December 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 14-01-2022
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 December 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 December 2021.
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 December 2021 concerning a gun death:
- Armed police officers were deployed following reports of an armed man entering a bank and a betting shop in Kensington, West London. When the suspect’s getaway vehicle was stopped nearby, shots were fired by the police. Emergency services were called in but the injured man died at the scene soon afterwards. A non-police-issue firearm was subsequently recovered. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
We are aware of at least three inquest reports in December 2021 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Stretton, Staffordshire in July last year has concluded that he died by suicide, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the head. The man had been “struggling with his mental health” and had surrendered his own firearms at his family’s request. He shot himself with a firearm taken from the gun shop where he worked.
- An inquest into the death of a man at his home in Conway, North Wales in November this year has been opened and adjourned. The medical cause of death was given as a “shotgun injury that appeared to have been self-inflicted”.
- The coroner at the inquest into death of a man, who shot himself in the head in September this year, has concluded that he died by suicide. The man’s body was discovered in a field next to a main road in Ashford, Kent. The victim had a pistol in his lap, as well as an extra magazine and a knife in his pockets. The inquest heard that the man, who was a keen shooter and a member of a gun club, had been due to appear in court on the day he died, having pleaded not guilty to six charges of possessing indecent images.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least seven reports in December 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- A 53-year-old man from Oldham, Greater Manchester, has been jailed for 25 years after being found guilty of making threats to kill, two counts of grievous bodily harm, seven counts of actual bodily harm, indecent assault, two counts of rape, cruelty to a person under sixteen years old and controlling and coercive behaviour. The court heard that the man subjected three women to “horrific” violence, including putting a rifle in one victim’s mouth while threatening to shoot her.
- Police officers attended an address in Stowmarket, Suffolk after a man allegedly threatened two men known to him with a machete and an air rifle. The weapons were recovered and the man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm with intent and possession of a bladed weapon with intent.
- Police officers arrested a man on suspicion of making threats to kill after he reportedly threatened a woman and her adult son with a shotgun at a property in North Muskham, Nottinghamshire. Officers subsequently recovered four licensed shotguns and approximately 2,500 rounds of ammunition from the address and confirmed the victims were known to the suspect.
- A 37-year-old man has been remanded in custody after pleading guilty to assaulting his wife to her injury, possession of a prohibited weapon and threatening and abusive behaviour. In April last year, the man pressed a stun gun against his wife’s body and discharged it up to seven times, kicking her after she fell to the floor. A young boy, who was in the couple’s flat in Aberdeen, Scotland at the time of the attack, hid in a bedroom in fear. Neighbours alerted the police after hearing screaming and the man was removed from the property.
- A 69-year-old retired police firearms instructor and clay-pigeon shooting enthusiast has been jailed for life, to serve a minimum of 26 years, after being found guilty of murder. In May this year, at his home in Maidstone, Kent, the man killed his daughter’s fiancé with his legally-held shotgun. The court heard that the man’s home was owned by his daughter and that he had become enraged when her fiancé told him she was planning to sell it. Following a row, the fiancé dialled 999 and told the perpetrator he would never shoot again. The perpetrator pursued the man upstairs with his shotgun and, as his victim cowered in a bedroom, shot him in the chest. The emergency operator heard both the shot and the perpetrator telling his victim that he had “warned” him. Sixteen seconds after the first shot, the perpetrator fired again, hitting the victim in his head and neck. The perpetrator, who had not realised the call was being recorded, denied murder and claimed he had wanted only to frighten his daughter’s fiancé; however, the Prosecution stated that his repeated warning to the victim “reflected the fact that the defendant was enraged and intentionally killed” him. In a victim impact statement, the perpetrator’s daughter spoke of her life being “destroyed by the madness” of her father shooting the man who was the “centre of her world”.
- A 30-year-old man and a 34-year-old man have each been jailed for five years, after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a firearm in a public place. Their co-defendant, a 29-year-old man, received a two-year sentence after being found guilty of the latter charge. In February this year, the three men drove to a house in Trecynon, Rhonda, where the oldest man shot four times through an upstairs window after calling out a man’s name. No one was injured. Police traced the suspects through CCTV images of their car and mobile phone analysis revealed calls among them before the shooting. The firearm has not been recovered.
- After a man allegedly pointed a gun at a woman known to him at her home in Woodstock, West London, police officers responded and arrested him nearby. He has since been charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, pointing a firearm, possession of a firearm contrary to an order, unauthorised possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of drugs.
Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least seven reports in December 2021 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Deaths above — A suspect in a getaway vehicle fatally shot by armed police in West London.
- See Inquests above — A man from Staffordshire, whose licensed firearms were removed due to his mental health issues, took his own life using a weapon from the gun shop where he worked.
- A gun club member and keen shooter took his own life, using a gun described as a ‘pistol’, in Kent on the day he had been due to appear in court regarding six charges of possessing indecent images. N.B. GCN notes that a pistol is a prohibited weapon, and therefore likely to have been illegally held by the deceased.
- See Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above — A licensed gun owner has been arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill a woman and her adult son at a property in Nottinghamshire. Police recovered four legally held shotguns and ammunition from the property and confirmed the victims were known to the man.
- A retired police firearms instructor and shooting enthusiast has been jailed for a minimum of 26 years after being found guilty of fatally shooting his daughter’s fiancé with a licensed shotgun during an argument over the sale of a property in Kent.
- A 74-year-old man has been handed a suspended two-year prison term with a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement after admitting possessing a shotgun without a certificate, possessing a firearm without a firearms certificate, two charges of possessing a prohibited smooth-bore gun and possessing a knife in public. In June 2019, after welfare concerns were raised by a third party, police officers seized hundreds of firearms from the man’s properties in Copford, Essex. The court heard that the man, who held a shotgun certificate until 2014, had a gun-hoarding disorder and viewed the weapons as memorabilia.
- Police officers from the Rural Crime Team in Derbyshire have seized around 30 weapons from owners over concerns regarding their suitability to be firearm certificate holders. The weapons seized included two-bore shotguns, hunting rifles and guns with microscopic sights.
We note at least five reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least five reports in December 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- A cat was seriously injured and required surgery after being shot in Fife; a second cat was shot and injured in Hampshire; a Bengal cat, stolen from a home in West Yorkshire, was found shot dead and drowned; and a kitten is recovering after being shot and injured in Lancashire, where the owner reported four other local cats had been shot within the last twelve months and a local vet confirmed some of the injuries had proved fatal.
- A man is due to attend a voluntary interview after police officers, who were investigating reports of suspected poaching, stopped him in Iwerne Minster, Dorset and found an air rifle and dead pheasants in his vehicle.
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.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 46 reports in December 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Two men have been jailed for a total of 20 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to sell or transfer firearms and conspiracy to convert imitation firearms into prohibited weapons. In October last year, police officers recovered six converted guns, 46 modified bullets, 38 other bullets, sawn-off metal tubes and a cutting disc from the home of one of the men in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with a black pistol and six loose rounds subsequently found in the other man’s garden. The court heard that one of the men purchased legal semi-automatic blank firing pistols on behalf of the other, who converted them into lethal firearms. Both men were involved in test firing them. Approximately 130 of these converted weapons were recovered in the UK in 2021.
- A 19-year-old man has been jailed for five-and-a-half years after admitting a number of firearms and drugs-related offences, and a driving offence. Police officers searched his home in Eccles, Greater Manchester after he was seen posing with guns and machetes in social media videos. They discovered drugs inside the house and a self-loading pistol and ammunition in the garden shed. The following day, officers recovered a double-barrelled shotgun from the garden of a woman’s home where the man had previously stayed. The woman told police she had not given permission for the gun to be stored there; however, her iPhone revealed she had made internet searches in relation to a firearm and “how to remove fingerprints”. The woman was handed a twelve-month community order with a curfew and 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days after pleading guilty to possession of a shotgun.
- A 28-year-old man has been ordered to complete two hundred hours of unpaid work, surrender his firearms for destruction and pay £715 in court fees after being found guilty of trespassing on land with an air weapon and for possessing a loaded or unloaded air weapon in a public place. Police were alerted in November last year after a gamekeeper heard gunshots coming from a wood near Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Officers found a man carrying an air rifle and a second air rifle was recovered from his car. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “Generally speaking, convictions relating to wildlife crimes in the UK remain relatively low, so this is a really positive outcome and we hope this will lead as an example to anyone who doesn’t think there are consequences to this sort of crime”.
- After she hid a sawn-off shotgun for a friend who had fired it at another person, a 28-year-old woman from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire was jailed for 20 months, having admitted perverting the course of justice and possessing a firearm without a licence.
- A 54-year-old man has been jailed for 30 years after pleading guilty to attempted murder. In April this year, he shot a man in the chest with a shotgun near a travellers’ caravan site in Bagworth, Leicestershire. The court heard that one of the man’s daughters had phoned her mother to allege that the victim, with whom she was romantically involved, had assaulted her. Her father found him shortly afterwards and shot him from a distance of around twelve inches, causing life-changing injuries including brain damage. Following sentencing, the judge said that the blanket of silence maintained by witnesses during the investigation had brought no credit to their community.
- Following an investigation into an Albanian Organised Crime Group, a 20-year-old man has been jailed for six years, having pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition and production of cannabis. Six other men were jailed for the latter offence. In December last year, police officers discovered a semi-automatic pistol with ammunition at a disused mill in Bradford, West Yorkshire that was being used as a cannabis farm. Officers discovered “selfies” of the man holding the firearm and he was subsequently linked to the weapon forensically.
- A 33-year-old man has been jailed for one year after pleading guilty to theft, attempted theft and two charges of making threats with an imitation firearm. In August this year, he threatened a woman and her son with an antique handgun after they saw him breaking into a car in Redcar, North Yorkshire. Frightened, the witnesses retreated into their home and alerted police to the incident. Officers arrested the man as he was trying to break into a van further down the same street. The court heard that the firearm was an antique pistol incapable of firing ammunition.
- A 61-year-old man has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Police were alerted in August this year after the man damaged property and became aggressive towards a female resident at his retirement home in Winchester, Hampshire. The man refused to allow the two responding officers into his flat and brandished an air pistol at them after they gained entry. Firearms officers were called in and, following a siege, the man eventually surrendered the unloaded firearm. Three knives and an axe were subsequently found in the man’s home. The court heard that the man, who suffers from depression, had not been taking his regular medication and had drunk “his usual four pints of beer” on the day of the incident.
- After he pointed an air gun at a care worker who had seen him roughly “handling” his elderly mother, a 63-year-old man from Colchester, Essex has been handed a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work, having admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
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. See above seven reports this month of gun incidents relating to Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition.
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. 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.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.