January 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 15-02-2021
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 January 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 January 2021.
Figure 1: January 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 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least three reports in January 2021 concerning a gun death:
- A man died in hospital a day after he was found with critical gunshot injuries in Dudley, West Midlands. An investigation has been opened and police have appealed for information.
- A 15-year-old boy died in hospital after a group of youths allegedly attacked him in Birmingham, West Midlands. A post-mortem examination revealed the boy had been shot and stabbed to death. Five teenage males have since been arrested on suspicion of murder. West Midlands Police have appealed for information from the community, with a Detective Chief Inspector from the force saying that the attack was “the most pointless use of extreme violence” he had witnessed in 24 years in the police.
- A man has died after being shot on a street in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. Witnesses reported that the victim had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Police, who say they believe the shooting was a targeted attack, have since arrested two teenage boys and a man on suspicion of murder.
We are aware of at least two inquest reports in January 2021 relating to gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man at a shooting range in Charmouth, Dorset has recorded a verdict of suicide. In October 2019, the man toured the range after telling staff that he was arranging a day out for work colleagues. Towards the end of an hour’s shooting, supervised by a qualified range officer, the man turned the rifle on himself. Following investigations by police and Dorset Council’s environmental health officers, the owners of the shooting range adopted four recommendations for improvement. They also implemented a “cooling off” period, meaning that non-club members would not be allowed to make an initial enquiry and a booking on the same day. In his Regulation 28 report, the coroner urged the National Rifle Association and the National Small Bore Rifle Association to adopt similar policies at all shooting ranges. The Associations have until February 16th to respond to the coroner’s letter.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Alresford, Hampshire, has recorded a verdict of suicide. In May last year, after suffering mental health issues and financial concerns, the man shot himself with a licensed shotgun. He was found by his wife who had rushed home after a worrying phone conversation with him.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least five reports in January 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- A 31-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in prison after admitting kidnap and possession of a firearm. In May last year, the perpetrator threatened another man with a knife after luring him into his home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. After his victim escaped and alerted police, the perpetrator was arrested. While on bail for this offence, he sent a picture of a sawn-off shotgun to his ex-girlfriend, later saying he wanted to use it on himself. The woman reported her concerns to the police and officers recovered the firearm along with ten shotgun cartridges from the man’s home.
- A 31-year-old man has been sentenced to four years in custody and three years on extended licence after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, two counts of common assault, two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and two drug related offences. In September last year, a woman called police to complain that the man had “acted aggressively towards her and spat in her face”. The pair had known each other for three weeks but were not in a relationship. Four days after the first incident, the man entered her home in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, carrying an imitation firearm. Believing the gun to be real, the woman tried to calm him and put distance between them. However, he followed her upstairs and hit her over the head with the firearm. He went on to say he was a “mad man” and that he would “kill anyone who comes to this door…”. After threatening and verbally abusing her for two hours, he put the gun in his own mouth. The woman slapped the firearm away from him and ran outside before passing the weapon to a neighbour. Responding armed police officers recovered the weapon and arrested the perpetrator. The judge imposed a restraining order barring the perpetrator from contacting his victim in any way.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for 24 years after being convicted of attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence. His 23-year-old associate received a sentence of thirteen years’ imprisonment after being convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence. In March last year, after both men approached a parked van in Slough, Berkshire and one fired a sawn-off shotgun, wounding one of the vehicle’s occupants in his shoulder, shots were fired from a handgun as the men fled the scene. The victim was known to his assailants, both of whom were arrested the following month.
- A 23-year-old man from Northampton, Northamptonshire has been jailed for four years after admitting grievous bodily harm (GBH), malicious communications and two counts of actual bodily harm (ABH). In March last year, he called police after he punched his girlfriend and broke her jaw. He later went on to shoot her in the arm and leg with a BB gun and to send her threatening messages. He was placed on remand due to the risk of re-offending and has now been handed a four-year prison term for the GBH offence, two eighteen-month sentences for the ABH offences and a six-month sentence for the malicious communication. All sentences will run concurrently. The court ordered the forfeiture of the BB gun, as well as an air rifle and ammunition, all seized from the man’s caravan.
- After the occupants of a property in Plumstead reported to police that they had been threatened on social media by a man with a gun, officers tracked the suspect to a hotel in Deptford, South East London. On forcing entry to his room, the officers found two suspected handguns and a suspected shotgun. A male was arrested on suspicion of threats to kill and firearms offences.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in January 2021 that relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquests above − A coroner recorded a verdict of suicide regarding the death of a man on a shooting range in Dorset. At an inquest in Hampshire, a coroner recorded a verdict of suicide regarding the death of a man, suffering from mental health issues and financial concerns, who used a licensed shotgun to take his own life.
- A man, who was a registered firearms keeper, was found dead at his home in Aldham, Essex last month. A post-mortem revealed that he had been strangled. Detectives believe a Browning shotgun and a self-loading Ruger rifle were stolen from the deceased’s home and may since have been sold on in Colchester or Hastings. A man and a teenage boy have since been charged with the man’s murder.
We note at least nine reports involving the use of police Tasers including:
- A 29-year-old man has been jailed for three years after admitting two counts of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear, alarm or distress. In May last year, the man hit a friend over the head with the butt of an air pistol. The victim informed police and armed officers were sent to the man’s home in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, where they found him “distressed and emotionally unstable”. He told them that he had a gun, once describing it as a Magnum handgun, and said they were going to have to shoot him or he would shoot them. He then discharged a weapon inside his flat before challenging them to see who would be “quickest on the draw – you or me” and beginning a countdown. After he opened his door and pointed a firearm at the officers, they identified it as an air weapon and discharged a Taser and a form of baton round at him. He was knocked to the ground and detained. His firearm was found to be an ASG gas-powered revolver with a 22cm barrel, a “realistic looking firearm”. The court heard that the man, diagnosed as having an “unstable personality disorder”, told detectives that he had intended the police should shoot him.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least two reports in January 2021 that relate to stolen guns and ammunition:
- See above Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition − a shotgun and a self-loading rifle have been stolen from the home of a legal gun owner found strangled at his home in Essex.
- Thieves reportedly broke into a private martial arts gym at the back of a residential property in Wigan, Greater Manchester and stole weapons including swords, a meat cleaver, power tools and an imitation firearm. The offenders smashed through two high security doors to gain entrance, fleeing after the male occupier spotted the break-in.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least six reports in January 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Four cats have been injured in separate shootings in Cheshire, County Durham, Essex and Northamptonshire, and a further two cats have been killed in Hampshire and Northamptonshire. Two suspects have been arrested in a poaching related incident in Dorset, during which a dead rabbit was recovered.
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 that the failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations is undemocratic.
We find it deplorable that the Home Office has chosen to ignore the statistical evidence from Scotland regarding the country’s significant reduction in airgun crime since the introduction of licensing for airgun owners, and launch another 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 one report in January 2021 relating to illegal firearms:
§ A man from Rugby, Warwickshire has been jailed for sixteen weeks after UK Border Agency staff intercepted a parcel containing a stun gun disguised as a torch that he had ordered online from China.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 42 reports in January 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- It has emerged that a 36-year-old man and his 30-year-old brother from Pulham St. Mary, Norfolk were jailed for thirteen-and-a-half years and ten-and-a-half years respectively in January last year after they pleaded guilty to a number of firearms offenses. In December 2018, the brothers sold a sawn-off shotgun to a man who was subsequently jailed for its possession, while in February 2019, the older brother sold a shotgun and a signal pistol, which had been converted to a handgun, to a man who was sentenced for two counts of possession of a firearm. The brothers’ arrest came after an investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit into the supply of illegal firearms.
- A 55-year-old man has been handed a fire-year prison term after admitting to nine firearm offences. In August last year, police officers stopped his car in Glasgow, Scotland and found him in possession of a self-loading pistol and ammunition. A search of his home resulted in the seizure of six more pistols, a revolver and packs of ammunition. The court heard that the guns, originally designed to fire blanks, had been converted.
- A 16-year-old and a man who remains unnamed for legal reasons have been jailed for life after being convicted of murder. In March last year, the unnamed offender opened fire from a car driven by the sixteen-year-old, fatally wounding a rival gang member on a street in Coventry, West Midlands. The victim, a teenage man, suffered “catastrophic internal injuries” from two gunshot wounds. The driver then arranged for others to set the car on fire to destroy evidence. With both offenders being electronically tagged at the time of the shooting, police were able to demonstrate they had been present in the area. The sixteen-year-old must serve a minimum of eighteen years in youth detention followed by prison, while his accomplice was jailed for at least 27 years.
- After pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and having spent six months in custody, a 31-year-old man was handed a two-and-a-half-year community order that includes a 12-month drug rehabilitation requirement and a 50-day rehabilitation activity requirement. In July last year, two armed police officers attended the man’s address in Stoke, Staffordshire after he scattered shotgun cartridges outside his home. He refused to open his front door, claiming the officers were going to shoot him. About an hour later he came out of his home and pointed an imitation shotgun at one of the officers. The officer aimed his own firearm at the man but did not shoot him as he was standing in front of a neighbour’s widow. When the man pointed his firearm at the second officer, he was Tasered and arrested. The man later explained that he had been feeling suicidal and had used his nephew’s toy gun to induce the officers to shoot him.
- A 58-year-old man has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to eight firearms offences. In December 2019, police officers raided the man’s home in St. Helen’s, Merseyside and recovered weapons including 23 air rifles, 24 air pistols and eleven imitation firearms from an outside shed, as well as axes, machetes, swords, knives, a knuckle duster, brass bullet cases, ball bearings, and blank rounds of ammunition. When officers also found a loaded semi-automatic pistol, converted from a blank-firer, in a drawer under his bed, the man told them he kept it in case of a break-in, adding he had forgotten it was there. The court heard that he had acquired the weapons from various sources, including car boot sales, outdoor pursuit shops and online retailers.
- A 72-year-old firearms collector has been jailed for three years after admitting possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of a shotgun without a certificate. In May last year, when police officers called at the man’s home in Hopton, Suffolk on an unrelated matter, they found an unlicensed shotgun leaning against a window. The officers searched the property and recovered other firearms including a Taser and a pistol. Ammunition was also seized. The man claimed to have bought the shotgun and pistol about 30 years previously “from gypsies”, while the Taser had been purchased in Germany. He said he had not used the weapons, intending only to possibly shoot into the air “to scare any thieves”. The man’s offences carry a mandatory minimum five-year prison term, but the judge found his poor health constituted the “exceptional circumstances” required to reduce the sentence.
- A 38-year-old man has been jailed for five years and two months after pleading guilty to robbery. In August 2018, the man was one of three who robbed a man at gunpoint as he walked home through a park in Manchester, Greater Manchester. After bringing the man to the ground, one of the attackers pushed a pair of scissors against his back while another pulled a handgun, which the victim believed was held against his temple. As the robbers stole a wallet, iPad, iPhone, passport and other items from his bag, the man managed to run away. The 38-year-old’s DNA was subsequently found on the victim’s jacket. The court heard that the robbery hadn’t been planned and that the 38-year-old hadn’t known that the two other men, both still at large, had weapons. The gun was never recovered. In an impact statement, the victim said that the incident made him fear for his life and that he still suffers the psychological effects of his ordeal.
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: January 2021 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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