May 2016 Review
by Gun Control Network on 15-06-2016
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 of the most serious crimes are included.
Figure 1: May 2016 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least four reports in May 2016 of gun deaths:
- A 50-year-old man has died after being shot in Ilton, Somerset. Three men and one woman have been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting.
- A 13-year-old boy from Thurston, Suffolk died after being shot with an air weapon. N.B. “Low-powered” air weapons do not require a licence in England and Wales. In Scotland new legislation will require them to be licensed from December 2016.
- A 39-year old man has been found shot dead on a farm in Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire. Police believe his death may have resulted from an accidental shooting. The victim was a licensed gun owner.
- A man in his 20s has died after being shot in Leyton, east London. Two men have been arrested and charged with murder.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least five reports in May 2016 relating to armed domestic violence:
- A 20-year-old and a 21-year-old have been jailed for a minimum of 25 and 21 years respectively after both men were found guilty of shooting a 26-year old woman in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in November 2015. The pair shot her in the face with a sawn-off shotgun and she died in hospital two days later. The shooting followed a violent dispute between the men and the victim’s friends.
- A 20-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence in Plymouth, Devon. He threatened the sister of his former partner with a BB gun during an ongoing family dispute confronting the woman and her companions and threatening to kill them all.
- A man has been jailed for 28 days for threatening someone he knew with a BB gun in the bus station in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
- A 62-year-old man has been jailed for six years with an extended licence period of three years after pleading guilty to damaging property, recklessly endangering life, possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing prohibited firearms in Eccles, Greater Manchester. The man, known to have depression, became angry when drunk and threatened his partially-sighted son with a homemade handgun.
- A man has been jailed for more than six years for possessing an imitation handgun with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence and with intent to resist lawful arrest. Officers were called to a house in Coppull, Lancashire to reports of a domestic assault. Although the man escaped the scene he was later detained at another address.
Licensed Gun Owners/Legal Guns
We know of at least four reports in May 2016 relating to licensed gun owners/legal guns:
- See item above regarding death of a 13-year-old boy shot with an air weapon in another apparent child-on-child fatal airgun tragedy.
- See item above regarding death of a 39-year-old man in what is reported to have been an accidental shooting at a farm.
- A gamekeeper has been fined £675 for leaving his loaded gun on a hillside in Kippen, Stirling. The gun was found by hillwalkers and traced back to the owner, whose licence will be reviewed as a result of the offence.
- See item below regarding theft of a shotgun and cartridges.
We are aware of at least one report in May 2016 concerning gun theft in which a shotgun loaded with 24 cartridges was stolen from a house in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eleven reports in May 2016 of animal cruelty involving guns.
Two baby geese three ducks and a moorhen have been shot dead with an air weapon on a pond in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire; a fourth duck survived being shot. A sheep had to be put down after being shot and seriously injured with a high-powered air weapon. Twelve cats have been shot in incidents throughout the UK, all incidents apart from two involving air weapons. Three cats underwent surgery to have an eye removed and another had a leg amputated. Two of the pets died, one sustaining 30 shotgun pellets in its body, the other being first shot with a shotgun then stamped on and its body thrown into a field by two men who were seen on CCTV getting out of a vehicle used for ‘lamping’ (hunting at nights using lamps, especially for rabbits).
Although imitations, BBs, and airguns* do not require a licence in England, Scotland, and Wales they are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 28 sentences and convictions reported in May 2016 that relate to gun crime:
- Two men have been jailed for a total of 40 years after pleading guilty to charges relating to a series of offences carried out in homes in Birmingham, West Midlands. Charges included robbery, aggravated burglary, and sexual assault, as well as seven firearms offences.
- A 42-year-old man known to have mental health difficulties has been given a 42-day suspended sentence and a 30-day rehabilitation requirement after taking a loaded air pistol, which he planned to use to end his life, into a pub in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The gun was seen by a frightened member of the public who called the police.
- A man has been jailed for six years and another for three years and nine months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm. The pair adopted disguises and brandished the gun intending to rob a jewellery shop in Leatherhead, Surrey. Two employees tacked one man and held him until police arrived, the other man fled but was arrested a few days later.
- A man has been jailed for nine years for threatening a 21-year-old woman with an unidentified gun during the robbery of her flat in Worthing, West Sussex. The man and two other assailants who have not been identified wore Guy Fawkes masks and held a gun to her head, forcing her to give up over £1,000 of cash and two mobile phones.
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 imitations 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 it’s through theft, 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: May 2016 incident 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, and deactivated guns; 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 possessing 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.
The Office of National Statistics have published data relating to 2015 which demonstrates that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
- A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
- *From December 2016 airguns in Scotland will require a licence.
Guns that require a licence: shotguns; rifles; and police firearms and 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. Women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. However, the Home Office do not publish data regarding the number of licensed guns/legal gun owners 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-type submachine guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitations or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleading inflated reports of handgun crime.
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