May 2022 Review
by Gun Control Network on 20-06-2022
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 May 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 May 2022.
Figure 1: May 2022 incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile lists that summarise the available information. Our summaries for 2017 to 2022 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are not aware of any reports in May 2022 concerning gun deaths.
We are aware of one report in May 2022 concerning a gun death inquest:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a teenage boy in August last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the head. On the day of his death, the boy had an argument with his mother about shopping for clothes, after which she dropped him at home. The boy then phoned his father in great distress and both parents rushed to the family house in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, where they found him on the floor of a bedroom. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, the boy was declared dead shortly afterwards. The inquest heard that the boy had been having a difficult time at school and had reported being sexually assaulted by a man five months before his death. The boy had enjoyed clay pigeon shooting with his father and brother, and had saved up money to buy a shotgun, which was held under a certificate in his father’s name. A number of firearms were kept in a secure cabinet at the family home and the boy’s father told the inquest that, as far as he was aware, his son did not know where they keys were kept. The coroner, however, noted that the keys were easy to find.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of three reports in May 2022 that we believe to relate to the above:
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for six years and nine months after pleading guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and being in possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to cause his victim to believe unlawful violence would be used against him. In March last year, the man used a pistol to try to break a couple’s car window in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire after their vehicle was blocked in by another car. The couple, who were known to the offender, managed to drive off and alert police. Officers subsequently recovered a knife, ammunition, shotgun cartridges and three 9mm rounds compatible with a handgun at the man’s home address.
- After he threatened to shoot his mother with a realistic-looking BB gun at her home in Weston, Somerset, a man pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. He has now been handed a twelve-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and 35 days of rehabilitation.
- A father has been jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering his two-year-old son in November 2020. He was previously found guilty of nine other charges, including possession of an air gun. Two months after his parents separated, the toddler went to stay with his father in Muirhouse, Edinburgh. While he was asleep, his father shot him multiple times in the head with an airgun, going on to stab him with a skewer and smother him with a pillow. The man claimed to have acted in a “sick trip” after consuming alcohol with anti-depressant medication; however, the judge said that he had “acted out of spite to kill the child to get back at his mother”.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least six reports in May 2022 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Inquests above — A troubled teenage boy, whose family had a keen interest in shooting, took his own life with a licensed gun stored in his home.
- In August 2020, police officers searched a man’s home in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire after it was discovered that he had indecent images on his phone. As well as a snap bag of cocaine, officers found a side-by-side shotgun in an unlocked cabinet and a Beretta under-and-over shotgun on a table. The man has since pleaded guilty to possessing child abuse images, possessing cocaine and not keeping his shotguns secure in line with the terms of his firearms certificate.
- Three men, who carried out an armed raid at a house in Upminster, East London, have been jailed for a total of over fifty years. In May 2020, the men forced their way into a home occupied by a mother, father, son and daughter. The intruders held a knife to the mother’s throat and demanded to know where their safe was kept. When the family told their attackers they didn’t have a safe or any money, offering jewellery instead, a knife was put to the son's throat and his life was threatened. The father struggled with an assailant for a time before being knocked out. When he came to with blood running down his face, he saw one of his own shotguns (usually kept locked up) on the floor. Fearing for his life, he picked up the gun before fighting over it with one of the intruders. The father said that the other man had his finger on the trigger as the gun then discharged, shooting the son in his shoulder. Following this, the thieves fled with around £20,000 worth of jewellery and watches. The son recovered from his injuries after being put into an induced coma, the mother was treated for a throat injury and the father required staples for a head wound.
- A 58-year-old man has been fined £500 and had his shotgun certificate revoked after admitting failing to comply with its conditions. In January this year, police and fire officers visited the man’s home in Glassonby, Cumbria to check how his firearms were being stored. While some guns were locked in a secure cabinet, one 20-bore, side-by-side double-barrelled shotgun was found under a bed. The man, a farmer, told the officers that the weapon had been left there for “security purposes” as he and his wife had been scared by burglaries. The judge ordered the forfeiture of his four shotguns and ammunition.
- Armed police officers were deployed to arrest a man after he allegedly stole firearms, ammunition, alcohol, tools and jewellery from a farm in Sevenhampton, Wiltshire.
- Three men allegedly broke into a home in Fovant, Wiltshire and removed a rifle from a gun cabinet, leaving the weapon inside the property after being disturbed by the homeowner’s return.
We are aware of at least three reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least twelve reports in May 2022 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Police have appealed for information after a member of the public found the body of a sparrow hawk in a plastic bag, in a ditch, in Thorne, South Yorkshire. The sparrow hawk had been stuck to a bamboo stick with glue and shot with a suspected pellet gun. Sparrow hawks are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
- A 63-year-old man has been ordered to pay £5,781.57 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to two counts of carrying out an operation on an animal other than in a slaughterhouse without a licence registered with the competent authority and one count of shooting a bovine animal in the back of head at premises other than a slaughterhouse. In September 2020, the man shot a cow in the back of the head at a farm in Marsden, West Yorkshire and removed a cow’s spine in Gisburn.
- Police officers arrested a 17-year-old youth on suspicion of possessing of a firearm without a certificate after two swans and several pigeons were shot dead in New Alresford, Hampshire last week.
- Two seagulls were injured in Dorset; 2 swans died after being shot in Hampshire and a herring gull had to be put to sleep after being shot in the chest in South Wales.
- Four cats have died after being shot in gun attacks in Cheshire, Merseyside and South Wales. Three further cats have been injured after being shot in separate incidents in Scotland, South Wales and Wiltshire.
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, Cats Protection, 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 May 2022 relating to the above:
- A 47-year-old man has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to four counts of possessing a prohibited firearm, two counts of possessing a prohibited weapon, possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate, attempting to evade the prohibition on the importation of prohibited weapons and possessing a knife in a public place. Following a tip-off that he was selling two firearms online, police officers raided the man’s home in Glemsford, Suffolk in September last year and found knives, ammunition and guns, including two converted gas alarm pistols with a barrel less than 30cm in length and a converted Retay blank firing pistol. In addition, tools and components for weapons were found in a shed. After his arrest, Border Force officials intercepted two parcels addressed to the man’s home that contained flick knives and metal shocking prongs.
- A 32-year-old man has been jailed for 27 months after admitting attempting to possess a firearm. After it was discovered that the man had bought gun components online from the US, undercover officers posed as the seller during negotiations for a second purchase of a Glock 17 barrel and automatic rifle parts. When police officers searched the man's business premises in Birmingham, West Midlands, they recovered the gun parts from the first purchase, a 3D printer and an ammunition press. Following sentencing, a National Crime Agency spokesperson said that the operation had "taken items including gun parts and a 3D printer out of circulation, which could have been used to create deadly weapons for use by organised crime groups".
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 47 reports in May 2022 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 21-year-old man and a 34-year-old man have been jailed for 35 years and 27 years, respectively, after being found guilty of three counts of attempted murder and possession of a firearm. In October 2020, the pair shot at three men in a park in Hackney, North London, mistakenly believing them to be rival gang members. One of the innocent victims was taken to hospital in a life-threatening condition, while the other two suffered less serious injuries. After an extensive investigation, the two perpetrators were arrested the following month. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “This was a terrifying incident in which three completely innocent people were left with serious injuries. It is pure luck that nobody was killed. Had it happened any earlier that evening, the likelihood is there would’ve been lots of children in the park - that doesn’t bear thinking about.”
- A 56-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen years after admitting possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possession of two shotguns, and possession of ammunition for a firearm without a certificate. In October last year, the man knocked at a neighbour’s door in Shildon, Co.Durham, brandishing a sawn-off shotgun. When she slammed the door in his face, he fired the shotgun through the front door and window of her home. When another neighbour came out of his home to investigate, the man aimed the firearm at him before returning to his own property. Armed police officers found the 56-year-old man still holding the shotgun, with shotgun cartridges in his pockets. The court heard that the man’s mental health had spiralled out of control during the Covid lockdown and that he believed his neighbours had been entering his house through the loft space, stealing items, releasing tarantulas and spiking his drinks. On sentencing, the judge commented on the perpetrator’s limited eyesight, telling him that he had no idea of the harm he was potentially causing.
- A man has been jailed for one year after being convicted of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In June 2020, the man was assaulted in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He pretended to be unconscious as he was collected by ambulance, but on hearing paramedics reporting that they had found a firearm among his belongings, he sat up, took a BB gun out of his bag and pointed it at one of them in “a threatening manner”. After the paramedic grabbed the gun and pressed an emergency button, the ambulance was driven straight to a police station. In a victim impact statement, the paramedic said he had thought the gun was real and described the incident as “harrowing”.
- A former Royal Marine has been jailed for five years and three months after pleading guilty to a charge of being involved in serious organised crime. The former Royal Marine used his position as an ammunitions storeman at HM Naval Base Faslane, near Garelochhead, Argyll & Bute, to try and sell live ammunition rounds. In addition, he and another ex-Marine used a Ministry of Defence-owned van to transport cannabis from England to Scotland. The crimes were uncovered when police cracked the encrypted criminal phone network, EncroChat.
- A 72-year-old man has been fined £350 after pleading guilty to possessing an air rifle without a certificate. Police officers seized the man’s air rifle after a neighbour heard him shooting at his house in Camelon, Falkirk. He told the officers he had been shooting at grey squirrels that had been gnawing the wiring in his loft. After ordering the forfeiture of the air rifle and pellets, the sheriff told the man that the maximum sentence he could have imposed was twelve months’ imprisonment, adding, "It seems to me that the public interest in requiring a licence for the possession of weapons, including air weapons, is considerable, and the available penalty, even on summary complaint, rather reflects that."
- A 21-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life and possession of a prohibited firearm. Following an investigation by the Organised Crime Partnership, specialist officers stopped a car on the M1 in Hertfordshire in August last year and recovered a converted blank-firing Turkish Retay 84FS self-loading pistol from under the front passenger seat. As he tried to flee from the vehicle, the suspect dropped a cigarette packet that contained several rounds of Italian 9mm blank cartridges, which had been modified by adding a steel ball bearing as a projectile.
- A 36-year-old man and a 34-year-old man have been jailed for life after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder and firearms offences. The 36-year-old supplied a 9mm self-loading pistol that was used to fatally shoot a man in Enfield, North London in March 2020. Just weeks later, he helped the 34-year-old obtain a new handgun, which the buyer planned to use to shoot a man in revenge for an attack on his mother’s house. The murder plots, part of an ongoing dispute between drug dealers, were exposed after police cracked the criminal messaging network, Encrochat.
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: May 2022 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. 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.
We note the Inquest this month into the tragic suicide of a troubled child who had easy access to a licensed gun in his home.
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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