March 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-04-2023
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 March 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 March 2023.
Figure 1: March 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 2023 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of three reports in March 2023 concerning four gun deaths:
- Two men, a father and his son, have been fatally shot at their respective homes in Sutton and Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire. A man has since been charged with two counts of murder and possession of a firearm. Another man and a woman, also arrested in connection with the deaths, have been released with no further action.
- A man has been shot dead in Manchester in what police believe was a targeted attack. A man has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.
- A man died in hospital shortly after being shot on the doorstep of his home in Greenock, Inverclyde. Two men have since been arrested in connection with the attack.
We are not aware of any reports in March 2023 relating to the above.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of two reports in March 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Gun Deaths above — Two men fatally shot in their homes in Cambridgeshire.
- A 35-year-old man from Wrexham, North Wales, has been jailed for five years and four months and given an indefinite restraining order after admitting numerous assaults, making threats to kill and possessing an imitation firearm. He repeatedly assaulted his partner, including holding a knife to her face, slapping and punching her, and threatening to shoot her while holding three shotgun shells and a crudely-fashioned imitation shotgun. The court heard that the weapon, concealed in a bin bag, was in fact a piece of wood with a battery tied to it; however, the victim believed the weapon to be real and thought she was about to be shot.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in March 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- A 75-year-old registered firearms dealer has been jailed for five years and three months after pleading guilty to six counts of possessing a prohibited weapon and four of possessing firearms without a certificate. In April last year, police officers carried out a spot check at the man’s home in Norwich, Norfolk and discovered more than 100 firearms stored at the property, most of them in a gun room within a garage. The gun room had a single bolt and the garage lock did not work properly. Among the firearms seized were a WWII submachine gun, a 1913 German machine gun, a .22 Mauser bolt-action rifle, shotguns and a self-loading blank pistol.
- A man from Ulveston, Cumbria has pleaded guilty to failing to notify the police as soon as reasonably practicable of a change in his permanent address and failing to secure as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to two bolt action rifles and a quantity of ammunition. He is due to stand trial later this month.
- A 24-year-old gamekeeper has been fined £1575 after pleading guilty to shooting and killing a sparrowhawk. In September 2021, an RSPB investigator filmed the gamekeeper shooting the protected bird after it flew towards a plastic decoy owl on the Moy Estate in the Scottish Highlands. Shotgun cartridges and sparrowhawk feathers were recovered from the scene.
- Police have requested that a pub in Maidstone, Kent lose its licence after officers found drugs and a number of weapons on the premises. Two imitation firearms, a BB gun, a starter revolver and an ASP baton were found in the bar area, while a legally-held shotgun was discovered standing at the top of the stairs. Three more legal shotguns were safely stored in accordance with certificate requirements. A police spokesperson said, “The presence of multiple weapons within the public areas gives rise to concerns with regards to the intended use or need for these items and believe it is indicative of an involvement of those present in serious crime.”
We are aware of at least three reports in March 2023 involving the use of police Tasers:
- It has emerged that police officers Tasered and arrested a man following an incident in Grantham, Lincolnshire in July 2019. One of the arresting officers has since been the subject of a misconduct hearing due to his alleged use of “unreasonable force” during the arrest.
- Following reports of an injured man armed with a broken glass behaving erratically in Bristol, police officers Tasered him to “detain him without further injury to himself or others”. The man was treated in hospital, where he was detained under the Mental Health Act.
- Police officers Tasered and arrested a man after he reportedly “attempted to fight people” at a gym in Marble Arch, London. Following his arrest, the man became unresponsive and was treated in hospital for a head injury.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in March 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- See Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition above — A gamekeeper on the Moy Estate in the Scottish Highlands has been fined after being filmed shooting a protected bird.
- A red kite is recovering at a wildlife centre after being shot in Edmundbyers, County Durham. X-rays revealed the protected bird had been “peppered with shot including pieces that had broken its wing”. Red Kites are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but have become targets on shooting estates.
- A cat has been put to sleep after being shot and seriously injured in Cambridgeshire. Police appealed for information after a cat was shot with a suspected air rifle in Cumbria. A cat is recovering from surgery after being shot with an airgun in Northamptonshire. Another cat has been put to sleep after being shot with an airgun in a separate shooting in Northamptonshire, in which the pellet damaged her oesophagus, stomach and liver.
- A swan died after it was believed to have been shot in Worcestershire.
- A beaver is recovering at a wildlife centre after being shot in the face a few months ago in Perthshire. The injured animal was found on a roadside by a member of the public. The beaver’s upper incisors, damaged by gunshot, are regrowing and his release at a suitable location is being planned. Beavers can be shot under licence from the Government’s wildlife agency, NatureScot, where their dams cause flooding in farmers’ fields. However, a spokesperson from the Scottish Wild Beaver Group said, “Horrific incidents like this highlight the negative welfare impact of poor firearm use and of a botched lethal control policy. To end unnecessary suffering, the Scottish Government urgently needs to implement the recommendations of their own Animal Welfare Report, which specifically called for banning the shooting of beavers in the water, and the recovery of every carcass so that welfare implications can be properly assessed.” There have been fresh calls for beavers to be translocated to places where they are less likely to cause problems.
- Police appealed for information after a rare white stag was shot dead with a high velocity rifle in Cobham Woods, Kent. Another deer was killed in January this year, both animals having suffered gunshot wounds to the face. A police spokesperson said, “The manner in which they were shot would have caused a significant amount of suffering to the animals and the use of a powerful firearm in a location accessible to the public presents a high risk to any other person in the area.”
- Police appealed for information after two pregnant sheep were shot in a field in Dunnington, North Yorkshire.
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 one report in March 2023 relating to the above:
- A 42-year-old man, formerly of Liverpool, Merseyside, has been jailed for twelve years and nine months after pleading guilty to attempting to import a firearm and ammunition. In April 2018, Border Force officers at the port of Dover found a Slovakian-made rifle and 465 rounds of ammunition in a van. The driver claimed to know nothing about the weapon. The defendant’s DNA was retrieved from the firearm but he was not arrested until March 2022 when he returned to the UK after serving a prison sentence in the Czech Republic. Following sentencing, a National Crime Agency spokesperson said, “(this man) played an integral role in this importation attempt, with evidence showing he handled the gun and ammunition personally. These items had the potential to cause serious injury and death, and the group had imported enough ammunition to do untold damage if used on the streets.”
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 50 reports in March 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Five men have been jailed for a total of forty-six-and-a-half years after being found guilty of firearms-related changes following two shootings in Eccles, Greater Manchester. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “This group have been terrorising the community who have been stuck in the middle of their petty disputes, and it has resulted in innocent members of the public being seriously harmed just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
- A 76-year-old man has been handed a suspended eight-month prison term after admitting possession of an imitation firearm. In January this year, after becoming frustrated by the noise of building work at a neighbour’s house in Dolgellau, Gwynedd, the man fired an antique replica pistol to scare the builder. Describing his behaviour as “ridiculous”, the judge also handed him a five-year restraining order.
- Three gang members have been jailed for a total of 49 years after being convicted of attempted murder and possession of a firearm. In November 2017, two of the men got out of a car and approached a teenage boy standing on a street in Walthamstow, North London. One of the men shot the youth with a submachine gun, going on to point the weapon through a door of a restaurant as the victim tried to escape. The teenager was treated in hospital for two gunshot wounds. The court heard that the shooting was arranged as revenge for a gang member being fatally stabbed. On sentencing, the judge said: “This was a planned attack. You knew this was an expedition to kill and someone was potentially going to die. This was a shooting to kill someone from the opposition. This took place in a busy street. The risks to members of the public were severe.”
- Four men have sentenced after being found guilty of murder: A 26-year-old and a 27-year-old were each jailed for 28 years, while another 27-year-old and a 25-year-old each received 32 years. In August 2018, the men pulled up in two stolen cars on a street in Birmingham, West Midlands before one of them shot a man in the back with a handgun. The victim died in hospital six days later. CCTV and phone data linked the men to the attack and tests proved that the gun, recovered during a raid in Derbyshire, was the weapon used. No motive for the murder has been discovered.
- A 36-year-old man has been jailed for two years and one month after admitting assault of an emergency worker and four counts of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In September last year, the man’s neighbours called police after his behaviour became “increasingly threatening and erratic” and he threatened to kill them. When officers arrived at his home in Dudley, West Midlands, the man refused to let them in but pointed what looked like a silver handgun at them. He also waved a meat cleaver from a window, threatening to cut their heads off. Armed police officers were called in and the man was Tasered after he threw his weapons out of the window. The court heard that he had been under the influence of drink and drugs at the time of the incident. He was handed a five-year restraining order, banning contact with his neighbours.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and possession of an imitation firearm. In October last year, a woman who had been in a short relationship with the man, called police to report that he had come to her home in Derby, Derbyshire with a firearm. When officers arrived, the man jumped through a back window, knocking himself unconscious when he fell onto a flat roof. He was found with a blank firing pistol that had been converted to shoot real ammunition and an imitation firearm was recovered from a bedroom. The court heard that the converted gun had “lethal potential”.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for eight years and eight months after being found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, blackmail, possession of an imitation firearm, two counts of assault and criminal damage, and admitting conspiring to supply cocaine and heroin. He and four other men, previously sentenced, ran a County Lines drug operation in Bedford, Bedfordshire. After cuckooing a flat, the men used “extreme violence with weapons” on the vulnerable residents after some drugs went missing, including forcing an antique shotgun into one victim’s mouth and hitting another with a machete. After one resident escaped to a homeless shelter, police were alerted and the gang members were arrested. A BB gun, machete, axe and a mallet were retrieved from the flat, with £6,000 cash recovered from the 23-year-old’s home address.
- A man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to possessing cannabis and cocaine with intent to supply, possessing a prohibited weapon, ammunition and a knuckle duster. After police officers noticed him “reeking of cannabis” at a shop, they found two bags of cannabis and 35 snap bags of cocaine on him, as well as dealing messages on his phone. During the subsequent search of his home in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, officers retrieved more cannabis in the kitchen and a .38 self-contained gas cartridge revolver with a small bag of .22 ammunition from the shed. The firearm had been unsuccessfully converted to receive live ammunition. Other weapons, including a Samurai sword, a spear, three knives, two machetes, an air rifle and an air pistol were also seized at the property.
- Six men and a woman have been jailed for a total of more than 52 years for kidnap, firearm and drug offences. In March 2021, a police officer chased and stopped a car being driven erratically in Stockton, Co. Durham. After four men fled from the vehicle, the officer found a man on the back seat who said he had been kidnapped. A meat cleaver was found in the car and a loaded 9mm pistol was discovered nearby. Police officers subsequently searched the home of one of the men who had escaped and found a “drug factory” in the kitchen, with a cement mixer being used to combine ingredients to make etizolam tablets. Phone records led detectives to storage units in Middlesbrough and Darlington where they found over £3m of drugs and £22,000 cash. The court heard that the man was kidnapped to possibly pursue a debt or to punish some wrongdoing. Following a long investigation, seven people have now been sentenced in connection with the kidnapping and subsequent finds.
- After admitting offences including possession of an imitation firearm and drug possession and supply, a 29-year-old man has been handed a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work and pay £420 costs. In October 2021, police officers searched the man’s home, shed and car in Sandycroft, Flintshire and retrieved drugs and weapons including a knife and two air pistols. The court heard that he had started dealing to pay off a drug debt. He has been allowed to keep several of his weapons.
- A man, now aged 18, and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have each been jailed for nine years after being convicted of manslaughter and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear. In July last year, the older man fired a blank-firing gun at a teenage boy who had “strayed” into his gang’s “territory” in Birmingham, West Midlands. He, his co-defendant and another man, who was armed with a knife and another gun, then chased the teenager, with shots being fired during the pursuit. The teenager managed to hide but was found by his pursuers a short time later and fatally stabbed. The man who carried out the stabbing remains at large.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for nine years after being convicted of conspiring to convert an imitation firearm into a weapon and conspiracy to supply or transfer prohibited weapons, and pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon in a private place and possession of a Class B drug. He bought blank firearms online and helped another man modify at least six of them before offering them for sale or transfer. One firearm, recovered from a property in Huyton, Merseyside, was found to be “far less powerful” than a real firearm but capable of discharging a shot that could be lethal. On sentencing, the judge said, “You were an essential cog in the conspiracy, you gave encouragement along the way for those actually doing the conversions. Six blanks were successfully converted, and all but one has disappeared. To whom and to where they have gone is not known, they are now at large. As the events of the last month have shown, the use of prohibited firearm weapons on the streets brings devastation in our community.”
- A 39-year-old from Sutton Heath, Suffolk has been handed a three-year community order with a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a twelve-month mental health treatment requirement after admitting assault causing actual harm and possessing an air rifle with intent to cause police officers to fear violence would be used against 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: March 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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