself as a delivery driver and entered a home in Methwold, Norfolk. He threatened a family with an imitation gun and demanded gold and money, at one point threatening to shoot their dog. During a struggle with a family member, the 40-year-old hit the man on the head with the gun, causing a wound. He then fled empty-handed after warning the family that he would kill them if they went to the police. He was arrested later after his DNA was found on a mask he left behind at the scene. The gun was never recovered. The court heard that the man’s victims were left so terrified that they had moved home.
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for ten years after pleading guilty to robbery. In October last year, while dressed in a police uniform and carrying a Taser and imitation gun, the man pretended to carry out a police raid at his drug dealer’s home in Cardiff, Wales. He handcuffed the man, stabbed him twice in the leg and threatened to shoot him. He also handcuffed a woman present at the property. The man then stole £70 from a wallet before releasing the woman and going out with her to buy drugs. While they were out, another man found the victim covered in blood and emergency services were called in. Before police officers arrived, the 27-year-old and the woman returned to the flat, where the man hid the police uniform and threatened to kill his victims if they told anyone about the attack. He continued to threaten them via messages but was arrested the following month. The court heard that the man had carried out the attack because he had been offended by his drug dealer asking him to leave his property on a previous occasion.
- A 32-year-old man has been handed a suspended fourteen-month prison term with a twelve-week electronic curfew for possession of a firearm and a silencer without a certificate. The man was the owner of an air rifle that was used to fatally shoot a man in Carlin How, North Yorkshire in August last year. After finding the air rifle on the back seat of the man’s vehicle, a passenger began “messing with it”, before firing the weapon out of a window. A man, gardening at the front of his house, was shot in the chest and died shortly afterwards. The gun owner, who was initially arrested for murder, said he used the air rifle to shoot rats on private land and hadn’t realised it needed a firearms certificate. The court heard that he “bitterly regrets” his involvement in the incident.
- Three young men and a teenage boy have been sentenced to a total of 35 years for their involvement in an armed robbery. In October last year, the offenders forced their way into a house in Liverpool, Merseyside and threatened a couple and their newborn baby with machetes and an imitation firearm. After demanding money, they stole six American Bulldog puppies and fled in a car, stolen from outside the property. The offenders were quickly found and arrested, and all of the stolen property was recovered. The court heard that the victims, though uninjured, had been left “extremely shaken” by their ordeal.
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 2021 reports by weapon type
See 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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