April 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 11-05-2023
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 April 2023 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 April 2023.
Figure 1: April 2023 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 2023 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of three reports in April 2023 concerning gun deaths:
- A teenage boy died in hospital after being shot on a street in Tottenham, North London. Two men have since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- A man has died after being shot in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Paramedics attended following reports of the attack but were unable to save him. No arrests have yet been reported.
- A man died in hospital shortly after being shot in Mitcham, South London. No arrests have yet been reported. A post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the chest.
We are aware of one report in April 2023 relating to the above:
- An inquest jury has concluded that a man, fatally shot by police, was lawfully killed. In June 2021, armed police officers responded to reports of a domestic disturbance at a flat in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. On entering the property, they discovered a man’s body and heard the cries of a distressed child in another room. Believing the child to be at risk of harm, the officers forced entry into the barricaded room and one of them fired his gun four times as a man approached with his arms raised. Two shots hit the man and he died at the scene. The inquest heard that the officer who fired the shots believed the man had been holding a knife. The first man found dead at the scene was a neighbour who had gone into the flat to help but had been killed with a kettlebell. Four days before the incident, the family of the man shot had contacted police with concerns about his mental health. The Independent Office for Police Conduct found officers acted appropriately in the situation, with the decision to shoot being “proportionate and reasonable in those circumstances”.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of four reports in April 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- A 27-year-old man has been handed a suspended six-month prison term and ordered to complete 40 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity days after pleading guilty to affray and possession of an air weapon in a public place. In June 2022, the man went to his ex-partner’s home in Colne, Lancashire after finding out their child had been taken into care. He aimed an air rifle at her son’s face before trying to hit him, going on to confront his partner while holding the rifle. He drove off after being ushered outside. The court heard that he had appeared “drunk or on drugs” at the time of the incident.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and possession of an imitation firearm. After confronting his ex-partner at a nightclub, he called at her home in Derby, Derbyshire wearing a bullet-proof vest. He pointed a gun at her forehead and took bullets in and out of a second gun. After the woman pleaded with him, he eventually left.
- A man and woman, partners and both aged 23, have been jailed for 30 years and 27 years, respectively, for attempted murder. After discovering his co-defendant was seeing another man, the 23-year-old male sent his rival threatening messages. His girlfriend then arranged to meet the man on a street in Morden, South London, where her boyfriend was hiding out of sight. When the other man arrived, her boyfriend fired ten bullets at him, causing injuries that have left him paralysed from the waist down. Armed police officers responded and arrested both suspects nearby. The shooting was carried out less than 200 yards from a primary school on a busy street.
- Three men who beat and Tasered a man in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in March 2020 have been sentenced after admitting affray. The first attacker repeatedly hit the victim’s head with a baseball bat, while a second used a Taser on him “time and time again”. The third man was also carrying a weapon. The victim, who had been involved in a dispute with his attackers, suffered serious injuries including a bleed on the brain. The first man was jailed for 26 months, the second for 21 months and the third was handed 102 weeks.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least five reports in April 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Inquest above — An inquest concluded that a man, fatally shot by police in 2021 during an armed response to a domestic disturbance in Buckinghamshire, was lawfully killed.
- An independent investigation conducted by the Procurator Fiscal has concluded that there is no evidence of criminality on the part of any police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a man in Glasgow, Scotland in June 2020. The man was shot after he stabbed and seriously injured six people at a hotel in city.
- A Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Defence has revealed that ammunition and weapons, including two Glock handguns and a machine gun, are missing from military bases in Great Britain. Police have launched an undercover operation amid fears that weapons are being stolen by soldiers and sold on to gangs. One undercover officer said, “Any missing weapon is a security issue for the military… They should also be very concerned about the amounts of ammunition that are stolen to be sold onto the black market, as well as component parts of weapons. It’s not difficult for an OCG to put together several stolen parts until they have a fully working firearm.”
- A 34-year-old former Lance Sergeant has been jailed for three years after admitting four counts of selling ammunition. The man was based at Wellington Barracks in Westminster, Central London when he carried out the offences between December 2020 and January 2021. He was arrested after he attempted to sell 300 live 9mm rounds to an undercover police officer posing as a drug dealer.
- A 52-year-old man has been jailed for nineteen years after admitting offences including possession of a firearm and possession of weapons whilst being prohibited. In November last year, police officers recovered shotguns, handguns and ammunition from the man’s home in Durham, Co. Durham. It is believed the weapons were being passed on to criminals and that the shotguns had been stolen from a farm in Northumbria. The man’s 18-year-old son was handed an eighteen-month suspended sentence and 100 hours’ community service after pleading guilty to three offences relating to the stolen shotguns.
We are aware of at least four reports in April 2023 involving the use of police Tasers:
- See Inquest above — An inquest concluded that a man was fatally shot by police in 2021 during an armed response to a domestic disturbance in Buckinghamshire, was lawfully killed.
- Following reports of a man in possession of a knife outside the railway station in Tooting, South London, police officers Tasered and arrested the suspect.
- A 32-year-old man has been jailed for three years and two months after admitting making use of a firearm with intent to resist arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer. In February this year, two police officers looking for a transit van in Rothwell, Northamptonshire approached such a vehicle in a car park. Some men were standing at the back of the van and one got into a scuffle with the officers. During the struggle, one officer pulled his Taser and the man activated it, striking the other officer on her vest and finger. He then fled the scene but was arrested two days later. He claimed he had not intended for the Taser to be discharged.
- After receiving a report of concern for the welfare of a man who was threatening to jump from the balcony of a flat in Peckham, South East London, police officers “attempted to persuade” him to come back inside. One officer then Tasered the man and he fell several floors to the ground. The man died in hospital later the same day. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has launched an investigation.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least six reports in April 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- A red kite was put to sleep after it was shot and seriously injured on the Lochindorb Estate near Grantown-on-Spey, Scottish Highlands. A man has since been arrested in connection with the incident.
- A buzzard is being treated with antibiotics and pain relief after being shot in the head with an airgun. The bird was found in a garden in Walpole St Peter, Cambridgeshire. An RSPCA spokesperson said that “as the wound was infected and as the bird was emaciated it was likely she had been shot some time ago”. It is uncertain whether the pellet is interfering with the bird’s sight and she may yet require on operation.
- A cat required surgery after being shot at close range with a high velocity air rifle in Carterton, Oxfordshire. Police officers have held a meeting with residents following reports of other cats being shot in the area.
- A duck was killed and a goose injured after they were shot with an airgun in a park in Beddington, South London. A local animal rights campaigner said, “I think there needs to be mandatory licensing of low powered air guns, they are used so often to target animals… They are completely legal but they can cause death.”
- A post-mortem examination revealed that a swan, found dead on a golf course in Southport, Merseyside, had been shot in the head.
- Two protected birds, a jackdaw and a blackbird, are believed to have been shot dead in Seaham, Co. Durham.
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 after 300,000+ members of the public petitioned in favour of airgun licensing.
The recently published Government Response to a further Consultation, sent predominantly to shooting organisations but not to women’s organisations or those supporting victims of domestic violence, has concluded not to license airguns in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are not aware of any reports in April 2023 relating to the above.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 40 reports in April 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 72-year-old man has been handed a twelve-month community order with a four-month night-time curfew after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm, a Huntington G10 air pistol. In August last year, the man brandished the airgun while verbally abusing a drone pilot who was filming a home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire for an estate agent. He told the pilot he had shot at the drone three times and warned him not to fly it near his house again as his wife was sunbathing in the garden. After he hit the drone case with the airgun, the drone pilot managed to disarm the shooter and kick the weapon away. The shooter got hold of the gun again and ran back inside his home. He was arrested shortly afterwards.
- Three men have been jailed for seventeen years and eight months, eleven years, and four years, respectively, for their involvement in a shooting in April 2022. The three gang members were caught on CCTV shooting at a rival as he drove down a road in Luton, Bedfordshire and crashed into another car. The trio continued to fire as their target fled on foot, causing the family in the other vehicle to “cower” in fear. Two of the men pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, while the third admitted attempted GBH with intent and threatening someone with a bladed weapon. The first man also pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon and Class A and Class B drug offences in relation to a separate matter.
- A 41-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years after admitting conspiracy to import Class A drugs, conspiracy to transfer a prohibited weapon and money laundering. As heads of an organised crime group based in Guildford, Surrey, the man and another man (previously sentenced) used the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, to broker drugs and firearms deals. After the network was decrypted in 2020, messages were found showing that the 41-year-old man had supplied a contact in London with ammunition and bought a semi-automatic handgun with 50 bullets. Evidence of other deals and discussions were uncovered, including a plan to launder money and send ketamine to Canada.
- A 47-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen years after pleading guilty to two counts of robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. His co-defendant, aged 39, received twelve years and nine months after being convicted of one count each of the same offences, as well as breaching a restraining order. The 47-year-old man stole a box containing £39,000 after threatening two security guards with an imitation firearm at a building society in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, returning with his co-defendant some months later to steal almost the same amount after threatening another guard with a replica gun.
- A 48-year-old former army reservist has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition in breach of firearms legislation. The man ordered a Glock 19 pistol and 50 rounds of bullets from America but the parcel was intercepted by a US federal special agent who found the gun hidden in electrical equipment. Police officers arrested the man at his flat in Hawick, Scottish Borders on the day the parcel was due to be delivered.
- A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been ordered to complete a youth rehabilitation order over the course of a year after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. His 20-year-old co-defendant received a twelve-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work after admitting to intentionally assisting in the commission of an either way offence. In January 2023, the two youths invited a 15-year-old boy into their car in Welshpool, Powys, telling him they were going to a fast-food restaurant. After driving around for a while, the 17-year-old threatened to shoot the 15-year-old with a realistic-looking air rifle if he didn’t get out of the car. The victim was then ordered into the boot of the vehicle, from where he heard a gunshot, before being driven further from his home and dumped on the roadside. The youths picked the victim up again shortly afterwards and joked about what had happened. The following day, the 15-year-old received video clips of his ordeal.
- A 37-year-old man has been jailed for ten years and four months, with an extended licence period of five years, after admitting attempted robbery, four counts of robbery, five counts of possession of a firearm while committing a robbery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance. In July 2022, he threatened a worker with what looked like a handgun at a shop in Leeds, West Yorkshire, demanding money from the till. A second worker grabbed the man in a headlock and, during the ensuing scuffle, the firearm started to break apart. It is believed the weapon was a plastic BB gun. The man’s image was captured on CCTV cameras before he fled empty-handed, and he was arrested a couple of months later. Police believe he committed thirteen crimes on the evening of the attempted robbery.
- A 23-year-old man from Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, has been jailed for five years after admitting two counts of possession of a prohibited firearm and the possession of ammunition without a certificate. The court heard that the man had been found with two firearms, ammunition and a drill press and vice, which, the prosecution claimed, he had used to alter imitation firearms into working pistols. The guns were said to be “crude”, with none of the rounds fitting properly. The man claimed to have kept the 9mm and 8mm pistol to make money by renting them out for rappers to use in their music videos.
- A 31-year-old has been jailed for six years and four months after pleading guilty to possession of firearms, possession of ammunition and possession of CS Spray. In April last year, when police officers visited the man’s home in Dudley, West Midlands to arrest him for an unrelated matter, they discovered homemade guns, 27 bullets, eight knives, a knuckleduster, baseball bat, a stab-proof vest and a CS canister spray. The officers also retrieved tools capable of assembling homemade ammunition and converting firearms into lethal weapons. The court heard that the man had researched online about sentencing guidelines and convictions for firearms conversions, and how to carry out “headshots”.
- A 40-year-old former special constable has been handed a twelve-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid community work and ordered to pay £250 costs after admitting three firearms offences and possession of a noxious spray. In April 2022, police officers attending the man’s home in Brixham, Devon on an unrelated matter recovered a banned high-powered air weapon, a Taser and a can of police-issue PAVA spray. The judge ordered the destruction of all the weapons.
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: April 2023 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 air gun 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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