January 2016 Review
by Gun Control Network on 15-02-2016
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 of the most serious crimes are included.
Figure 1: January 2016 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least three reports of gun deaths, including one new gun death, in January 2016.
Police discovered what is believed to be the body of a man who went missing two days earlier from his home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire with his licensed shotgun. Police do not believe the circumstances of his death to be suspicious.
We are aware of at least one inquest in January 2016 relating to a gun death. The inquest into the death of Ronald Warren, 75, found that he took his own life with a handgun in Ystrad Mynach, Caerphilly in October 2015. The prohibited gun is believed to have belonged to his father many years before. The deceased had formerly been a game shooter.
Armed Domestic Violence
We recorded at least five reports relating to armed domestic violence in January 2016:
- Armed police arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of possessing a firearm/imitation firearm with intent, causing grievous bodily harm with intent, and common assault in Shepton Mallet, Somerset at the scene of a disturbance between people who knew each other.
- George Webster, 22, has been jailed for three years and nine months after pleading guilty to possessing a realistic imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence to his mother at her home in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He held a blank firing pistol to her head and threatened to kill her. The victim believed that the gun was capable of firing.
- Kenneth Ellis, 44, has been jailed for four years and six weeks for abducting and assaulting a woman he had met on an online dating site at his home in Edinburgh using an unidentified gun. Ellis is known to have previously harassed at least two other women.
- Adrian Watson, 41, of Leeds, West Yorkshire has been jailed for two years and been made the subject of a restraining order after holding an imitation rifle to his wife’s head and threatening to kill her.
- Raymond McCluskey, 19, has received a 12-month community order and a restraining order after causing a disturbance outside his ex partner’s house in South Shields, Tyne and Wear while under the influence of alcohol and Valium and armed with a realistic imitation pistol found to be a gas-powered ball-bearing gun.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We are aware of at least three reports relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns in January 2016.
A legal shotgun owner from Newton Abbott, Devon has been jailed for five years after being found in possession of a Taser, Taser ammunition, and three other stun guns disguised as torches, all of which are prohibited.
We know of reports in January 2016 concerning the theft of at least 17 legally held guns:
- Sixteen airguns and air rifles have been stolen from a target-shooting club in Lincoln. Criminals gained access to the premises by removing external wooden panelling.
- A shotgun and about 70 cartridges have been stolen from a house in Kingswinford, West Midlands.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least four reports of gun-related animal cruelty in January 2016.
Cats were injured in at least two airgun attacks. One dog went missing and another was injured by what is believed to be a licensed shotgun while they were being walked on farmland by their owner. A man was also seen shooting a stolen shotgun into trees where birds were nesting. A Freedom of Information request additionally revealed that 21 beavers, including several pregnant animals, were found shot dead in Tayside, Scotland.
Although imitations, BBs, and airguns do not require a licence* in England, Scotland, and Wales they are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals.
Sentences and Convictions
We know of at least 37 sentences and convictions relating to gun crime in January 2016:
- Five men and one woman have been jailed for a total of 46 years for their involvement in the illegal manufacture and supply of firearms and ammunition. While in prison in Rochester, Kent two of the men used illicit mobile phones to locate deactivated weapons, which were reactivated by a former soldier - who also crafted ammunition for the guns - before they were sold on.
- Two men have been jailed for a total of 17 years for using an air pistol in the attempted armed robbery of a Post Office in Hinderwell, North Yorkshire.
- A man has been jailed for six years for illegally purchasing firearms from the ‘dark web’, a part of the Internet that is hidden from the general public because it requires specific software, configurations, or authorisation to access. Police recovered a sniper rifle, a sawn-off shotgun, a revolver, expanding ammunition, and components for producing ammunition from his home in Bury, Greater Manchester.
- Three boys, aged 16 and 17, have been given training, detention, and rehabilitation orders for carrying realistic imitation handguns held as though ready to fire as they walked through a busy shopping centre in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Incident Reports 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 imitations 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 it’s through theft, or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others.
Please see Notes and Gun Types and Issues page for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: January 2016 incident 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, and deactivated guns; 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 do not apply retrospectively.
There is no legal definition of ‘antique’, and although antique guns are 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.
- A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
- *From April 2016 airguns in Scotland will be required to be licensed.
Guns that require a licence: shotguns and rifles
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. Women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. However, the Home Office do not publish data regarding the number of licensed guns/legal gun owners involved in crime, and the status of guns used in suicides is not recorded at inquests.
Guns that are prohibited: handguns (revolvers, pistols etc.); Tasers; submachine guns; Olympic-model starting pistols; and ‘other’ (pepper spray/CS gas, homemade 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-type submachine guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitation or other guns that looks like handguns, resulting in misleading inflated reports of handgun crime.
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