May 2019 Review
by Gun Control Network on 26-08-2019
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 May 2019 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 May 2019.
Figure 1: May 2019 incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summaries for 2017-18 and 2018-19 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least one report in May 2019 concerning a gun death:
- A 23-year-old man died after he was shot in a drive-by attack in Birmingham, West Midlands.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least three reports in May 2019 that we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- Firearms officers were deployed following reports that a man had been shot in Waterfoot, Lancashire. The victim was treated in hospital for a gunshot wound to the leg; his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. Three men have since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, and two of them also on suspicion of cannabis cultivation. A police spokesperson later said that all four men were known to each other.
- A 56-year-old man has been handed a one-year community order with fifteen rehabilitation activity requirement days after pleading guilty to two offences of possession of an offensive weapon: the first being a Taser bought on the internet that he showed to friends in a pub in Sheffield, South Yorkshire; the second being an extendable baton wielded at someone during an argument. The court heard that the perpetrator had mental health problems aggravated by alcohol abuse.
- A 21-year-old man received an eight-month suspended prison sentence and was placed on rehabilitation with 150 hours unpaid work after he admitted possessing a stun gun. In September 2018, the man was seen discharging a Taser towards a group of people on a street in Rhyl, Denbighshire. The man’s brother was struck on the leg during the incident. The court heard that the perpetrator suffered from ADHD which was not being treated at the time of the offence.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least twelve reports in May 2019 that we believe relate to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition, including:
- See Stolen Guns and Ammunition below — An antique de-activated gun stolen from a self-storage unit in Leicestershire.
We note at least five incidents involving use of police weapons, including:
- Following a complaint, the Independent Office for Police Conduct has opened an investigation into the use of a Taser, a baton and CS spray during the detention of a 17-year-old girl in Newham, East London.
- A family were left angry and frightened after armed police with dogs mistakenly raided their home in Birmingham, West Midlands as part of an investigation into a County Lines drugs network. The officers bashed down the door of the house in the early hours of the morning and arrested two brothers at gunpoint while other family members, including children, were screaming and crying. After a short time, the police realised they were at the wrong house. A police spokesperson later said they had apologised to the family and other residents in the street and would take steps to ensure the incident was not repeated.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least one report in May 2019 relating to a stolen gun:
- A deactivated antique gun, among other items, was stolen during a raid on a self-storage business in Thrussington, Leicestershire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least twelve reports in May 2019 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- Four cats have been injured and two have been killed in airgun attacks in Cheshire, Essex, South Wales, Northamptonshire and Stirlingshire. A deer has been found shot dead in West Yorkshire, a fell pony had to be put down after being shot in Cumbria, and a pregnant beaver has been found shot dead in Perthshire, three weeks after the species was given protected status. A peregrine falcon has been found shot dead in Greater Manchester, a swan, said to be incubating eggs, was found injured in Shropshire and died before she could receive treatment, and a buzzard has been found dead in Northumberland.
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 unacceptable 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 28 reports in May 2019 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A man was handed a six-week curfew between 8pm and 6am after pleading guilty to a public order offence. After being told by a staff member at a foodbank in Ulverton, Cumbria that his food voucher had expired, the man became very agitated and verbally abusive before pointing and firing a toy gun at her. The court heard that the man, a paranoid schizophrenic, was “having issues with his anger” but understood that his behaviour was “completely unacceptable”.
- A 41-year-old man has been handed a custodial sentence of eight years, nine months after pleading guilty to nine offences: robbery, possession of an imitation firearm, attempting to convert an imitation firearm into a usable weapon, three counts of possessing an imitation firearm, including a fully functioning submachine gun, and other offences. As part of an operation targeting people believed to have bought prohibited weapons online from sellers in Eastern Europe, police officers raided the man’s home and found two blank-firing pistols and an imitation submachine gun. The court heard that one of the pistols had been used in a robbery the man carried out in a shop in Redruth, Cornwall.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting possession of a CS gas spray and a stun gun, and transferring a stun gun to another person. After police seized his phone on his return from a trip to Germany, his home in Birmingham, West Midlands was raided by a counter-terrorism unit. Officers discovered a CS gas spray, a stun gun, fireworks, a baton, a stab vest, a machete, three knuckledusters and a Samurai sword, as well as right wing memorabilia including a picture of Hitler and a Nazi arm band. The man had been communicating with a woman to whom he had offered a disguised Taser, reportedly bought from Lithuania on the Internet. Police subsequently raided her home and discovered the charged weapon still in its box. She was handed a two-year jail term, suspended for two years, with 150 hours unpaid work.
- Sixteen men have been jailed for a total of 69 years in connection with the shooting of a 17-year-old boy at a travellers’ site near Desborough, Northamptonshire in July 2016. A group of the travellers became engaged in a violent conflict that involved some men with whom they had quarrelled at a pub earlier in the day; it is believed they had argued over the buying of illegal drugs. When the teenage boy, who had not been involved in the original dispute, came out to see what was happening, he was shot with a shotgun and suffered serious injuries. A 36-year-old man, also shot with a shotgun during the disturbance, subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
- A 54-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm to enable another to endanger life, possession of ammunition, possession of a grenade, possession of cannabis and possession of amphetamine with intent to supply. When police officers stopped the man’s car in Manchester, Greater Manchester as part of a pre-planned investigation into organised crime, they found an improvised hand grenade and a revolver in his coat pockets, as well as 170 rounds of matching ammunition. £190,000 worth of drugs were subsequently found at the man’s home.
- Two men have been jailed for eleven-and-a-half years and eighteen years respectively after admitting to conspiracy to sell or supply firearms and possession of a firearm. A third man admitted the same charges but died in prison before sentencing. When officers from the National Crime Agency raided a gun factory on an industrial estate in Hailsham, West Sussex in August 2018, they discovered the offenders had been making around 120 unmarked firearms. Six guns made by the men have since been found by police, one of which was used in two attempted murders in London.
- A 46-year-old man was handed a custodial sentence of three years after admitting to possessing an air rifle with intent to cause fear of violence. In July 2018 the man’s wife alerted police over concerns for his safety after he sent her a worrying text. When police approached him and tried to negotiate with him in a cemetery in East Halton, Lincolnshire, he pointed the air rifle at them and, after being told to drop the weapon, aimed directly at one officer. Police then fired non-lethal shots at him before Tasering and arresting him.
- Two men have each been jailed for a minimum of 30 years after being found guilty of murder. Both offenders were present when one of them shot a 22-year-old man at point blank range while he was sitting in a car in Hayes, West London in October 2018.
- A man has been sentenced to twenty-six years, three months in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder. He will also spend five years on licence. The man shouted abuse and waved a gun out of a car at people attending a party at a pub in Hattersley, Greater Manchester in November 2018. When one of the men standing outside the venue approached the car, the perpetrator shot him in the abdomen, the bullet narrowly missing vital organs. The victim has recovered well after surgery.
- Two men have each been jailed for 24 years for aggravated burglary. Wearing balaclavas, the two men burst into a home in Pontypool, Monmouthshire in June 2018, where one man pressed a long-barrelled air rifle into the male occupant’s left temple, and the other held a large fishing knife to his throat, while repeatedly asking, “Where’s the weed?” After realising they were at the wrong address, the assailants left, threatening to shoot the man and rape his partner if they called the police.
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 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: May 2019 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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