July 2018 Review
by Gun Control Network on 10-08-2018
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.
Figure 1: July 2018 incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summary for 2017-18 is available at www.gun-control-network.org.
We are aware of at least two reports in July 2018 concerning gun deaths:
- A man died in hospital after he was shot in a car park in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. Police believe it was a targeted attack and likely to be linked to gangs.
- A 6-year-old boy died in hospital after suffering a suspected airgun injury in Sproatley, East Yorkshire. The boy had been visiting a relative’s home at the time of the incident.
N.B We note the death of another child in an airgun shooting in England and await an announcement from the Home Office regarding the Review of Airgun Regulations in England and Wales announced in October 2017.
We are aware of at least three reports in July 2018 of inquests relating to gun deaths:
- A coroner at an inquest into the death of a 20-year-old man at Deepcut Barracks near Camberley, Surrey has ruled that his death was self-inflicted. The man, a private in the army, was found with five bullet holes to the chest in June 1995. The military weapon had been accessed by the deceased in relation to guard duty. The coroner said that the original investigation had been “woefully inadequate” and that his own investigation had been “greatly hindered” by those inadequacies.
- An inquest into the death of a 37-year-old man in Durley, Hampshire has found that he took his own life. Previously, the man had been sent home from Gran Canaria by police after he flew into a “violent rage” in an airport and tried to strangle his partner’s 16-year-old daughter. At home, he accessed a licensed shotgun belonging to his partner and locked himself inside the house, where armed police entered later and found his body.
- The coroner at an inquest into the death of a 73-year-old man in Neston, Cheshire concluded that the cause of death was suicide. Police found the deceased in his flat alongside his legally-held shotgun.
N.B. All three inquests concern individuals whose deaths involved legally-held guns.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least four reports in July 2018 of armed domestic violence (victim known to perpetrator):
- See Gun Deaths above, 6-year-old boy died after being shot with an air weapon during a family visit.
- A 19-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to various offences including drug dealing and assault. Firearms officers attended after the man, armed with a BB gun and a knife, threatened to shoot and stab his ex-girlfriend at her flat in Southampton, Hampshire.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for eight months after pleading guilty to common assault and using an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. The man shot his victim in the groin with an air rifle in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire after a disagreement about stolen jewellery.
- A 52-year-old man has been jailed for 32 months after he pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, assault and using controlling or coercive behaviour. He threatened his partner with a gun after hearing that she wanted to leave him. Later, he locked her in their home in Bolton, Greater Manchester before stabbing kitchen knives into the table, threatening to attack her with acid, covering her face with a pillow, squeezing her neck and head-butting her.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in July 2018 relating to two incidents of stolen guns and ammunition:
- Shotguns, cartridges and cash have reportedly been stolen from a house in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Earlier on the same day, a shotgun was allegedly stolen from a house in Sheffield. Police have urged gun owners to ensure their weapons and ammunition are kept securely.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least six reports in July 2018 relating to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- See Inquests above, three deaths, one involving a military weapon, two involving legally-held shotguns.
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition above, shotguns and cartridges stolen from two homes in South Yorkshire.
- A 52-year-old man was handed a nine-month prison term, suspended for a year, after he admitted possessing a prohibited weapon. When police visited his home in Cefn Gwyn, North Wales, they discovered an unlicensed bolt-action magazine-fed shotgun, disguised as a walking stick, behind a sofa. The man had been due to stand trial on two charges of possessing shotguns without a valid certificate, but his defence team provided evidence that there was a firearms certificate in place at the time. His licences and certificates to hold guns were revoked.
- Specialist officers carried out surprise checks on gun owners and registered firearms dealers, sports and gun shops, shooting clubs and armouries across Merseyside. After finding an insecure weapon and parts, one dealer was removed from the register and had a personal firearms certificate revoked. A second dealer suffered the same fate over ammunition storage. Warning letters were issued over an expired explosives licence and security not meeting the required standard.
N.B. We are concerned that unannounced checks on registered gun dealers and gun owners in Merseyside resulted in a significant percentage of dealers discovered to be in serious breach of their licences. In the interests of public safety, we urge all constabularies to undertake similar unannounced checks. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has expressed concerns about police use of unannounced checks.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least seventeen reports in July 2018 of animal cruelty involving guns:
- Eleven cats have been injured in airgun attacks in London, Berkshire, Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, Merseyside, Devon, Nuneaton, Dorset and Scotland. A red kite has reportedly been shot and injured in Northamptonshire. A Shetland pony was reportedly killed by a single shot to the head in Berkshire. One gull was killed and several others have been injured in airgun attacks in Denbighshire. A hand-reared sheep died after being shot in the head in Staffordshire. Police believe a heron found dead in Hampshire died as a result of being shot by an airgun or a BB gun and researchers from the Natural History Museum discovered “what could be a bullet” in the body of a 20-year-old pregnant seal found in the Thames Estuary in Kent.
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. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence.
N.B. Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League, other organisations and individuals are calling for airgun registration. MPs and families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities are concerned about the delay in announcing the outcome of the Home Office review of air weapon regulation, which was announced in October 2017.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 46 reports in July 2018 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- Three students at Coventry University have been jailed for a total of 28 years after being convicted of a number of firearms offences relating to the importing and selling of prohibited weapons. The group was in contact with people in America, organising to import prohibited weapons and ammunition, while one member was in touch with a serious criminal in prison. The project involved converting gas-powered guns into weapons capable of firing real bullets.
- A man has been sentenced to five years in prison after police found him in possession of a loaded revolver and cocaine worth over £2000. He was arrested after police chased him through a residential area in Northampton, Northamptonshire and recovered his dumped bag containing cocaine and a loaded 19th-century French revolver.
- A 34-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to two firearms offence. When Border Force officers stopped and searched his van at the Eastern Docks in Dover, Kent, they retrieved a handgun and blank cartridges containing tear-gas.
- Two men have each been jailed for fifteen years after being found guilty of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and other offences. Following a drugs dispute, the men fired shots through the letterbox of a house in Brunswick, Tyne and Wear in a revenge attack; however, they targeted the wrong address, causing terror to the innocent occupants. They later fired more shots at a man in the street.
- A 74-year-old man was handed an eight-month prison term, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to affray. The man ‘waved’ an imitation firearm at two teenage boys after an angry exchange near his home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
- Three men from Slough, Berkshire have been convicted after planning to import illegal guns into the UK. After being alerted by the National Crime Agency, border officers in France stopped a vehicle as it approached the Channel Tunnel and recovered 79 handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition hidden in engine blocks. After surveillance, a further ten firearms were seized from a shipping container at an industrial estate in Slough.
- A 59-year-old man was fined £200 and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £30 victim surcharge after he admitted illegally possessing a prohibited weapon. When a support worker visited the man at his home in Penrith, Cumbria, the man talked of “lighting up” one of his neighbours before pulling out a stun gun from under a pillow.
- A man has been handed a life sentence, and must serve a minimum of 31 years before being considered for release, after being convicted of murder. His victim was shot in the face with a shotgun at point-blank range on a smallholding in Denholme, West Yorkshire and his body was hidden in builders’ bags and left on nearby moors. A secretly-recorded conversation in prison between the man and his parents enabled the police to recover the body and led to his parents being jailed for two years each for conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
- A 37-year-old man was jailed for five years after he admitted possessing a prohibited firearm, a sawn-off shotgun. After a drinking session in Birmingham, West Midlands, the man met a friend who was in possession of the gun and took it off him as he was ‘curious to see what it was like to handle a weapon’, before accidentally shooting himself in the groin.
- A 43-year-old man, currently in prison for drugs offences, had an eight-month consecutive prison term added to his sentence after he admitted acquiring ammunition without a firearms certificate. During a search of the man’s home in Carlisle, Cumbria, police officers discovered fifty-nine .22 long rifle calibre unfired cartridges, filled with hollow-point bullets, which he claimed to have found on an allotment and hadn’t got around to handing in.
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 licensed gun dealers, and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others.
See above - Unannounced checks on registered gun dealers and gun owners in Merseyside resulted in a significant percentage of dealers discovered to be in serious breach of their licences.
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: July 2018 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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