January 2024 Review

by Gun Control Network on 30-11--0001

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 2024 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 2024.

                                          Figure 1: January 2024 incident reports by type

 

Gun Deaths

We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile lists that summarise the available information. Our summaries for 2017/18 to 2022/23 are available at www.gun-control-network.org

We are aware of three reports in January 2024 concerning gun deaths:

  • Armed police officers responded after a man armed with a crossbow, sword and hatchet reportedly forced his way into a home in Southwark, South London and threatened people inside, as well as local police officers who tried to speak with him. Firearms officers entered the property and shot the man, two shots being fired. Emergency first aid was given but the man died at the scene. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. It is believed that the man was known to at least one of the occupants.
  • It has emerged that a man died after being shot in the chest at a house in Wolverhampton, West Midlands in December 2023. Two adults and a teenager have since been charged with murder.
  • One man was fatally shot and another was seriously injured outside a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The attack is thought to be part of an ongoing gang feud, with the deceased being previously convicted of another gangland shooting. In videos made before his death, he taunted his rivals, calling them “chickens” and telling them to “come and get it”. The injured victim remains in a serious but stable condition. No arrests have yet been reported.

Inquests

We are aware of one report of an inquest in January 2024 relating to a gun death: 

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a woman in Great Massingham, Norfolk has concluded that she took her own life using a shotgun. The woman’s body was found by her fiancé at their home in July 2023. The woman had been suffering mental health problems but had refused medication. Her fiancé told the inquest that he had a firearms licence and kept three guns in a safe, but only he knew where the keys were kept. The coroner ruled out suicide as the cause of death, saying she didn’t believe the victim had been “thinking clearly”.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of three reports in January 2024 that we believe to relate to the above: 

  • A 31-year-old man has been jailed for three years after admitting possessing an imitation firearm with an intention to cause fear of violence and assault by beating. In November 2023, after his wife told him he must stop drinking or move out of their home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, he held an unloaded air pistol to her head and pulled the trigger, verbally abusing her as he did so. When he was arrested the following day, he said he could not remember the incident. The court heard that the couple’s relationship had “become marred” by the man’s drinking and that he taken money from his wife’s business, leaving her with a debt of £17,000. He also stole items from the family, including children’s laptops, to raise money for alcohol and drugs. The judge handed him a ten-year restraining order to keep him away from his wife.
  • A 31-year-old man has been jailed for 30 months after being found guilty of two assaults and culpable and reckless conduct. In May 2021, the man fired a paintball gun from a moving car in Dundee, Scotland, injuring a teenage boy and striking a man. He went on to fire at a moving car that was being driven by a woman he was banned from seeing. Police officers recovered the paintball gun from a flat in the city the following day.
  • Armed police officers were deployed following a report that a man with a gun had attacked a woman in Bridport, Dorset. An air weapon was seized and a man was arrested on suspicion of assault and possession of a firearm. The woman, who was known by her attacker, did not suffer any serious injuries.

Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, Police Weapons/Stolen Guns and Ammunition

We are aware of at least five reports in January 2024 that we believe to relate to the above: 

  • See Gun Deaths above — Armed police fatally shot an intruder reportedly threatening the occupants of a home in South London.
  • See Inquests above — A Coroner concluded that a woman suffering from mental health problems took her own life in Norfolk using one of her fiancé’s three licensed guns stored in their home. 
  • An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct has concluded that a police officer, who fatally shot a man in Coventry, West Midlands in January 2019, will not be prosecuted. The man died from a single bullet wound to his chest. The officer concerned faces a charge of gross misconduct over the incident.
  • A 56-year-old man from Telford, Shropshire has been handed a suspended four-week prison term and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to failing to securely store a rifle and a side-by-side shotgun, and failing to store the rifle at another address when not in use as conditions of possession dictated. The offences occurred in June 2023. Magistrates said a custodial sentence was justified because of the insecure storage at an address other than that specified on his licence created a “substantial risk that the items could be taken out of the defendant's possession”. The firearms and ammunition will be forfeited and destroyed under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.
  • Following information received that a licenced firearms dealer was in possession of prohibited weapons, police officers searched his home in Corfton, Shropshire and removed 70 firearms, ammunition and other related items. The man was arrested for possession of prohibited firearms offences. A police spokesperson said, “This operation serves as a timely reminder for people to adhere to the terms of their licence. Firearms and ammunition should always be stored safely, appropriately, and legally. Licence holders should also only hold firearms which they are licensed for. This is a great example of a joint operation where firearms have been removed before they get into the wrong hands. The firearms licensing team don’t simply process applications; as demonstrated by this case, we can and do investigate, enforce and prosecute where necessary.”

We are aware of at least four reports in January 2024 involving the use of police Tasers, including: 

  • Police officers fired on a man with a baton round and Tasered him after he was seen carrying knives and “behaving erratically” in Bishop's Cleeve, Gloucestershire.
  • Armed police officers stopped a car in Birmingham, West Midlands and recovered more than £100,000, a revolver loaded with three rounds, a 9mm pistol with a magazine containing nine rounds and a shotgun. The officers Tasered the driver as he tried to flee from the scene. Two men and a teenage boy have since been arrested on suspicion of firearms offences.
  • Armed police officers were deployed following a report that a man had threatened a worker and fired a gun in a shop in Liverpool, Merseyside before fleeing empty-handed. Shortly afterwards, the gunman reportedly fired shots outside a cinema before threatening two workers in the foyer of the building. He allegedly went on to fire shots into the air as he left, escaping by car. An hour and a half later, shots were heard at a property in the city. A man was subsequently Tasered and arrested on suspicion of possession of a Section 1 firearm with intent to endanger life and robbery. No one was injured during the shootings.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least eleven reports in January 2024 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including: 

  • After being found guilty of shooting a sparrowhawk with an air rifle, a man was fined £480 and ordered to pay £1,500 court costs and a £192 victim surcharge. The man claimed to have missed the bird when confronted by a witness at allotments in Mapplewell, South Yorkshire, but the sparrowhawk was found dead with an airgun pellet. The prosecution came after an investigation by the RSPCA. 
  • After staff at an RSPCA branch in Godshill, Isle of Wight found a lump in a stray cat’s stomach, a vet removed an air pellet. It is not known when the cat was shot.
  • It has emerged that a peregrine, found injured on a school playing field in South Yorkshire in December 2023, had suffered shotgun injuries. Following rehabilitative care, it was released back into the wild. A further peregrine, found injured in Essex, is also believed to have been shot.
  • After a swan was discovered injured by the edge of the River Stour in Canterbury, Kent, an X-ray revealed he had been shot eight times with an air gun, the pellets lodging in his body, leg and head. Following veterinary treatment, the bird was released back into the wild.
  • A butchery business, of Leintwardine, Herefordshire, has been fined £2,000 after a director entered guilty pleas to three charges: contravening the provision of an EU regulation relating to pain, distress and suffering at the time of killing an animal; contravening the provision of an EU regulation at the time of killing an animal; and failing to ensure an instrument, equipment or installation at a slaughterhouse facilitated rapid, effective stunning or killing. The charges came after a cow was shot in the head twice using the wrong cartridge in a bolt gun in February 2023. The cartridges were not strong enough to stun the cow and standard operating procedures were not followed.
  • Three cats were shot with an air rifle over one weekend in Derby, Derbyshire. All three needed treatment, with one believed to have suffered life-threatening injuries. Police have appealed for information.
  • A swan is being cared for at a rescue centre after being shot twice with a BB gun in Worcester, Worcestershire. The bird suffered injuries to its side and beak and required surgery to remove pellets.
  • After the bodies of around 60 pigeons were seen floating in a canal in Ormskirk, Lancashire, at least one witness said that “young lads with air rifles” had been responsible. A local bird rescue charity said they believed it was a human act, with some of the birds being found headless.
  • X-rays revealed that a buzzard, found injured near Layer Marney, Essex in December 2023, had been shot with a shotgun. The bird, whose humerus bone was shattered, is being cared for at a wildlife rescue centre.
  • Five swans, found injured in Staines, Surrey, are believed to have been shot with an air rifle or catapult. All are now recovering at a bird rescue charity. The same charity rescued a cygnet that had a ball bearing lodged under its beak in Windsor and treated a sixth swan that had been shot with an air rifle in the region. Another swan was found dead on the Grand Union Canal. The charity, Swan Support, campaigns for stronger penalties to deter wildlife crime across the UK.

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 Government launched a consultation followed by a further consultation but as a result of responses, the overwhelming majority of which came from members of the shooting community, they concluded not to license airguns in England and Wales. 

Border Force and National Crime Agency

We are not aware of any reports in January 2024 relating to the above.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 34 reports in January 2024 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • Six gang members involved in a conspiracy to reactivate handguns and sell them to criminals have been jailed. In October 2022, police officers raided a home in Wokingham, Berkshire and discovered thirteen working handguns, ammunition, gun parts and a gun workstation. The court heard that a 43-year-old man had been using his home to convert deactivated firearms, with an estimated 41 converted or potentially convertible firearms found at the property. The 43-year-old and a 34-year-old man were identified as gang ringleaders while the other defendants sourced, shipped and delivered weapons and ammunition. It is not known how many sales were made but the judge described the set up as a “sophisticated and lucrative criminal operation”. The two ringleaders each received eighteen years and nine months, while the other gang members received sentences totalling over 34 years.
  • A 40-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and two counts of racially/religiously aggravated fear/provocation of violence by words/writing. In July 2023, he pointed a handgun wrapped in a plastic bag at a man who was looking for a stolen motorbike in Bracknell, Berkshire. He also racially abused officers after being arrested by armed police.
  • A 46-year-old man has been jailed for nineteen years, with four years on extended licence, after being found guilty of wounding with intent and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. In July 2023, a fight broke out at a pub near Reeth, North Yorkshire after the man’s bank card was declined. He was locked out of the pub after hitting staff and customers but managed to shoot at a man through a locked door, hitting him twice in the chest and once in the arm. The court heard that he was carrying firearms because of a “developing feud” with opponents.
  • A 21-year-old and three other men have each been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 38 years, after being convicted of two counts of murder and two of attempted murder. In October 2022, two of the defendants armed themselves with a gun each and forced their way into a house in Ilford, East London occupied by four men. Two of the occupants died after being repeatedly stabbed and shot, a third survived after being shot in the head, while the fourth escaped unharmed after fleeing from the back of the property. A total of 41 shots were fired during the onslaught. The court heard that the 21-year-old facilitated the revenge attack, with at least one of the victims being linked to his brother’s murder.
  • A 26-year-old man has been jailed for seven years and nine months, while his 29-year-old co-defendant received six years, after each pleaded guilty to possession of two converted handguns to supply to another, possession of one converted submachine gun to supply to another, possession of ammunition and conspiracy to convert blank-firing pistols into firearms. In June 2022, police became aware that the older man had bought fourteen blank firearms and accompanying ammunition from an authorised dealer in London, as well as similar firearms from two other dealerships. Following an investigation, officers arrested both defendants at a business address in Kempston, Bedfordshire, where they recovered a loaded converted submachine gun and two loaded converted self-loading pistols. A lockup garage in Houghton Regis was subsequently identified as a gun conversion factory, containing tools to convert firearms, blank and converted rounds of ammunition, packaging for blank firing pistols and the remnants of metal used in the conversion process. Phone messages between the two defendants revealed regular discussions about the purchase of component parts and the conversion and onward sale of firearms.
  • A 21-year-old man has been jailed for 28 months after admitting robbery. In October 2023, the man threatened two workers with an airgun at a shop in Lamerton, Devon before fleeing with cash. Armed police officers arrested him after stopping a taxi in Tavistock. Cash, gloves and a large knife were recovered from the passenger seat, while a “fully functioning CO2-powered, magazine-fed automatic air pistol” was later seized from a caravan nearby. The court heard that the man had carried out the robbery after getting into drug debt. In impact statements, one victim described feeling “unsafe while working alone” while the other said that going to work “filled her with dread”.
  • A 39-year-old man has been jailed for eight years and three months after admitting drug offences, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two counts each of possession of a firearm and ammunition in a public place and possession of a prohibited weapon. In May 2023, police officers responded to a call that he had assaulted his partner outside his home in Widnes, Cheshire. Before they arrived, the man moved items from his garage to his car. Officers found the vehicle in a street nearby and recovered around £60,000 worth of illegal drugs, a black handgun, a loaded revolver, ammunition and shotgun cartridges. They also seized a tablet press, a money-counting machine and body armour from his home address.
  • A 22-year-old man has been jailed for 30 years after being found guilty of murder. In July 2022, on a street in Waltham Forest, North London, he shot a man he believed was responsible for a stabbing. The victim died in hospital shortly afterwards of a single gunshot wound to the chest. The perpetrator fled to St Lucia a few days later, from where he was extradited to stand trial.
  • A 32-year-old man has been jailed for life after being found guilty of having an explosive substance with intent to endanger life, having an explosive substance, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, possessing ammunition with intent to endanger life and possessing a prohibited firearm without a certificate. He admitted possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possessing a prohibited firearm and possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate. In November 2022, police searched the man’s home in Wick St Lawrence, Somerset after receiving a tip-off. They recovered body armour, a police uniform, a deactivated hand grenade, more than 600 blank cartridges, nearly 1,500 primers, more than 1,000 unfired bullets for a range of different firearms and a large quantity of assorted chemicals, timers, metal tubes, pressure cookers and ball bearings. While officers searched the property, the man tried to shoot himself with a pistol before pointing the gun at them. Following warnings from two armed officers, the man was shot three times and spent several months in hospital before being fit to be questioned. The court heard that he had planned a revenge mass shooting at his former school and written a document that listed people he wanted to kill. He also planned to either detonate pressure cooker bombs and shoot staff with a submachine gun at Avon and Somerset Police's headquarters or ambush officers and enter the building to let off explosives. He had compiled “an armoury of homemade weapons” including pistols, submachine guns, a shotgun, ammunition, bombs, grenades and poison in preparation for the attacks. He told police that the document was a fantasy he never intended to act out but the judge said he had “no doubt” that it represented his “true thoughts and intents”.
  • A 46-year-old man has been jailed for 31 months after pleading guilty to possession of a kitchen knife, possession of an air weapon with intent to cause a woman to believe unlawful violence would be used against her and having a racially aggravated intent to cause her harassment, alarm or distress. In October 2023, the man made racist comments to a woman at a pub in Littledean, Gloucestershire. He was told to leave but was seen approaching the pub soon afterwards with a gun. As some of the woman’s friends walked towards him, he pointed the gun at one man’s face. After the man “smacked” the gun away, the group restrained him and removed a knife from his pocket. The court heard that the woman’s life had been “turned upside down” by the incident and that she is now scared when out in public places.
  • A 39-year-old man has been jailed for eighteen years for kidnap, attempted robbery and two counts each of having an imitation firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and robbery. His 20-year-old co-defendant received nine years in a young offenders’ institution after admitting attempted robbery. In September 2022, the two offenders went to a man’s home in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire on the pretence of viewing a car for sale. On arrival, the older man pointed an imitation gun at the man and ordered him to put on handcuffs. The pair fled after the man and his partner fought back, leaving behind the handcuffs, duct tape and ball bearings. During the ensuing investigation, the older man was implicated in a similar offence carried out in Cheltenham in July of the same year. On that occasion, he used an imitation gun to threaten a man who was selling a car and forced him to transfer thousands of pounds to him. Once he had received the cash, he drove the man to Stafford and let him go. The older man took a photo of the victim when he was tied up and this image was later found on his phone.

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, (See Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, Police Weapons/Stolen Guns and Ammunition above – A licensed gun dealer in Shropshire arrested in possession of prohibited weapons) 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 2024 reports by weapon type 

Notes

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 at least £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. See Gun Deaths — suspected murder suicide in Leicestershire. 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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