November 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 20-12-2021
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 November 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 November 2021.
Figure 1: November 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, 2019-20 and 2020-2021 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least one report in November 2021 concerning a gun death:
- The body of a man with gunshot wounds has been discovered at his home in Lixwm, Flintshire.
We are aware of at least three inquest reports in November 2021 relating to four gun deaths:
- An inquest into the death of a man, who reportedly shot himself at his home in Lixwm, Flintshire earlier this month, has been opened and adjourned. The victim’s daughter found him lying on the stairs with his shotgun nearby. A provisional cause of death was given as gunshot injuries to the head.
- The jury at the inquest into the death of a man, shot dead by a police officer in March 2019, has concluded that he was lawfully killed. The man, who had allegedly threatened a former partner with a gun, was in his bedroom when firearms officers arrived at his flat in Birmingham, West Midlands with a search warrant. After he refused to come out, one officer discharged his firearm. The victim, who suffered mental health issues, died after being hit by a bullet that ricocheted off the bed frame. Officers subsequently recovered a black imitation handgun at the scene. After hearing the officer’s evidence that he had feared he, or one of his colleagues, was going to be shot, the jury concluded he had followed correct procedures. Following the verdict, the victim’s family said, “We have serious concerns about the operation including the police conduct and use of inappropriate language, poor negotiating skills, decision-making, and leadership.”
- The coroner at the inquest into the deaths of a married couple in Leigh, Essex in April this year has concluded that the woman’s death was an unlawful killing, while the man died by suicide. The man, who owned 25 firearms and was a treasurer at his local gun club, shot his wife twice in the head with a “powerful” hunting handgun, before shooting himself in the head close by. Their bodies were discovered five days later when a friend visited. The inquest heard that the man had been reluctant to inform his GP when he began suffering depression and symptoms of anxiety because he feared he would lose his firearms’ licence; however, he wrote to his GP a month before the killing, saying, “I’ve lost all confidence and my mental health is suffering. I can’t go on living like this.” Following the inquest, the woman’s sister said: ‘I think that he may have felt that she wouldn’t have been able to cope without him but he gave her no chance. My sister was fit and well. She was a resilient woman and I feel she would have found a way.”
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least six reports in November 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- See Inquests above — A licensed gun owner, the treasurer of a gun club, fatally shot his wife before taking his own life at their home in Essex.
- After he fired a shotgun following a row with his wife, a 57-year-old man from near Newtown, Powys was handed a twelve-month custodial sentence, having admitted using a shotgun to cause unlawful violence; however, he was released after sentencing as he had already served more than six months in custody while on remand.
- A 16-year-old boy has been sentenced to 24 years in custody after being found guilty of attempted murder. In September last year, the boy used his grandfather’s legally held shotgun to shoot a teenage boy in the face in Kesgrave, Suffolk. The victim, know to the perpetrator since primary school, suffered life-changing injuries in the attack. At trial, the teenager claimed to have meant only to scare his friend, not shoot him; however, a firearms expert said that the force required to pull the trigger to fire the top barrel was between 1.7kg and 1.9kg, “not by any stretch of the imagination, a hair trigger”. The court heard that the perpetrator, whose main interests are violent video games and pigeon shooting, owned “a haul” of BB guns. He will spend a further five years on licence on his release from custody.
- A 52-year-old man from Chepstow, Monmouthshire, has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and failing to comply with a condition subject to which a firearm certificate was held. In 2019, police released a shotgun into the man’s care after it had been seized from a man following a domestic incident. Not realising the shotgun was loaded, the man took it into work to show a colleague who was interested in buying it from him. Failing to ensure the safety catch was on, the man pointed and fired the firearm at his workmate from a distance of around 20 to 30 feet, hitting him in the face and blinding him in one eye. The court heard that the man did not load the gun but the weapon may have been released by police with an “undetected cartridge left in the magazine”. On sentencing, the judge said: “You have been in lawful possession of firearms for many years and are experienced in their use. You failed to adhere to the basic rules of safety. You had no business to take this weapon to a place of work. What you did was criminal and catastrophic and deserving of an immediate custodial sentence.”
- An investigation has been opened into an abduction “prank”, during which two senior colleagues reportedly held a junior RAF pilot hostage at gunpoint with an air rifle after the helicopter they were flying in was forced to land in a field in Hampshire.
Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least nine reports in November 2021 which we believe to relate to the above:
- See Inquests above — A man found with fatal gunshot wounds in Flintshire.
- A licensed gun owner, the treasurer of a gun club, fatally shot his wife before taking his own life at their home in Essex.
- The jury at the inquest into the death of a man, shot dead by a police officer in Birmingham in March 2019, has concluded that he was lawfully killed.
- See Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above — A 16-year-old boy has been sentenced after using his grandfather’s legally held shotgun to shoot a teenage boy in the face in Suffolk.
- A 52-year-old licensed gun owner from Monmouthshire was jailed for two years after shooting a work colleague with a shotgun released to his care by police who apparently failed to detect a cartridge left in the magazine.
- After a man damaged his ex-partner’s home in Worcester, Worcestershire last month, he was seen outside the property with what looked like a rifle. Armed police responded and the man was shot in the leg. The weapon was subsequently found to be an imitation submachine gun. The man has since admitted offences including possession of an imitation firearm.
- In September last year, after it was discovered that a buzzard and pigeon had been poisoned, police officers recovered two tubs of the pesticide and a number of firearms from the home of a 33-year-old gamekeeper. After pleading guilty to two counts of breaching a firearms certificate, two charges of breaching a shotgun certificate and two other health and safety offences over pesticide storage, the man, from Lakenheath, Suffolk, was handed a community order, with 80 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs.
- Armed officers were deployed following reports of a shooting during an altercation on a footpath near a farm in Pentir, Gwynedd. The farm owner filed an official complaint after the officers “hammered” on his door and questioned him in connection with the incident. The officers also confiscated the farmer’s rifle after finding it left out in his utility room. They further removed a broken air rifle, ammunition and the farmer’s firearms certificate. The farmer said the rifle had been left out after he spotted a fox that had killed his chickens.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm less than 30cm, two counts of possession of a firearm without a certificate, four counts of possession of a shotgun without a certificate and possession of ammunition without a certificate. Following a tip-off, police officers raided the man’s home in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire in November last year and recovered two rifles with serial numbers that didn’t match the weapons, four shotguns registered to another man, one sawn off shotgun, one shotgun barrel and large quantities of ammunition including shotgun cartridges. When interviewed, a 33-year-old man, the registered owner of four of the shotguns found in the possession of the defendant, told police he had given three of the shotguns to him believing he had a certificate; however, in court, the registered owner claimed to have been “under duress” to hand over the firearms. The gun owner was sentenced to three years and two months in prison after being found guilty of four counts of transferring a shotgun unlawfully.
We note at least seven reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least four reports in November 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- A mallard duck has been rescued and treated after it was discovered with a broken wing caused by an airgun attack in Norfolk. A kitten was found dead after an airgun attack in Shropshire. In separate airgun attacks in West Sussex, a kitten suffered a broken leg and a cat had to be put to sleep after it was seriously injured by being shot in the lung.
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 three reports of illegal firearms in November 2021:
- A 24-year-old man from Kendall, Cumbria has been jailed for 30 months after admitting attempted possession of a firearm and attempted possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate. His 27-year-old brother was handed a custodial sentence of 24 months after pleading guilty to the first offence. After the younger brother ordered a pistol from America in August this year, US law enforcement agencies intercepted the parcel. In the UK, the National Crime Agency sent a dummy package that contained recording equipment in its place. The brothers’ conversation was picked up as they opened the parcel, incriminating both parties.
- As part of an investigation into a suspected organised crime group involved in the supply of firearms, National Crime Agency officers seized drugs and a loaded firearm at a flat in Birmingham, West Midlands. A man was subsequently charged with firearms and drug supply offences.
- After two men were found guilty of conspiring to acquire and sell prohibited weapons and ammunition, and a third pleaded guilty to the same charges, they received sentences totalling 35 years. In January 2020, a parcel from Florida labelled as containing car parts was intercepted at a UK parcel hub. The package contained two semi-automatic pistols and hollow-point bullets concealed in an electronic safe. Five days after the interception, a man called the parcel office asking why the package hadn’t been delivered. Shortly after tracing the call, National Crime Agency (NCA) officers arrested two of the men in Coventry, West Midlands. Phone data from one of the suspects revealed that he had arranged the delivery and had previously carried out the successful importation of another semi-automatic pistol. The other man’s phone contained a photo of him holding the first gun while messages showed they had been “actively seeking buyers”. The DNA of the third man was recovered from the weapon, which was later retrieved by NCA officers.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 47 reports in November 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 43-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting possessing an imitation firearm and affray. In June this year, police officers visited the man’s home in Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham after he threatened a neighbour. He told the officers he had booby-trapped his home and threatened to shoot them. During a four-hour stand-off, he brandished a gun, threatened to cut his throat with scissors and pretended to drink from a bottle of bleach. He also poured vodka on some curtains and put a rag in a bottle, as if making a petrol bomb. After firearms officers entered the property, they recovered a black replica gun. The court heard that the man had not always been able to access his medication during the Covid period and that he heard voices in his head when he drank.
- Five men, involved in the transfer of a German air pistol converted to fire live ammunition in Liverpool, Merseyside, have been sentenced to a total of thirty-two years and ten months. Armed police officers arrested four of the men after observing the transfer take place outside the home of one of the men, where a non-compatible bullet was subsequently retrieved. The fifth man was arrested the following month.
- After getting into an argument and threatening a man with a BB gun in Grangetown, North Yorkshire in July this year, a man has been jailed for ten months having pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
- After he pointed a “pellet gun” at a person’s head outside a nightclub in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, a man was jailed for one year, having pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
- A man has been jailed for six-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to having a loaded shotgun in a public place, possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition, and dangerous driving. In May this year, police pulled the man over after seeing him drive through a red light. Accelerating away from the officers, the man threw a bag containing a loaded sawn-off shotgun from the car, near a shopping centre in Trafford, Greater Manchester. Officers subsequently recovered a second shotgun from a bag of children’s toys at the man’s home. The court heard that the man claimed to have been looking after the weapons after getting into debt with drugs dealers.
- A 51-year-old man has been jailed for fourteen years after being found guilty of impersonating a police officer, possession of an imitation firearm and two counts of rape. In August last year, the man raped two women sex workers, forcing them to engage in acts beyond those agreed. On both occasions he pretended to be a police officer, producing an imitation gun to subdue his second victim during their meeting in Bayswater, West London. He also took back the money he had paid the women and stole more money from the second woman. After both women reported him, he was arrested and a black replica handgun was recovered from his home. The man will remain on licence for a further four years on his release and will be made the subject of a sex offenders notification requirement for the rest of his life.
- Two men have been jailed for six years and five years, five months, respectively for possessing a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition without a certificate. In January this year, police officers investigating a shooting searched a home in Leeds, West Yorkshire. In the garden of the property, they found a loaded handgun of Turkish origin, the cartridge of which had been modified and contained a propellant. The firearm, magazine and ammunition were found to be in working order and worked together. DNA from both men was found on the recovered items. No one has yet been charged with the shooting.
- Following a shooting at a crowded party in Leyton, Greater London in October 2017, four people have been jailed. Two bystanders were shot as rival groups opened fire at the venue, with at least 34 rounds being fired from six guns. The victims, one shot in the leg and the other in the chest, have since fully recovered. The defendants were identified through CCTV footage, plate recognition cameras and phone data. Four have been sentenced to a total of sixty-three-and-a-half years, two other men involved will be sentenced in February.
- A 43-year-old man and a 51-year-old man have been jailed for twelve years and fifteen years, respectively, after pleading guilty to robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. In March this year, the men robbed a bank in Knutsford, Cheshire while armed with what appeared to be a handgun. One of the offenders threatened the manager and a cashier with the firearm before demanding cash. As a staff member in a back office activated the panic button, having witnessed the incident on a CCTV camera, the two thieves fled on a motorbike with £14,100. When police officers subsequently search the home of one of the men, they recovered a large amount of the stolen cash, much of which had been tainted with red dye. The court heard that the bank cashier had given the men a “dye pack” among the stolen notes, which activated after the theft. Mobile phone data linked the men, and the second man was also found with dyed notes. Both men had an extended three-year licence added to their sentences.
- A 51-year-old man has been sentenced to twenty-two months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and dangerous driving. In November last year, he was witnessed driving erratically and almost colliding with a pedestrian near his home in Cardiff, South Wales. He had also told a neighbour that he was going to “blow up his house” because he wanted to be with his recently-deceased mother. When police officers tried to remove him from his car, he refused and pointed what appeared to be a real handgun at them. The officers then struck him with a gun before Tasering and arresting him. On searching his home, they discovered a container of flammable liquid in the microwave. The court heard that the man suffered a “severe deterioration” in his mental health after his mother died. He was also disqualified from driving for two years.
- Three men have been jailed for a total of forty-three years for their involvement in a gang battle that resulted in the fatal shooting of a man in Birmingham, West Midlands.
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: November 2021 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. N.B. The inquest this month into a murder-suicide in Essex, involving a licensed gun-owning perpetrator who fatally shot his wife before taking his own life. 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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