July 2023 Review

by Gun Control Network on 16-08-2023

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 July 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 July 2023.

                                                    Figure 1: July 2023 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 four reports in July 2023 concerning five gun deaths:

  • Police officers and paramedics responding to reports of gunfire in Tottenham, North London, found a man had suffered gunshot wounds. The victim died at the scene a short time afterwards. A murder investigation has been opened but no arrests have yet been made.
  • Following a concern for safety report, police officers found the bodies of a man and a woman at their home in the grounds of their shooting school in Thornton Curtis, Lincolnshire. It is thought that the man shot his wife, who reportedly separated from him recently, before turning the gun on himself. Police confirmed they are not looking for anyone else in relation to the deaths.
  • A man has died after being shot in the chest with a shotgun in Tottenham, North London. The victim crashed his moped into a car after being hit and died at the scene. A man has since been charged with possession of a firearm, having a zombie-style knife at his address, affray and possession of crack cocaine with intent to supply.
  • A man found with gunshot injuries on a towpath in Birmingham, West Midlands, died in hospital the following day. Four men and a woman have since been arrested on suspicion of murder.


We are aware of two reports of inquests in July 2023 relating to gun deaths:

  • Opening an inquest into the death of a man in Brixham, Devon in June this year, the coroner confirmed the cause of death as a shotgun injury to the head. The man, a retired farmer, was found dead at the farm shop where he worked. The coroner confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Pool, Cornwall in December 2022 has recorded a verdict of suicide, cause of death being a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man’s body was found in his bed the following month. He was holding an old revolver from the 1960s, possibly retained from his army service. The man had a non-standard licence covering firearms he used in historic battle re-enactments but not permitting him to own the pistol. The inquest heard that the man had developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after seeing “horrific things” while serving in Northern Ireland, Africa and Israel, and that he had become reclusive after his health declined. An air rifle and ammunition were also found in his home.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of five reports in July 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Gun Deaths above — The bodies of a married couple were discovered with gunshot wounds at their home, at a shooting school business in Lincolnshire.
  • A 22-year-old man has been jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to making threats to kill, racially-aggravated harassment and having an imitation firearm with the intent to cause fear of violence. Following a campaign of threats and harassment against his former partner, the man sent her a photograph of himself holding a gun with the caption, “Watch your back — let the fun begin.” He also messaged her mother threatening to kill her and his ex-partner, adding that he would set her younger daughter's feet on fire while she watched her “burn alive”. After police officers arrested the man, they found a blank-firing starter pistol at his home in Leicester, Leicestershire. In impact statements, his former partner and her mother described their ongoing distress and fear.
  • A 39-year-old man has been handed a suspended twelve-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to stalking and harassment. The court heard that Sangha booked into accommodation near his ex-partner's home near Newtown, Powys and sent her a photo of himself holding a BB gun. He repeatedly contacted her at night, sending abusive and racist messages, telling her she could die. He was banned from contacting his former partner for five years except through social services.
  • Two men have been shot in Redruth, Cornwall. One of the victims, who was shot in the back, remains in a critical condition. The second man suffered a head injury but was released from hospital. Three men have since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. A police spokesperson said that it was believed those involved were known to each other.
  • A man has been jailed for 30 months after being found guilty of harassment and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause a fear of violence. In May 2022, the man shot pellets at a neighbour’s windows and threatened to come through her roof to shoot her. Armed with an imitation gun, he went on to shout “bizarre sexual comments” and kick at the door of her home in Leeds, West Yorkshire as she hid inside with her children. When police officers detained him, they found the replica pistol in his pocket. The man was also handed a restraining order of indefinite length to keep him away from the woman.

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

We are aware of at least two reports in July 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Gun Deaths above — The bodies of a married couple were discovered with gunshot wounds at their home, at a shooting school business in Lincolnshire.
  • Police appealed for information after a Breda light machine gun, used by the Italian army in WWII, was stolen from a shop in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

We are aware of at least three reports in July 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:

  • A 29-year-old man has been made the subject of an indefinite hospital order after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a bladed article. In April 2023, the man pointed an imitation gun at two people outside a police station in Bradford, West Yorkshire and at a member of staff inside. As the worker ran to get help, she heard the gun firing. Firearms officers Tasered and apprehended the offender, who claimed the weapon had gone off accidentally. The court heard that the man had gone to the police station wearing a stab vest, hoping to be shot dead by armed officers, and that he had drunk bleach beforehand.
  • Responding to a concern for safety report, a police officer Tasered a woman who was threatening to harm herself at a cemetery in Lyme Regis, Dorset. The woman was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. 

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least eight reports in July 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:

  • A 23-year-old man has been jailed for two years and three months after pleading guilty to two animal welfare offences and an offence of putting a person in fear of violence by harassment. The court heard that the man subjected his former partner’s pet cat to prolonged torture before killing her at their flat in Prescot, Merseyside. His abuse included scalding the cat with hot water and shooting her with pellets soaked in cleaning fluids. He also hit the cat with a mop soaked in bleach and stamped on her with steel-toe-capped boots, filming the attack to show his then partner. In August 2022, Hudson attacked the cat with a shower head, smashing her teeth out of her mouth. His partner arrived home to find the cat dead, covered in blood. Her body was collected by an RSPCA inspector, who led the investigation against the man on behalf of the animal welfare charity. A post-mortem examination revealed that the cat was covered with cuts and bruises and had suffered fractured ribs and a lung puncture, some injuries supporting the existence of previous trauma. The judge disqualified the man from keeping any animal for life and imposed a restraining order to prevent him from contacting his former partner for ten years.
  • In the past month, three pigeons have been injured by gunshot in Barrow and nearby Ulverston, Cumbria. Two of the birds were brought into a sanctuary, where one is recovering well but the other is struggling to breathe.
  • A cat suffered facial injuries after being shot with an air gun in Sawbridgeworth, Essex. Cats Protection is calling for a change in the law that allows airguns to be owned without a licence or permit in England and Wales.
  • A cat underwent surgery to remove a pellet from its paw after being shot in Blackpool, Lancashire.
  • A cat has had an eye removed after being shot in Abergele, Denbighshire. It is believed that a number of residents in the area have also reported their cats being shot at recently.
  • Police appealed for information after a cat was shot with an air rifle in Lyneham, Wiltshire. The cat suffered a broken leg and may require surgery.
  • A red kite found with gunshot wounds was taken to a vet after it was picked up by a farmer near Westerdale, North Yorkshire. The bird did not survive its injuries. Another red kite was found shot dead in the area recently, while photographs taken by walkers in the area last month suggest that a third red kite has been shot.
  • Police arrested a man after he allegedly shot at seagulls with an air rifle in Barrow, Cumbria.

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 aware of three reports in July 2023 relating to the above:

  • After armed police officers raided a property in Birmingham, West Midlands, two men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to acquire for sale/transfer prohibited weapons and being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of prohibition against importation of prohibited weapons. The arrests were made following an investigation involving The Met’s Specialist Crime Command, US Homeland Security Investigations and UK Border Force into the illegal trafficking of guns from the US to the UK.
  • A 41-year-old man has been jailed for seventeen years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life. The man was part of a gang that organised the importation of “huge amounts” of Class A drugs into the UK and arranged onward delivery around Manchester. He also obtained and stored guns and ammunition to “'protect and enforce” the gang's operation. When the National Crime Agency decrypted the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, in 2020, they found messages revealing the gang’s activities, including one in which he agreed to loan someone a gun that he hidden “under the flags in the backyard” of his home in Harpurhey, Manchester.
  • A 50-year-old man has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of converting blank-firing pistols into lethal firearms and admitting possessing a firearm, possessing ammunition and the theft of a car. The court heard that, after the man bought seven blank firers online from a legitimate supplier, National Crime Agency (NCA) officers observed him collecting them from a nearby address and taking them to his home. In December last year, NCA armed officers raided his home in Smethwick, West Midlands, seized a firearm, live ammunition and ammunition casings, and discovered that a bedroom had been turned into a workshop equipped with machining tools to convert guns. Following sentencing, an NCA spokesperson said, “He was clearly engaged in putting these weapons into the criminal supply chain in the West Midlands.”

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 43 reports in July 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 37-year-old man has been handed a three-year community order with 30 days’ rehabilitative activities after pleading guilty to carrying two knives in public, having a claw hammer and another hammer as offensive weapons in public and having an imitation firearm. In October 2022, police officers responded after the man was seen dressed in a balaclava and behaving erratically in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The officers found him in possession of two combat knives, two hammers and a gas-powered BB gun. During interview, the man, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, said, “The warlords had done it”. On sentencing, the judge commented, “You have considerable difficulties and your culpability is so low, the appropriate sentence is one that will help you, rather than punish you.” Referencing the man’s ten months in prison on remand before being sentenced, he added, “It is to be regretted people like this are increasingly being kept in prison because of the lack of resources for people with mental health issues. It is very common at this court, sad to say.”
  • A 26-year-old man has been sentenced to a full-life order in prison after being convicted of murder. Police officers stopped and searched the man in September 2020, recovering seven bullets and two bags of cannabis but failing to find an antique Colt revolver in a holster hidden under his left arm. While being transported to the custody centre in Croydon, South London, he transferred the gun to his hands despite being cuffed. There was no metal detector at the entrance to the custody area and it was only when he was brought to his feet for a second search that he moved his hands from behind his back and, at near point-blank range, fired two shots at a police sergeant. The victim was hit in the chest and thigh and died of his injuries in hospital. As the man was wrestled to the ground, he fired the gun twice more, hitting the cell wall and an artery in his own neck, causing brain damage. In an impact statement, the victim’s partner said she had “lost her soulmate” and been “in a state of limbo” since his death.
  • A 55-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years after being convicted of possession of a firearm, conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply Class B drugs. In October 2021, police officers raided a farm in Capel Dewi, Carmarthenshire and recovered £17,190 in cash, cocaine worth up to £60,200, cannabis worth approximately £15,600 and a semi-automatic pistol derived from an Italian self-loading pistol. The man was the head of a family-based gang that supplied significant quantities of cocaine and cannabis to a network of dealers across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Swansea. Other family members and two dealers were also sentenced for their involvement in the illegal operation.
  • A 62-year-old man has been handed a twelve-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work after admitting possessing a shotgun without a certificate. Police officers searched the man’s home in August 2022 and found a single-barrelled shotgun, wrapped in a bin liner, in his garden. Spent cartridge shells were recovered from a kitchen cupboard. He claimed to have found the weapon and ammunition in woods near his home in Rodley, West Yorkshire, adding that he had never fired it but planned to repair it. The court heard that the firearm, though rusty, was still capable of being fired. On sentencing, the judge said that, although he was a “tad sceptical” about the man’s story, he would sentence him on the basis of it, as well as adhering to the recommendations of the probation service to impose a non-custodial sentence. He added, “Any right-thinking person would say that anybody who possesses a shotgun in their back garden and has cartridges that fits that shotgun should go to prison for a long, long time. Frankly, I’m shocked with the guidelines for this case.”
  • A 54-year-old woman has been handed a suspended prison term of 120 days and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and ten rehabilitation sessions with probation after admitting having an imitation firearm and a pointed article in public. In December 2022, she brandished an Airsoft handgun and a pair of scissors at pub staff in Gillingham, Kent after they refused to give her water for her dog. After she was arrested at her home shortly afterwards, she claimed to have found the gun while out walking.
  • A 31-year-old man has been jailed for 31 years after being found guilty of attempted murder. In October 2021, he and two others chased a man out of a disco in Wembley, North London before the 31-year-old shot him seven times with a self-loading handgun. Some of the shots were fired at “virtually point-blank range”. The victim required emergency surgery and has been left with life-changing injuries. CCTV footage and a ticket given for illegal parking just before the attack enabled police to trace one of the getaway cars, while mobile phone data, GPS and ANPR data placed the man travelling to and from the area at the time. Drugs and gunshot residue were subsequently found in a hide in his car. A motive for the shooting has never been established.
  • A 34-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to two counts of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April this year, the man pointed a replica shotgun at three members of the public in Northampton, Northamptonshire: he forced one man to kneel and pushed the muzzle of the gun into his chest; he pointed the weapon at a woman and pulled the trigger, making a clicking sound; and he pointed the gun at a second man, saying, “I am going to put you down”. The second man managed to take a photograph of Barden and police found him in an intoxicated state at his parents’ house. No firearm was recovered.
  • A 29-year-old man has been made the subject of an indefinite hospital order after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a bladed article. In April 2023, the man pointed an imitation gun at two people outside a police station in Bradford, West Yorkshire and at a member of staff inside. As the worker ran to get help, she heard the gun firing. Firearms officers Tasered and apprehended the offender, who claimed the weapon had gone off accidentally. The court heard that the man had gone to the police station wearing a stab vest, hoping to be shot dead by armed officers, and that he had drunk bleach beforehand. 
  • Two brothers, and an accomplice, have been sentenced for conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to blackmail and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In November 2022, the trio kidnapped a man as he was walking towards his car in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. After pushing him into the back of a van, they bound and blindfolded him, and held a gun to his head, threatening violence. After some hours, the offenders abandoned the van to collect £19,000 that had been left at a bus stop by a colleague of the victim. The man then managed to escape from the vehicle and call for help. CCTV, ANPR and mobile phone evidence led to the assailants’ arrest. The brothers each received sixteen years after being found guilty of all charges, while their accomplice was sentenced to thirteen years and four months after admitting them. 

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: July 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 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. See July Deaths above. 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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