September 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 17-10-2019
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 September 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 September 2019.
Figure 1: September 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 September 2019 concerning gun deaths:
- A 24-year-old man died at the scene after being shot in a drive-by attack in Kentish Town, North West London. CCTV footage revealed that a moped had pulled up alongside the victim before one of the two riders opened fire at close range.
- Armed police officers responding to reports of gunshots in Sydenham, South East London, found a wounded man who died at the scene shortly afterwards. After hearing witness reports that the gun had gone off as the man was using it to damage a car, detectives are investigating the possibility that the victim accidentally shot himself. (See Inquests below.)
We are aware of at least four inquests in September 2019 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Mockbeggar, Hampshire in May this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound to the head. The victim, who killed himself in a horse box outside his home, was said to have been struggling with business debts. Following his death, the man’s wife found a note “of despair” telling her to call the police. N.B. The Inquest failed to record the status of the shotgun, however GCN believes it could have been legally held by the deceased.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Dartford, Kent in June this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being an “immediately fatal” gunshot wound to the head. A toxicology report revealed that the deceased had cocaine, ketamine and cannabis in his system at the time of his death. As well as a sawn-off shotgun in the man’s lap, police officers discovered ammunition, a wooden-handled gun and a blank-firing pistol in the vehicle in which the man died. The deceased was said to have suffered mental health issues and made previous suicide attempts. N.B. The Inquest failed to record the status of the gun, however a sawn-off shotgun cannot be legally held.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Penybont, Radnorshire in April this year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound. The victim, a farmer, was said to have had drinking issues after becoming stressed about finances. N.B. The Inquest failed to record the status of the shotgun, however GCN believes it could have been legally held by the deceased.
- An inquest has been opened into the death of a man in Sydenham, South East London earlier this month, who is thought to have accidentally killed himself with his own shotgun. (See Gun Deaths above.)
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- A 35-year-old man has been sent to prison for 27 months after being convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April this year, the man threatened his ex-partner with an imitation firearm when she arrived to collect their son from his home in Wolstanton, Staffordshire. He also made frightening comments within earshot of the child.
- It has emerged that police officers responded to a report of a domestic disturbance at an address in Great Cornard, Suffolk last month, during which a man was reportedly seen with a shotgun. A male suspect was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, arson endangering life, possession of a firearm with intent and assault. A firearm retrieved from the scene, was made safe.
- A man from Rugby, Warwickshire has been jailed for eight month after pleading guilty to harassment. He made a series of prank videos with a vulnerable man who has autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The perpetrator subjected his victim to a campaign of “spiteful bullying”, which included snapping his glasses, punching him, extorting cash from him and shooting him with a BB gun ten times. The victim eventually confided in his manager at work and the police were alerted.
- A man in his 50s was treated in hospital for a serious shoulder injury after allegedly being accidentally shot with an air rifle by a friend while the pair were out on a late-night hunting trip for deer and rabbits in the area of Upton, Worcestershire.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition.
We are aware of at least five reports in September 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:
- An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the shooting of a man in Birmingham, West Midlands concluded that use of firearms by police officers was reasonable.
- The family of a man, who was fatally shot by police in Tottenham, North London in 2011, have settled a High Court Damages Claim and accepted an undisclosed payout from the Metropolitan Police.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — four shotguns have been stolen from a property in West Yorkshire.
- See Sentences and Convictions below — A former MOD policeman and an armourer working in the Small Arms School Collection in Wiltshire, and a gamekeeper sentenced for shooting protected birds of prey and mammals in Berwickshire.
In addition, we note at least three incidents that involved the use of police Tasers.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in September 2019 relating to stolen guns:
- Four licensed shotguns have been stolen from a property in Ripponden, West Yorkshire.
- An antique decommissioned shotgun and ammunition have been stolen from a wall display in an outhouse in Blyth, Northumberland.
- See Sentences and Convictions below — An armourer working in the Small Arms School Collection in Warminster, Wiltshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least nine reports in September 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Three cats have been injured in airgun attacks in Norfolk, North Wales and the West Midlands. Another cat has been killed and two more had to be put to sleep due to the severity of their injuries after being shot in Aberdeenshire and Essex. A buzzard has been found shot in East Yorkshire but is recovering after treatment. A dog has been shot dead in Derbyshire after a man allegedly mistook the pet for a fox. See Sentences and Convictions below — Gamekeeper sentenced for shooting protected birds of prey and mammals in Berwickshire.
- Following research that shows domestic violence cases often involve cruelty towards pets, a woman from Billingham, Co. Durham has told how her ex-partner allegedly ripped the head off a pigeon while in a rage and abused her pet dog by kicking it, throwing objects at it and shooting it with a BB gun. The man has since been jailed for nine-and-a-half years after admitting two sexual assaults, two common assaults, two counts of criminal damage and one of affray. After being told a refuge couldn’t take pets, the woman contacted the Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project, which finds foster homes for dogs of abuse victims.
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
- An investigation by officers from the National Crime Agency, together with police officers from the UK and from Bulgaria, has led to the seizure of nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition and 56 firearms, the majority of which were blank firers converted to be lethal. Thirteen suspects were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to import firearms during coordinated strikes in Birkenhead, Merseyside and Bulgaria.
We are aware of at least 54 reports in September 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for eight months after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In July this year, the man took a realistic imitation Beretta pistol into his university campus in Exeter, Devon. He showed the weapon to his fellow students, joking with them that he had twelve bullets and that he would shoot “randomly” if his presentation didn’t go well. A lecturer alerted the police and armed officers together with a dog unit were deployed.
- A gamekeeper, a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, pleaded guilty to shooting and trapping badgers, an otter, goshawks and buzzards, and to installing 23 illegal snares on a grouse and pheasant shooting estate in Longformacus, Berwickshire. The gamekeeper was also in possession of two bottles of banned nerve agent used to poison birds of prey. The man, who had previously been fined and banned from keeping birds of prey after being found to have kept an owl in filthy conditions, was sentenced to 225 hours of unpaid work, given a night curfew for ten months and his firearms and gamekeeping equipment were confiscated.
- A former MOD policeman has been sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work with a twelve-month community order after being convicted of handling a stolen firearm. Another man, who made the firearm from parts taken from the Small Arms School Collection in Warminster, where he worked as the armourer, is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of stealing four firearms; he subsequently sold one sniper rifle for £10,000. The armourer gave his co-accused the firearm, an assault rifle, without paperwork. The rifle was found at the home of the former MOD policeman in Emsworth, Hampshire in 2016.
- A 25-year-old man was handed a custodial sentence of two years and four months after he pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and to threatening with a blade. In April this year, wearing a mask and armed with a BB gun and a 12-inch kitchen knife, the man approached a group of teenage girls at a park in Salford, Greater Manchester. The girls fled to a nearby house and alerted police. On hearing sirens, a local resident looked out of a window and saw the man pointing a “small black gun” at people. The man then approached three teenage boys and swung the knife towards one of them. The boy managed to block the attack and the man fell to the ground where he was held by them until police arrived. The court heard that the man, who claimed to have no recollection of the incident, had written a suicide note for his family saying that he was “violent and crazy.”
- A 29-year-old man was handed a custodial sentence of two-and-a-half-years after he pleaded guilty to wounding, three counts of causing actual bodily harm and criminal damage. In March this year, the man fired an air rifle from a window of his flat in Exeter, Devon, injuring four people.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen years after being found guilty of grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of a firearm. In February this year, during a heated argument, he shot a teenage boy in the stomach on an underground train to Barking, East London. When the train reached the station, the victim collapsed in the grounds before being taken to hospital for life-saving surgery.
- Identical triplets were handed custodial sentences after being found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. After stopping a taxi in Tottenham, North London in April 2017, armed police officers found a loaded pistol and an Uzi submachine gun with a silencer and ammunition in the vehicle. DNA linked the weapons to the brothers but investigators were unable to determine to which of them the DNA belonged; however, subsequent surveillance revealed all three brothers had handled the firearms.
- A man has been jailed for 28 years after being found guilty of attempted murder. In December last year, the man entered a house in Solihull, West Midlands and shot a woman in the shoulder and hand. After the gun jammed, the woman ran to a neighbour’s house and her assailant fled in a waiting car. Investigators tracked the vehicle, which travelled through the Eurotunnel three days later, and arrested him after he returned. In interview, he refused to answer police questions.
- After pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, a man was handed concurrent sentences of eighteen months for the weapon offence and six months for the assault. In February this year, a group of people reported hearing “whizzing” noises as the man fired an air rifle towards them in a park in Swansea, Wales. One young girl was hit on her hip by a pellet while others ran to hide in nearby bushes. When a man tried to intervene, the perpetrator fled into a nearby garden where police later arrested him. An air rifle was found in an outbuilding at the property.
- A man has been jailed for sixteen years after being found guilty of attempting to possess a Glock 17 pistol and ammunition with intent to endanger life. The man paid a dealer on the dark web £1,000 for a handgun and ammunition with “the intention to endanger life in a shooting event”. The parcel containing the firearm and ammunition was intercepted in the USA and a dummy package was delivered to the man’s home in Gloucester, Gloucestershire by an undercover officer. Following his arrest, computer files and notes about mass killers were found in the man’s home as well as a drawing of 77 stickmen to represent the victims of the 2011 explosion and shootings in Norway. The man was also convicted of attempting to evade the prohibition on importing a prohibited weapon and possession of indecent images.
- A 36-year-old man has been jailed for four years and six months after admitting robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. In May this year, the man threatened a staff member at a fast-food restaurant in Hartlepool, Co. Durham with an imitation firearm before fleeing with £95. A taxi driver who had witnessed the robbery, followed the man and drew up alongside his car. He took the bag of cash from the man and returned it to the restaurant. The taxi driver, who was also able to tell police where the man disposed of the firearm, was commended by the judge and awarded £250 from public funds.
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: September 2019 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. 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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