March 2022 Review

by Gun Control Network on 16-04-2022

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 March 2022 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 March 2022.

                                               Figure 1: March 2022 incident reports by type

Gun Deaths

We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summaries for 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-2021 and 2020-22 are available at www.gun-control-network.org

We are aware of one report in March 2022 concerning two gun deaths:

  • After the bodies of a man and a woman were found at a flat in Halesowen, West Midlands, a police spokesperson said that it is believed the man shot the woman before turning the gun on himself. The case has been referred to the coroner and no other suspects are being sought.

Inquests

We are aware of four reports in March 2022 concerning gun death inquests:  

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a woman in Whitehaven, Cumbria in October last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound. The woman was found dead outside her partner’s home, with his legally-held shotgun at her side. The inquest heard that the woman had been feeling anxious and had not been sleeping well before her death.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Ynysybwl, Glamorgan in April last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun injury to the head. The inquest heard that, following a row with his partner, the man set fire to his home before shooting himself. A shotgun was found beside the victim, who, despite there being a gun room at the property, was not known to have owned such a firearm.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Kensington, Central London in May last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound. The man was found dead on his bed at home, with a double-barrelled shotgun between his knees. A suicide note had been left nearby. The inquest heard that the man had been suffering from terminal cancer and had been told he had “weeks” to live.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in December last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being an “extensive gunshot head injury”. The man, a firearm certificate holder, was found dead inside a vehicle in a car park in Herne Bay, Kent. As the man had been in contact with the police leading up to his death, an internal investigation was carried out; however, no misconduct issues were identified.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of seven reports in March 2022 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Gun Deaths above — The body of a man and a woman have been found dead from gunshot wounds in the West Midlands.
  • After threatening his partner and her sister with a BB gun at an address in Harleston, Norfolk in February last year, a 41-year-old man has been found guilty of two counts of possessing an imitation firearm. Accepting that the man suffered from a delusional disorder, the judge imposed a two-year supervision order with a requirement that he receives treatment from a consultant psychiatrist.
  • A 57-year-old man has been jailed for eight months after pleading guilty to assault causing actual bodily harm. When his nephew and his nephew’s partner visited him at his home in Caernarfon, Gwynedd, the man tried to show them an imitation pistol. As the pair tried to disarm him, the gun was fired twice, hitting the nephew in the forehead and the nephew’s partner, who was holding a six-month old baby, in the arm. The court heard that the perpetrator was drunk at the time of the incident.
  • A 37-year-old man has been convicted of assault after shooting an 8-year-old boy in the back with a BB gun at his home in Glasgow, Scotland.
  • A 32-year-old man from Stowmarket, Suffolk, has pleaded guilty to controlling and coercive behaviour and damaging property, and has been convicted of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In September 2020, the man held a BB gun to his partner’s head, saying, “Tell me who has been messaging you or else.” On the same day, he kicked her and smashed a laptop against her back. The court heard that the woman was “petrified and intimidated”, believing the comment to be a threat.
  • After admitting to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and unlawful possession of a .22 revolver, a 79-year-old man has been given Hospital Orders under Section 37 and Section 41 of the Mental Health Act, authorising his detention until further assessments can take place. In February last year, the man fatally shot his wife with a revolver at their home in Bexhill, East Sussex. He was treated in hospital for a bullet wound to the head before being interviewed.
  • After they allegedly beat a man with a hammer and a hockey stick, and threatened him with an air rifle and a pen knife, in Long Stratton, Norfolk in 2018, two men have been charged with actual bodily harm, racially aggravated harassment, and assault by beating.

Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least two reports in March 2022 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Inquests above A woman in Cumbria took her own life using her partner’s licensed gun.
  • A licensed gun owner from Kent took his own life with a gun.

We are aware of at least ten reports involving the use of police Tasers, including:

  • Following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a police officer has been charged with grievous bodily harm. In May 2020, the officer shot a man with a Taser in Haringey, North London. The victim, who was running away from officers when he was shot, fell over a wall and suffered injuries that have left him paralysed from the chest down.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least seven reports in March 2022 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun: 

  • A cat has died after being shot in the stomach in Cornwall and a further two cats have been injured in separate attacks, both being blinded in an eye, after being shot in Durham and Hampshire.
  • The RSPCA has launched an investigation after the bodies of a pigeon, two ducks, and a coot, all suspected to have been shot dead, were found at a pond in Newport, South Wales.
  • A post-mortem examination on the body of a buzzard found dead in Flouch, Peak District revealed that the bird had been shot by a shotgun. An RSPB Investigations Officer said: “Here is yet another bird of prey which has been found shot dead within the National Park…. it is one of the UK’s number one raptor crime hotspots. This simply cannot continue. Bringing persecution to an end inside and outside these landscapes will require government action, and we echo the recommendations found in the recently published UN wildlife crime report including the implementation of licences for driven grouse shooting, which can then be revoked if raptor persecution is found to have occurred.“
  • A male swan is receiving specialist care after being shot five times with an air gun in Carcroft, South Yorkshire. Its mate, found dead nearby, had been shot four times in the neck and abdomen. It is believed the pair, who had been seen together shortly before they were attacked, had been making preparations for their annual nesting. Swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to deliberately injure, take, or destroy a swan, their eggs or nesting habitat.
  • Two swans, likely a breeding pair, found dead in a canal in Iver, Buckinghamshire are thought to have been killed with an 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.

Border Force and National Crime Agency

We are aware of at least two reports in March 2022 relating to the above, including:

  • A 36-year-old man has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to importing firearms. In July last year, Border Force officials in Dover, Kent recovered 21,550 cigarettes and three converted Ekol model Gediz self-loading gas pistols from the cab of a lorry in which the man was a passenger. The weapons were found hidden in a wine box inside a rucksack. In addition, two men attempting to enter the UK illegally were discovered in the trailer of the lorry. When interviewed by National Crime Agency investigators, the 36-year-old said he had been asked to bring the rucksack to England but was unaware of its contents. He received a further sentence of four months for revenue evasion on cigarettes.

Sentences and Convictions 

We are aware of at least 49 reports in March 2022 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including: 

  • A 31-year-old man has been jailed for ten years and ten months after pleading guilty to possession of three prohibited firearms, possession of ammunition for a firearm without a certificate and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. In March last year, police officers recovered three handguns, three detached magazines and eight rounds of live ammunition from a cash box hidden down the side of his bed in a flat in Hackney, East London. Crack cocaine and heroin were found in the kitchen, along with drugs paraphernalia. The address was searched after the man supplied an undercover officer with crack cocaine.
  • A father and two sons have been jailed for a total of seven years and ten months after pleading guilty to violent disorder: The father received three years, while the sons each received two years and five months. The charges relate to a dispute over land ownership, which resulted in the defendants threatening members of another family at a site in Widnes, Cheshire. Shots were fired during the incident and workers at the site were intimidated, though no one was injured. Police subsequently recovered a long-barrelled gun from an address linked to the older man.
  • A 27-year-old man has been jailed for a minimum of 23 years after being found guilty of murder. Following a feud between two families, the 27-year-old fatally shot a man near a children’s play area in Glasgow, Scotland in July 2017. He fled to Europe after the shooting but was arrested in Portugal in 2019.
  • A 29-year-old man  has been jailed for seven years and two months after pleading guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of prohibited ammunition. He was the last member of a gang to be sentenced for possession of ammunition and a Retay Turkish XR 9mm self-loading pistol, which had been modified into a live-firing weapon. After he collected the firearm from an armourer in Oldham, Greater Manchester, surveillance officers stopped his car and recovered the weapon, along with fourteen rounds of ammunition. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “This was clearly a sophisticated group who were operating across the country and moving guns that were converted into lethal weapons and moving them onto the streets of Greater Manchester. Our proactive work and thorough investigation has led to these men being taken off the streets along with dangerous guns that could have led to devastating consequences.”
  • Two men have been jailed for twenty-five years and six years, nine months, respectively, after carrying out a kidnap and an armed robbery in Leeds, West Yorkshire. In December 2018, the men entered a shop where the first man held a handgun to a customer’s head and threatened to shoot him if they weren’t given money. After the second man stole cigarettes, cash from the till and a charity box, the pair fled. However, the first man returned shortly afterwards and fired the gun, just missing a man behind the counter. A few days later, the two pair forced their way into a man’s home, tied him to a chair and threatened him with a handgun and a large knife, shouting, “Where’s the money?”. After the victim told them they must have the wrong address, the first man discharged the weapon and his victim felt something hit his left temple. In desperation, the victim told them he could get money from someone else, but after the pair drove him to the house indicated, the man escaped and flagged down a police car. The following day, police officers detained the perpetrators after a short chase. One was found to be carrying a lock knife, while the other had a pistol, lock knife and a key to the car they had stolen from outside their kidnap victim’s home. The first man was convicted of kidnap, possession of a firearm at the time of the kidnap, possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, robbery and possession of a firearm at the time of the robbery. He pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate, possession of a firearm when prohibited, possession of ammunition when prohibited and having an article with a blade or point. The second man pleaded guilty to robbery, threatening another with an article with a blade or point and having an article with a blade or point.
  • After he was captured on dashcam brandishing an imitation gun while sitting on the back of a moped in Wrexham, North Wales, a 20-year-old man admitted possession of an imitation firearm and was handed a suspended twelve-week term at a young offenders’ institution.
  • Seven men who were involved in a plot to move guns and ammunition between cities in the UK have been jailed for a total of more than 50 years. In August 2020, specialist police officers stopped a car in Leicester, Leicestershire and recovered a sports bag containing four handguns, magazines and ammunition. Mobile phones belonging to the group members revealed messages regarding the illegal transfers. After pleading guilty to conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons and conspiracy to transfer ammunition, the men were jailed for periods ranging from eight years to ten years and two months.
  • A 25-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting two counts of grievous bodily harm, two counts of actual bodily harm, possession of an imitation firearm with intent, possession of cannabis, driving without insurance and otherwise in accordance with a licence. In June last year the man fired an imitation gun at his ex-partner's new boyfriend outside a pub in Stourbridge, West Midlands. He then drove his car into a crowd of people gathered there, injuring three of them, including a pregnant woman who became trapped under the vehicle. The perpetrator fled the scene but handed himself in a few days later.
  • After a 30-year-old man, admitted possessing a shotgun without a certificate and a 37-year-old man admitted possessing a firearm without a certificate, each was handed a twelve-month community order with one hundred hours of unpaid work. The court heard that the 30-year-old man bought a single-barrelled, self-loading 12-bore shotgun from a farmer, registered it the name of a friend who already held a licence, and used it for clay pigeon shooting. The 37-year-old man claimed not to know that the .22 air rifle he had owned for ten years had been modified, saying he used it only for target shooting in his mum’s back garden. The men were sharing a house in Meliden, Denbighshire when the firearms were discovered in April last year.
  • Two men, both aged 27, have been jailed for eleven years and seven years, respectively, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to transfer prohibited firearms. In July 2020, specialist police officers recovered 25 firearms from an address in Enfield, North London, some of which were loaded. The weapons had been procured from legitimate antique firearm dealers and were destined to be sold on with ammunition. The officers also discovered an ammunition factory at the property, and seized a bullet moulding press, lathes, bullet cases, bullet heads, and other component parts. One man was arrested at the scene, while the other was detained at his home address, where further firearms and ammunition were found. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “The seizure of these guns and the closure of an ammunition factory has contributed strongly to our long-term strategy of reducing violence and gun crime in London. An organised network and supply chain of guns with ammunition, into London gangs has been dismantled.”
  • A 75-year-old man has been jailed for 21 months after admitting possessing a firearm when prohibited and possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In February last year, the 75-year-old twice shot at a man who was walking with his daughter on a street in Hull, East Yorkshire. The man targeted, who says he had been stalked by his attacker for months, heard noises but thought they were caused by children throwing stones. However, a witness took a photo of the 75-year-old with a gun in his hand and reported him to police. 

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: March 2022 reports by weapon type

Notes

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. The Home Office fails to publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in non-fatal crime. 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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