January 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 22-02-2023
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 January 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 January 2023.
Figure 1: January 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 2022 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of one report in January 2023 concerning a gun death:
- A man died at the scene after being shot as he stepped out of a car near his home in Acton, West London. One man has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
We are aware of two reports in January 2023 concerning the verdict of inquests into three gun deaths:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a married couple in June last year has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being shotgun wounds to their chests. The bodies of the man and woman were found in the grounds of their home in Goring Heath, Oxfordshire after bailiffs calling to carry out an eviction order found a note pinned to the door describing their whereabouts and asking for the police to be notified. The couple’s dog had also been shot dead. The inquest heard that the couple had got into financial difficulties after the failure of a business enterprise. Handwritten and typed suicide notes were left, signed by both of them. The pathologist in the inquest could not conclude whether one person had shot the other and then themselves, or if the individuals shot themselves. N.B. The Coroner failed to report whether or not either of the victims were licensed gun owners.
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a woman in Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound to the head. The woman was found dead by her husband in the garden of their home in June last year. The keys to the “family gun cabinet” were still in place but one shotgun had been removed. The inquest heard that the victim had suffered from mental health issues for many years and had made previous threats to kill herself. N.B. Assume the deceased or a member of her household was a licensed gun owner.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of two reports in January 2023 that we believe to relate to the above, including:
- After admitting making threats to kill, actual bodily harm and a public order offence, a 37-year-old man was handed a suspended sentence of thirteen months, with an indefinite restraining order, and told to enrol on an anger management course. In March last year, he threatened to cut his partner with a knife and kill her. During an argument at the woman’s home in Leeds, West Yorkshire six months later, a pellet gun the man was waving around went off, hitting her in the thigh. This incident was accepted by the court as “reckless rather than intentional”. The man made further death threats before being arrested.
- Three men have been jailed after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. The younger man hired two older hit men to kill someone he had previously assaulted over an ongoing dispute. In September 2021, one of the two hit men shot the targeted man outside his home in Wishaw, Warwickshire, causing life-changing injuries to his leg, arm and hand. The victim was able to provide police with “key information” that helped identify the offenders. The youngest man was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 22 years, while the hit men were each jailed for 30 years with an extended period of five years on licence. On sentencing, the judge described the shooting as “callous”, adding, “You chose to target him. He was shot in cold blood and left for dead. There could hardly have been a more terrifying experience.”
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in January 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Inquests above — A woman took her own life with an assumed to be licensed gun stored in the family home in Gloucestershire, despite her having a known history of mental health issues.
- Police appealed for information after five men allegedly broke into a home in Eynsham, Oxfordshire and forced a woman to get onto the floor while they searched the house. The intruders damaged the property and stole a firearms’ safe that contained three rifles, two shotguns and ammunition, as well as jewellery, handbags, a mobile phone and car. A young girl was asleep upstairs during the raid.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for five years after being convicted of burglary and admitting possessing ecstasy with intent to supply. While working at a house in North Cave, East Yorkshire, the man discovered there was a gun cabinet at the property. He passed on the information to others and told them the home was unoccupied. In April 2020, the gun cabinet, which contained a 12-bore shotgun, a 2.2 rifle with a sound moderator, a 4.10 single-barrel shotgun, another shotgun and two air rifles, was stolen after being prised off a wall. Police officers discovered it later in a field with 300 rounds of ammunition still inside a locked section. The court heard that the man played an “active role” in the burglary, with phone evidence placing him in the area at the time. On sentencing, the judge said, “Six firearms are now at large in the community and that's extremely bad news because firearms tend to find themselves in the hands of criminals, usually threatening people but sometimes worse.”
We are aware of at least five reports in January 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- Following reports that a woman had been assaulted and a window damaged in Ryde, Isle of Wight, police officers arrested a man after Tasering him and using PAVA spray.
- Police officers Tasered and arrested a man after he allegedly caused a disturbance in Glasgow, Scotland.
- Following a pursuit in Poplar, East London, police officers arrested four men on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle and possession of an offensive weapon. One of the men was taken to hospital as a precaution after an officer Tasered him.
- Police officers detained a man after responding to a report of a person experiencing a mental health crisis in Bexleyheath, South East London. The man was Tasered to prevent further injury after he ran off and began to self-harm. He was treated in hospital for injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
- A man has been jailed for 41 months after admitting theft, use of a firearm with intent to resist arrest and assaulting police officers. In July 2021, police were called to a store in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear after the man was seen shoplifting. He took a Taser from one of the officers and pointed it at him, going on to injure both officers as he resisted arrest. He was safely detained after three members of the public helped subdue him.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eight reports in January 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Three cats have been injured in separate gun attacks in Co. Durham, Merseyside and West Sussex, and a fourth cat had to be put to sleep after being shot in Cheshire.
- A buzzard is undergoing treatment after being shot in Colchester, Essex.
- Following reports of birds being shot with an air rifle at a nature reserve in Dudley, West Midlands, a man and teenage boy were arrested at the scene. The man was subsequently charged with possession of an air weapon in a public place.
- Police have appealed for information after five young goshawks were shot dead, in King’s Forest, Suffolk.
- A man was cautioned by police for offences under the Conservation of Seals Act and the Firearms Act after he fired an air rifle at seals on a public beach in Filey, North Yorkshire. The man voluntarily surrendered his air weapon for destruction. Since March 2021, it has been illegal to kill, injure or take a seal in UK waters.
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 aware of four reports in January 2023 relating to the above:
- A 35-year-old man has been jailed for six years after admitting conspiracy to import cannabis, conspiracy to acquire criminal property, possession with intent to supply Class B drugs and possession of a prohibited weapon. Between June and November 2021, Border Force officials intercepted parcels of drugs from the US, addressed to him and two other men. Police officers subsequently discovered a gun and more drugs at his home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, while analysis of his phone revealed the names of the two men involved in the illegal imports.
- A 36-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to purchasing a prohibited weapon. Police and National Crime Agency officers began investigating after Border Force personnel intercepted a parcel addressed to him that contained a forward-venting blank-firing handgun. The firearm, bought online from a seller in Spain, can be converted to fire real bullets and is illegal to possess in this country. When officers arrested the man at his home in Greenock, Renfrewshire in May 2020, they seized a second, legal, blank-firing weapon as well as a crossbow, knives and a ballistic vest.
- After armed police from the National Crime Agency raided a house in Bucknall, Staffordshire, a man was charged with the attempted importation of a weapon and ammunition, attempted possession of a prohibited firearm and attempted possession of ammunition.
- A 73-year-old man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after being found guilty of 45 firearm offences. After National Crime Agency personnel told police that the man had imported a blank firing weapon from the Czech Republic, officers searched his home in Havering, East London in November 2018. Several safes were discovered, inside which ammunition and firearms were stored. A number of viable firearms were found to have been made by the man, who cut out cardboard templates before pressing metal to create the weapons. The court heard that one weapon was “25% more powerful than a factory-produced firearm of similar calibre and style”. He had also reactivated firearms and converted blank ammunition and weapons, including a stun gun, an Italian revolver and a Turkish self-loading 9mm pistol, to fire. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “Though no evidence was found of any associated criminality linked to his activities, the arsenal he had in his possession was lethal and, in the wrong hands, quite capable of causing incredibly serious harm.”
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 38 reports in January 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 17-year-old youth has been jailed for fifteen years after being found guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, two counts of possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life and one count of possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate. In December 2021 in Liverpool, Merseyside, he shot a man against whom he had a grudge, leaving him with serious injuries to both legs. The following month, he was involved in the shooting of another man and, while on bail for this offence, was found in possession of a pistol and ammunition. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said that the youth was involved in “unparalleled street violence and organised crime”.
- A 22-year-old man has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to possession of firearms and ammunition, possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to supply and possession of criminal property. In December 2021, police officers recovered a boxful of ammunition and firearms, including a Russian Baikal 27E-1C bore shotgun, a Webley Mk VI revolver, a Smith & Wesson revolver and a Colt DA, from a garage in Beeston, Nottinghamshire. The man’s fingerprints were retrieved from two of the guns and, following his arrest, photos were discovered on his phone of him posing with a revolver and a shotgun. In February last year, £80,000 worth of heroin, £5,000 worth of cocaine, £7,000 in cash and a stolen motorbike were recovered from a lock-up linked to him. The court heard that he was connected to organised criminality involving firearms, Class A drugs and money laundering.
- After pleading guilty to conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to commit burglary and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, a 38-year-old man and a 28-year-old man received jail terms of twenty-one years and eighteen years, respectively. A co-defendant received sixteen years and seven months for the first two charges. In August 2019, the two men threatened to shoot a security guard after stealing four shotguns from a theme park near Melton Mowbray. Before leaving the park, they started a fire that caused £2m worth of damage. The duo, later joined by the co-defendant went on to carry out raids at businesses across Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire, including at pubs, post offices, a shop, sports pavilion, hotel, garden centre and polo club. During one raid at a post office in Stretton, East Staffordshire, the duo hit the postmaster on the head with a crowbar, threatened him with a shotgun and tied him up, along with his wife and two children. A shotgun was fired into a wall before the thieves fled with £9,000. All three men went on to break into another post office where they tied up the postmaster, his wife and their disabled daughter, holding them at gunpoint for more than two hours. The court heard that a woman living alone at a social club was threatened with a shotgun before the men stole two mobile phones, while a victim of one of the pub burglaries described in a victim impact statement how seeing the armed men on CCTV had left her “shaken, upset and anxious and constantly on edge”. A complex investigation resulted in shotgun cartridges being recovered from the home of the 38-year-old man, and, six months later, the two sawn-off shotguns were found in a pond near the home of the 28-year-old man.
- A man has been jailed for six years and nine months after admitting selling a firearm, possession of a firearm and ammunition, and three counts of fraud, while his co-defendant received two years after pleading guilty to intentionally encouraging the commission of an offence. In April 2021, the man bought a revolver from an online seller. His accomplice then drove him to a supermarket car park where he handed the weapon over to a member of an organised crime group. The purchaser’s car was later stopped by armed police officers and the weapon was recovered from the glove box. The defendant’s DNA was subsequently retrieved from the firearm. After covert investigations revealed the pair discussing the potential sale of another firearm to a drug dealer, police officers raided the man’s home in Liverpool, Merseyside and recovered a loaded revolver in a shoe cupboard. A cartridge, which had been fired from this gun, was found at his sister's home in Southport. On sentencing, the judge said, “The firearm was sold not only to a man with a criminal record, but a man with a leading role in an organised crime group and dealing with the trafficking of class A drugs. You must have known full well there was a high probability that gun you supplied him with would have been used for criminal purposes.”
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for life after being convicted of murder. In 2016, he and three other men raided a distribution warehouse in Birmingham, West Midlands, where they tied up members of staff. The man discharged a firearm twice into the air before shooting the business owner in the leg as a warning that he should open the safe. As the injured man tried to escape, the 31-year-old shot him in the throat and chest. The victim managed to get outside, where he died from his injuries shortly afterwards. The robbers escaped, empty-handed, in a getaway car and the man fled the UK five days later. He was extradited from Pakistan in 2020. He claimed to have shot the man accidentally during a struggle but the court heard that he had shown a “clear willingness to use the gun” and had an “intention to kill” when he fired the fatal shots.
- After she pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and possession of an offensive weapon, a 28-year-old woman was handed an eighteen-month community order, with 25 rehabilitation days, and ordered to pay £40 costs and a £114 surcharge. She was found in possession of a pepper spray, a catapult and some rocks when she was stopped by a police officer in Salisbury, Wiltshire in September this year. The court heard that she had been on her way to “sort things out” after a family associate had injured her with a knife. The woman claimed to have taken the weapons with her “in case of any difficulties”.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after being found guilty of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing a firearm when prohibited for five years and possessing ammunition for a firearm when prohibited for five years. In April 2019, police officers arrested the man after finding a loaded revolver under the front seat of an Uber he’d occupied in West London. His DNA was retrieved from the loading face of the cylinder, a part inaccessible without opening up the gun. The court heard that the man was a prominent member of a South London gang and that he had been searching online for firearms and ammunition in the run up to his arrest.
- A 19-year-old man has been jailed for life after being found guilty of attempted murder, causing grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. In March last year, he fired six bullets towards another man as he chased him on an electric bike in Liverpool, Merseyside. One bullet hit the man while another struck a teenage girl as she waited at a bus stop. The man’s injuries were not serious but the girl suffered lung damage and fractures to her spine. The shooting was captured on CTTV and dashcam footage and the 19-year-old was arrested shortly afterwards. The gun, which he had already discarded along with the bike and clothing, has never been retrieved. Following sentencing, a CPS spokesperson said, “People like (him) bring deadly violence and mayhem to our streets without any thought for the results. The illegal use of guns has no place in a civilised society and criminals who use them will face the full force of the law.”
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 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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