November 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 10-12-2019
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 November 2019 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 November 2019.
Figure 1: November 2019 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 and 2018-19 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least two reports in November 2019 concerning gun deaths:
- A man has died two days after being shot in the head in Whitechapel, East London. Following the attack, a man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of murder; a second woman was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
- A police officer fatally shot a man on London Bridge in Central London who had stabbed five people, killing two of them. The man, shot twice in the chest by an officer belonging to an armed patrol in the area, was wearing a hoax bomb vest.
We are aware of at least three inquests in November 2019 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Dunbarton, West Dunbartonshire in April this year has concluded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun injury to the head. The man, who left a suicide note, was said to have been suffering from an “acute depressive illness” brought on by money worries and relationship problems. The deceased used his own shotgun, which he used for clay pigeon shooting. N.B. The inquest failed to record the status of the shotgun, however GCN believes it was legally held by the deceased.
- An inquest into the death of a man who was fatally shot in Liverpool, Merseyside in October 2018 has found that he was unlawfully killed. The victim was shot from behind by an unknown gunman outside his home. Police are treating the shooting as a targeted attack.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Crimplesham, Norfolk in June this year has said that he took his own life after becoming sleep-deprived against a background of anxiety and depression; his death was caused by a shotgun injury. The man, a clay pigeon shooter, who had become exhausted and fretful after working long hours, had been signed off work and prescribed anti-depressants in the weeks before he died; however, he had not expressed suicidal thoughts during the last conversation with his GP. The coroner said she had not reached a conclusion of suicide because she was not satisfied that the victim had the capacity to understand the consequences of his actions. N.B. The inquest failed to record the status of the shotgun, however GCN believes it was legally held by the deceased.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least three reports in November 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- One man has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years and another for eight years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm while committing a Schedule 1 offence, blackmail and theft. In October 2018, the men kidnapped a man at gunpoint outside his home in Leyton, East London and held him in a car for two hours threatening him with a gun and a knife. The victim’s wife received a ransom demand; however, the hostage was released without any money being paid. The man was able to identify his attackers as he had previously repaired mobile phones for them.
- A 26-year-old man has been handed a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to causing actual bodily harm and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In June, the man and an accomplice punched and kicked a man whom they believed was involved with the perpetrator’s ex-girlfriend, rendering him unconscious. The perpetrator also breached a non-molestation order by visiting his former partner’s address and smashing her car with a hammer. He later threatened her with an imitation firearm on a street in Taunton, Somerset. The man was also issued with a five-year restraining order against his ex-girlfriend and the male victim of his assault and ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge.
- A man has been jailed for fifteen years after pleading guilty to charges of child abduction, threats to kill, false imprisonment and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence. In August this year, the man tied up a woman at a house in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire and threatened her with an imitation firearm before abducting a child. A female accomplice, jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to the same charges, helped to restrain the victim and put a pillow over her head to stop her screaming; she later told police that she had been threatened by the man with the gun and was too afraid not to help him. After more than eight hours, the victim managed to escape and call the police. The man was arrested at a Spanish airport just before his plane was due to leave for Algeria and the child was found safe and well.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition.
We are aware of at least five reports in November 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:
- See Gun Deaths above — A man has been shot in Central London after what is believed to have been a terrorist attack.
- See Inquests above — Two men believed to be licensed shotgun owners from Norfolk and West Dunbartonshire, both of whom retained access to their shotguns despite being treated by their GPs for depressive illnesses.
- It has emerged that the Advocate General for Scotland and the UK Government’s most senior adviser on Scottish law, was convicted of failing to secure a firearm after an unsecured shotgun was found in a cupboard at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. The man pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a £1000 fine. A Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service hearing regarding an allegation of bringing the legal profession into disrepute in relation to his conviction, found the allegation of professional misconduct not proved.
- See Stolen Guns below — A former military armourer stole items from a historical collection of firearms at an army base in Wiltshire.
In addition we note at least five incidents involving the use of police Tasers including:
- It has emerged that a police officer has been charged with the murder of a man who died after being retained and Tasered in August 2016 outside a property in Telford, Shropshire. A second officer has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm in connection with the same incident.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in November 2019 relating to stolen guns:
- See Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers Legal Guns and Ammunition above — A former military armourer stole items from a historical collection of firearms at an army base in Wiltshire.
- Armed police officers responded following reports that a man had stolen a firearm from a property in Cornwall.
- Three men allegedly stole a ‘collector’s handgun’ and other items from a property in Oxfordshire.
- Two men allegedly broke into a shop in Derbyshire and stole airsoft weapons and other items.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least seven reports in November 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Four cats have been injured in airgun attacks in Derbyshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire, and another cat has died after being shot in North Yorkshire. A ‘therapy’ horse used to support people with mental health issues, was shot in the neck and suffered a broken vertebra in Derbyshire, and two swans have been shot and injured in West Sussex.
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 five reports in November 2019 relating to illegally-imported firearms:
- The head of a criminal drug supply network living in Codsall, Staffordshire, has been handed an eighteen-and-a-half-year prison term after admitting ten drugs and gun offences, including possession of two firearms and conspiracy to import a gun from Albania. A parcel of benzocaine shipped to the man from Hong Kong was intercepted, and following a complex investigation lasting several years, he was brought to justice along with four associates.
- A man has been jailed for five years after admitting possession of a prohibited weapon and cannabis after being stopped by National Crime Agency officers in Coventry, West Midlands. A number of other weapons were seized during subsequent searches of his home and another address.
- A man has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to gun smuggling. Border Force officers at the port of Dover, Kent, discovered a converted blank firing handgun in the man’s car and, subsequently, 59 similar weapons were found hidden in the vehicle.
- Two men from London have each been sentenced to eight years, three months in prison after attempting to smuggle four handguns and 100 rounds of ammunition into the UK. Border Force officers at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles found the weaponry in the boot of the men’s car.
- Following a joint operation between the National Crime Agency and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, a number of firearms were intercepted at a parcel hub in The Midlands, UK.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 42 reports in November 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- After killing a rival drug dealer in February this year, five men have been jailed to a total of 137 years imprisonment. The men forced their way into their victim’s flat in Northampton, Northamptonshire armed with a baseball bat, a BB gun and a machete, before repeatedly stabbing him. The man who had been asleep with his girlfriend at the time of the attack, died at the scene.
- Four men have been jailed for a total of 94 years for their part in the fatal shooting of a man in July 2018. One of the four men opened fire with a shotgun towards a car in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, hitting the front seat passenger in the head and back; he died later in hospital. The gang escaped the scene in a car that was later found burned out. One man was arrested shortly afterwards and an ensuing investigation led to the recovery of two shotguns and ammunition forensically linked to two others.
- A man has been handed a twelve-month community order with 240 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity days after admitting to wasting police time, and three counts of possession of a weapon designed for the discharge of a noxious gas or electrical incapacitation. The man staged a fake robbery at his home in Swindon, Wiltshire and the court heard that he hit upon this idea in the hope it would buy him more time to pay overdue rent. The man must also pay £1,000 compensation to Wiltshire Police.
- A man has been jailed for seven years after admitting to possession of a CS gas canister and a stun gun, as well as drugs offences and other charges. After developing money problems, the man began drug dealing from a container unit and a caravan in Deeping St James, Lincolnshire. In February this year, police officers raided these properties and his home and recovered £86,000 worth of cocaine and £12,500 in cash. From the caravan, officers seized swords, knives, a stun gun and other weapons.
- A man has been jailed for life, with a minimum of 30 years, after being found guilty of murder. In April of this year, the man used a handgun to shoot a male rival gang member in Birmingham, West Midlands. Following the shooting, the man flew to Dubai; he was arrested on his return eleven days later. In the meantime, a handgun recovered from a local reservoir was found to contain his DNA; the weapon is believed to be the murder weapon.
- Three men have been jailed for a total of 30 years for their involvement in the targeted shooting of a man in February this year. Two of the perpetrators called to the victim’s home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and, when he opened the door, he was shot at close range in the right arm. The three suspects were arrested just days later at a house that contained a bloodied sawn-off shotgun, ammunition and a quantity of Class A and B drugs valued at over £35,000. The victim required reconstructive surgery for his wounds and it is unknown whether he will regain full use of his arm.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for four years, two months after pleading guilty to robbery, possession of an imitation firearm with intent and theft. In September this year, he threatened a member of staff at a betting shop in Chippenham, Wiltshire with an imitation gun before fleeing with around £150 from the till. The court heard that he had stolen bottles of wine from a local shop earlier the same evening, scaring staff and customers who believed he was holding a real gun.
- A 36-year-old man has been jailed for three years, four months after admitting assault to severe injury and danger of life. In August this year, the man hit a woman with a golf club and shot her with a BB gun outside a pub in Kirkcaldy, Fife during a drug gang dispute involving her sons. The victim was taken to hospital where it was decided that a pellet found near the base of the neck was too dangerous to remove.
- A 36-year-old man has been sent to prison for more than seven years after pleading guilty to firearm and drugs offences. In September this year, officers stopped the man’s car in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and discovered 27 small bags of white powder and a bottle of ammonia in the vehicle. A subsequent search of a nearby address resulted in the seizure of a Taser disguised as a torch, an air rifle, a handgun, two blocks of cocaine, and other drug paraphernalia.
- A man from Birmingham, West Midlands has been jailed for 29-and-a-half years after being convicted of three charges relating to the import of Class A drugs and another charge relating to a prohibited weapon. The man was part of a gang that imported cocaine and heroin from The Netherlands to UK hidden inside chicken carcasses. The gang also used “corrupt employees” in Sao Paula and Heathrow Airports to hide drugs inside a UK-bound plane. The man’s accomplice was jailed for fourteen years and four 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.
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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