February 2022 Review
by Gun Control Network on 17-03-2022
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 February 2022 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 February 2022.
Figure 1: February 2022 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 three reports in February 2022 concerning gun deaths:
- A man died after being found with gunshot injuries at his home in Stourbridge, West Midlands. The victim’s brother was treated in hospital for serious stabbing injuries. A man has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- It has emerged that, in June last year, a man died after shooting himself with his legally-held shotgun at home in Gravesend, Kent. The man’s son said his father had lived with a terminal illness for some time and had suffered a “world of pain”. He added that the trauma of the tragic circumstances of his father’s death could have been avoided had his father been allowed to die with medical assistance.
- A man has been fatally shot in his car in Birmingham, West Midlands. An adult male has since been charged with murder, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of ammunition, while a woman was arrested for assisting an offender.
We are aware of one report in February 2022 concerning a gun death inquest:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Old Colwyn, Conwy in March last year has recorded a conclusion of suicide, cause of death being firearm-induced head injury. The man, a Royal Navy veteran, was found dead in his garden with a double-barrel shotgun underneath him. The inquest heard that the man, a registered firearm holder since 2011 for the purposes of clay pigeon shooting, had a “history in relation to anxiety and depression” and had expressed suicidal thoughts to his GP a week before his death. The man’s licence was due for renewal in November 2021, by which time changes had been made to medical background checks.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of four reports in February 2022 that we believe relate to the above:
- A 35-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting possession of imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and threats to kill. In November last year, the man entered a neighbour’s house in Fradley, Staffordshire and brandished what looked like a handgun at a teenage girl, whose younger brother was upstairs. As he shouted at her and issued threats about her father, with whom he had had a disagreement, the girl secretly sent a text to her mother. Police were alerted and the man was Tasered by an officer before being detained. The court heard that the victim “no longer feels safe and feels weary”.
- It has emerged that, in February 2020, armed police officers responded after a woman claimed her partner had threatened her with a shotgun at a caravan site in Witney, Oxfordshire. The responding armed officers pointed their weapons at a 12-year-old girl, who was seen running across a field, believing her to be the alleged gunman. The young girl’s father called to the officers before showing them where a bag of cartridges and a rusty sawn-off shotgun, made in the 1930s, had been hidden behind a tree. No action was taken in relation to the original threat reported to police.
- After he punched and threatened a teenager with an air pistol in Weymouth, Dorset in September last year, an 18-year-old man has been jailed for twelve months, having admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and assault.
- Armed police officers were deployed following reports of shots heard at a property in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. A man was found to have suffered wounds to his chest and face; his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. Officers arrested an adult male, believed to be known to his victim, on suspicion of possession of a firearm.
Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least nine reports in February 2022 that we believe relate to the above:
- See Gun Deaths above — A licensed gun owner from Kent took his own life using his legally held shotgun.
- See Inquests above — A licensed gun owner from Conwy took his own life using his legally held shotgun.
- Two men from Wheyrigg, Cumbria, and one from Wigton, have been sentenced for offences involving a shotgun: A 49-year-old licensed gun owner was given a six-month conditional discharge after admitting failing to comply with a shotgun certificate which required the gun to be stored securely to prevent access to it except in circumstances specified by that certificate; Another man received a 12-month conditional discharge after admitting possessing a shotgun without a certificate; and a 27-year-old man was given a six-month conditional discharge for failing to comply with a shotgun certificate.
- A 47-year-old man has been jailed for two years and four months after admitting two counts of burglary, two counts of fraud and one count of possession of articles for use in fraud. After learning that a man from Brimmington, Derbyshire was in a nursing home, the 47-year-old broke into the man’s home in May 2019 and stole fourteen antique firearms. He went on to intercept mail and run up debts in his victim’s name. After he was seen loading things from the property into a car that had false plates attached with cable ties, the 47-year-old was reported to police. The car was found in a car park, with the firearms still inside.
- Police have appealed for information after a man allegedly stole £6,000 worth of antiques, including coins, a watch and an old collectable air rifle, from a shop in Ripon, North Yorkshire.
- A 51-year-old man has been handed a suspended two-year prison sentence, with a twenty-day rehabilitation activity requirement and three-month alcohol treatment requirement, after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In August 2020, the man’s friend called police to warn them that the man was “planning to provoke firearms officers to shoot him dead”. On arrival at his flat in Runcorn, Cheshire, officers saw him brandishing what looked like a rifle inside the property before he ran outside and pointed the firearm towards a children’s playground. He eventually put the weapon down after repeated commands, but when he reached for it again, an armed officer shot him. He was shot again when he reached for the firearm a second time. He was treated in hospital for injuries to his abdomen, sepsis and alcohol withdrawal. The weapon brandished was found to be a plastic replica of an SA80 British armed forces assault rifle with an empty magazine. The court heard that the man had tried to kill himself three times before and suffered from PTSD after serving in the armed forces between 1989 to 1993, including time in the Gulf War. A spokesperson from the Independent Office for Police Conduct said that their investigation into the incident had shown that there was “no indication any police officer had behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or had committed a criminal offence.
- After being charged with possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and being found unfit to plead, a 51-year-old man has been made the subject of a hospital order under section 39 of the Mental Health Act to ensure he receives psychiatric treatment in a medium secure hospital. In November 2020, Reynolds brandished an air rifle in Quorn, Leicestershire, scaring members of the public and causing a school to be locked down. Armed police officers shot Reynolds with a rubber bullet after he failed to comply with instructions to drop the air rifle, which was later found to be loaded.
- A 54-year-old man, a former specialist firearms officer, has been handed a twelve-month community order and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and fifteen rehabilitation activity requirement days after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm. In June 2020, the man pointed a BB gun at a neighbour who called at his home in Long Melford, Suffolk to ask him to turn his music down. In a victim impact statement, the neighbour said that the event had had “a profoundly shocking effect” on his life and that he had been forced to move house. The judge ordered the perpetrator to pay costs of £1200 and £500 in victim compensation.
- After being seen out shooting rabbits in Lyonshall, Herefordshire with a shotgun for which his licence had been revoked, Nicholas White has been fined £200 and ordered to pay costs of £135 and a victim surcharge of £34, while his Browning 525 12-bore shotgun is to be forfeited and destroyed.
We are aware of at least four reports involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- It has emerged that two police officers discharged their Tasers at a man before arresting him on the hard shoulder of a motorway in the Thames Valley area in June last year. Both officers are facing a misconduct hearing after it was alleged that they used unnecessary force to detain the male when one officer kicked him in the neck area and the other kicked him in the back.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least six reports in February 2022 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- It has emerged that a police dog was Tasered by a man in October last year after she and her police officer handler responded to a domestic incident in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Two cats are recovering after being shot in Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire and a third cat is recovering after being shot in the neck in the West Midlands. The charity, Cats Protection, has said reported incidents of this nature are common in England and Wales where amendments to rules surrounding air gun ownership are “well overdue”.
- A cygnet is recovering after being shot in Berkshire and a fox is recovering in an animal sanctuary after being shot in Oxfordshire.
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 eight reports in February 2022 relating to the above, including:
- A man was arrested on suspicion of firearms offences after National Crime Agency officers discovered a suspected firearms conversion factory at a house in Westfield, East Sussex. Weapons included forward-venting handguns as well as modified ammunition and firearms conversion paraphernalia were retrieved from the property and outbuildings.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being convicted of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate and conspiring to evade a prohibition on importation. In December 2020, police and Border Force officials found cocaine with a street value of £3m hidden behind a panel in a container at the docks in Southampton, Hampshire. Surveillance officers tracked the lorry to a fruit warehouse in Waltham Abbey, where the man arrived shortly afterwards. Police officers retrieved an automatic pistol and ammunition from a bag found close to the suspect and he was arrested at the scene.
- Four members of a gang that bought, converted and sold firearms and ammunition have been jailed. A 38-year-old man received a sentence of ten-and-a-half years after being found guilty of conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons. A 32-year-old man received ten years, after being found guilty of the same charge, with a concurrent sentence of four years, three months for converting firearms; a 40-year old man and a 39-year old man, received five-and-a-half years and five years, respectively, after being found guilty of possessing prohibited firearms. After discovering that the 32-year-old man regularly bought rounds of blank ammunition and deactivated firearms online, UK Border Force officials intercepted a parcel containing a deactivated pistol at Birmingham Airport in November 2020. Police officers subsequently recovered five firearms and a large amount of ammunition during raids in Newton Heath and Audenshaw, Greater Manchester and identified two of the men as buying, selling and converting the weapons, while the other two stored them. The 32-year-old man was arrested at Manchester Airport as he tried to flee the country with a one-way ticket to Dubai.
- A woman has been handed a twelve-month community order with a mental health treatment requirement and ten-day rehabilitation activity requirement after pleading guilty to being in possession of a stun gun that was disguised as a mobile phone and the importation of a prohibited weapon. In September 2020, UK Border Force officers intercepted a parcel addressed to her that contained a stun gun resembling a phone. Police officers subsequently visited the woman’s home in Churchdown, Gloucestershire and recovered a second disguised stun gun from her handbag. She claimed to have bought the items by mistake after “going off on a tangent” while online. The court heard that she suffers from anxiety, which condition prevented her from leaving her house to hand the stun gun into her local police station.
- A man has been ordered to carry out ninety hours of unpaid work after admitting to possession of a gas alarm pistol and a canister of capsaicin. In October 2019, National Crime Agency officers arrested a man in London who had purchased and imported several blank-firing, forward-venting handguns from a company in Spain. The suspect’s name was found on a spreadsheet of buyers and police officers subsequently found a blank-firing pistol and a can of pepper spray at his home in Dunfermline, Fife. The man claimed he had bought the firearm to hire out as a film prop, believing it to be legal to buy; however, front-venting replica weapons are outlawed in the UK as they are easily converted by criminals to fire live rounds. The can of pepper spray was thought to have belonged to an ex-girlfriend.
- After National Crime Agency officers recovered drugs and a blank-firing handgun converted to fire live rounds from a flat in Birmingham, West Midlands in November last year, a 21-year-old man admitted drug and firearms offences and was jailed for nine-and-a-half years.
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to five counts of possession of a prohibited firearm, two counts of possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate and five counts of possessing a prohibited weapon. After National Crime Agency personnel discovered he had bought guns, ammunition and pepper spray on the internet, police officers searched his home, his car and his mother’s address in Slough, Berkshire. They recovered weapons including a revolver, a forward-venting blank-firing pistol, eight spray canisters, three stun guns, 714 rounds of ammunition, a machete and an extendable baton. The man, arrested at Birmingham Airport in November 2018 on his return from a holiday, claimed that he believed the guns were legal. A forfeiture destruction order was made for the retrieved firearms and ammunition.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 58 reports in February 2022 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Four men involved in illegal firearms’ trades have been jailed for over 54 years: A 34-year-old received a sentence of eleven years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons; A 33-year-old and a 21-year old received ten years, eight months, and seven years, five months, respectively, for conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life; and a fourth man received 25 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and Class B drugs, and two counts of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life. After the encrypted messaging system (EncroChat) was cracked, detectives discovered that the fourth man had brokered deals to supply two of the others with firearms, while another acted as courier. In three separate deliveries, the 34-year-old man handed over a Skorpion machine pistol, an Uzi sub machine gun, an East German AK47 Kalashnikov automatic rifle with bullets, a Taurus Brasil revolver and other ammunition. Police recovered all of the firearms, as well as other guns and ammunition found buried in the garden of the man’s home in Warrington, Cheshire.
- Four men have been jailed for a total of 94 years after being found guilty of the murder of a man in Glasgow, Scotland in April 2018. The victim died in hospital two days after being shot in the head as he was sitting in a BMW car at a road junction. The jurors were shown CCTV footage of a person getting out of a Ford car and firing six shots from an automatic pistol at the BMW. The gunman was then driven away and the Ford was later found burned out nearby. The court heard that the first man fired the handgun, a second man was “instrumental” in setting up the plan, and two other men were also involved. The men received sentences of 26 years, 24 years, 22 years and 22 years, respectively. On sentencing, the judge said: “People who are prepared to engage in such meticulously planned and ruthlessly perpetrated assassination on the streets of our cities can expect substantial punishment.”
- A 34-year-old veteran of conflicts in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq, has been jailed for twenty years after admitting importation of Class A and B drugs and unlawful possession of two firearms and ammunition. In June 2020, police officers raided a house in Stockport, Greater Manchester, where the man was staying with a woman and four children. They recovered a rucksack containing a self-loading pistol, a Slovakian-made machine gun pistol and a loaded magazine of five 9mm bullets from the airing cupboard, with three more 9mm bullets being found in a sock. Subsequently the man was connected to the seizure of heroin, cocaine and cannabis at an industrial unit in Salford. The court heard that the man acted as a trusted “custodian'” for a drug-smuggling gang, the Dubai-based leader of which used him for his knowledge of firearms.
- Three men have been jailed following the discovery of a gun “workshop” in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. After learning that two imitation firearms had been imported from Eastern Europe, police officers raided the first man’s home and found converted imitation pistols modified to be capable of firing real bullets, as well as ammunition and component parts of firearms. Evidence became known, subsequently, that he had previously modified other weapons, including rifles, for sale to criminals. He was jailed for thirteen-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to convert firearms and other charges. A second man aged 29 received eight years and three months for the conspiracy charge and drugs offences, while a 24-year-old man was handed a five-year sentence for his involvement as a customer.
- A 37-year-old man has been jailed for three years and seven days after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a firearm and ammunition in a public place. The court heard that, in October last year, he asked his estranged wife to bring their children to a trampoline park in Bicester, Oxfordshire. When a man he suspected to be her new partner also turned up at the venue, the perpetrator pressed an imitation Glock-style pistol into his victim’s stomach before beating him on the head with the butt of the weapon and threatening to kill him. Over the following days, the perpetrator sent messages that threatened both his ex-wife and her supposed partner. The following month, police officers arrested him at a shopping centre in Banbury and recovered ammunition and two imitation handguns from his car. The firearms were found to be powerful enough to be classified as firearms by law.
- A 24-year-old hitman has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years after being found guilty of murder and possession of a firearm. He fatally shot a man in front his wife and child outside his home in Battersea, South West London in December 2019. The court heard that the shooting was carried out as part of a “tit-for-tat rivalry between two very significant organised crime groups”. A 35-year-old co-defendant, who was involved with reconnaissance, received fifteen years after being found guilty of manslaughter, while two other men were each jailed for three years after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice, having removed evidence, including the gun.
- A 30-year-old man has been jailed for 26 years after being found guilty of eighteen offences. After police cracked the criminal encrypted messaging network, Encrochat, officers raided properties in Bath, Somerset in May 2020 and discovered Class A drugs with associated paraphernalia, a handgun, a kit to adapt the weapon to function as a submachine gun, a silencer, 25 rounds of ammunition and £23,000 in cash. The man, a major drug dealer, was arrested after he used Encrochat to confirm to a London supplier the safe delivery of seven blocks of cocaine.
- After an engineer discovered a sawn-off shotgun with cartridges and a German WW1 pistol in an electrical cupboard at a home in Brixton, South London a 26-year-old man was found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and jailed for six-and-a-half years.
- It has emerged that six members of an organised crime group were jailed last year following a successful police surveillance operation that saw drugs, firearms and ammunition recovered in Manchester, Greater Manchester: The 34-year-old gang ringleader received fifteen years for conspiracy to supply drugs, money laundering, conspiracy to possess a firearm, conspiracy to possess ammunition and conspiracy to possess an explosive device; two others received a total of 23-and-a-half years, with other gang members also being sentenced for conspiracy, drugs and money laundering offences.
- A 26-year-old from Southwark, central London, has been jailed for nine years and nine months for possession of a firearm with intent to enable another to endanger life. As part of an investigation into an earlier shooting, police covertly recorded the man and advising another man on the correct ammunition to use in a gun. During a second recording the 26-year-old man was heard manipulating the firearm to “unjam” its owner to grease it “every time you go out there”.
- Two men have been jailed after each suffered gunshot injuries at a pub in Knowsley, Merseyside in May last year. The court heard that the first man took a loaded gun to the pub, where he and a second man wrestled with it. After the gun went off and hit him in the groin, the second man took the gun from his attacker and shot him twice in the chest. Armed police officers responded and took the first man to hospital, while the second man self-presented at a hospital later the same evening. The first man was jailed for fourteen-and-a-half years after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to endanger, with a consecutive term of four years for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. After being found guilty of the same offences, the second man was jailed for twelve years for the firearms charge, with a consecutive seven-year term for the wounding offence.
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. 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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