May 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 30-11--0001
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 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 May 2023.
Figure 1: May 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 one report in May 2023 concerning two gun deaths:
- Armed police officers shot a man after he took his former partner hostage at her house in Dartford, Kent and shot her with a handgun. The man and woman were taken to hospital, where they both died from their injuries. The man had recently been released from prison where he had been serving a sentence for assaulting his victim. Kent Police has made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
We are not aware of any reports of inquests in May 2023 relating to gun deaths.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of five reports in May 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Gun Deaths above — A man took his former partner hostage at her house in Dartford, Kent and shot her with a handgun.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for six years and four months after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possession of ammunition without certificate, possession of Class A drugs and assault. In January 2022, after trying to speak to a former partner at a pub in Queen's Park, North London, the man fired a handgun on the street outside. When the gun failed to discharge a second time, he tried to regain access to the pub but was pushed away by staff. The man, who threw the weapon into a garden as he fled on foot, was arrested when he later returned to the scene. His DNA was found on the retrieved weapon and quantities of cocaine and ketamine were discovered at his home address.
- A 28-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to careless driving, destroying property, possession of an offensive weapon with intent of causing fear of violence and sending malicious communications. Believing she was “cheating on him”, the man sent his partner messages in October last year threatening to shoot her and burn down her parents’ house. When the woman arrived at her home in Bacup, Lancashire, he approached her car with a gun, going on to ram her vehicle with his own. Police officers arrested him soon after and recovered an air pistol. The man was banned from driving for nine months and handed a five-year restraining order.
- A man has been jailed for six months and three weeks after admitting possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear, causing actual bodily harm (ABH), breach of a community order and an earlier offence of ABH. In June last year, the man punched his sister's partner and aimed an imitation sawn-off shotgun at him during a family row at a house in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He was arrested shortly after leaving the property.
- A 23-year-old man has been handed a suspended twelve-month prison sentence, with a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement and a mental health treatment order, after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and common assault. In March 2022, he punched his sister and pointed an unloaded .22 single shot air rifle at her head during a row at her home in Stowmarket, Suffolk.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in May 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- See Gun Deaths above — Armed police officers shot a man after he took his former partner hostage at her house in Dartford, Kent and shot her with a handgun.
- Following reports of illegal hunting in West Dorset, police revoked a man's firearms licence and removed fifteen guns.
- A 59-year-old man has been fined £166 and ordered to pay costs of £185 and a victim surcharge of £34 after admitting to keeping an unlicensed shotgun under his bed at his home in St Martin's, Shropshire. After hearing that the man’s firearms licence expired in 2008, magistrates ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the shotgun.
We are aware of at least five reports in May 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- Following reports of a woman being attacked by a dog, armed police officers Tasered a man and shot dead his two dogs in Limehouse, East London. The man later admitted being in possession/custody of a dog while disqualified from owning or keeping a dog but denied being the owner of a dog that was dangerously out of control (with injury). The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
- Police officers Tasered an 11-year-old boy at a caravan park in Ayr, Scotland after he failed to drop a butter knife as instructed. The boy’s mother had called police in to help after he ran away, upset that a fast-food restaurant at the site was closed. The mother said her son, who has learning difficulties, had been left traumatised by the incident and is unable to attend school full time. A Police Scotland spokesperson said that the incident has been referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least nine reports in May 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:
- One cat has died after being shot in the head with a suspected air gun in Newington, Kent, while another was seriously injured by a pellet in the same village some days previously.
- Police appealed for information after a cat was shot dead with an air rifle or pellet gun in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
- Two seagulls were put to sleep after being shot in Barry, South Wales. Both birds had suffered broken wings. Gulls, their eggs and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, meaning it is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure them and other wild birds except under licence. The RSPCA is calling for tighter controls with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun.
- A seagull has been shot dead with an airgun near Lowestoft, Suffolk.
- A swan is being treated at a wildlife hospital after being shot in the head with an airgun in Pershore, Worcestershire. Police are treating the incident as a crime under the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981.
- A heron has died after being shot near Southport, Merseyside. In England and Wales, wild birds, their young, nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. A spokesperson from the wildlife centre where the heron was treated said, “We typically see between 50 and 70 airgun incidents every year including birds like swans, geese, ducks, birds of prey and pigeons as well badgers, foxes and squirrels… We’re appalled that people take pleasure from cruelly and deliberately targeting wild and domestic animals in this way but sadly these types of incidents are not uncommon.”
- A woman discovered bags containing dead squirrels in her garden in Wrexham, North Wales. The animals are believed to have been shot with a pellet gun. After the incident was reported online, another resident reported finding the same thing in her garden.
- After a member of the public found three dead pigeons in a tree near a children’s playground in Ferndown, Dorset, the RSPCA discovered airgun pellets inside the bodies.
- Police appealed for information after four sheep were fatally shot in Coelbren, Powys.
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 two reports in May 2023 relating to the above:
- Armed police officers arrested a man after recovering what is believed to be a functioning converted weapon and magazines filled with 9mm ammunition from his car. Subsequently, National Crime Agency (NCA) officers searched an industrial unit linked to the suspect in Merton, South London and discovered a factory for converting blank-firing guns into lethal weapons using 3D printed parts. They retrieved blank firing weapons, three potentially functioning converted weapons, more than a hundred rounds of live ammunition, around a thousand rounds of blank firing ammunition and 3D printing machines. A spokesperson from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit said, “This was a significant operation which uncovered a suspected firearms conversion factory being used to convert blank-firing weapons into lethal guns. We know that these types of weapons are in demand by criminals. They are often used in acts of serious violence, as well as being used by crime groups to coerce and intimidate.”
- After being on the run for almost two years, a man from Rotherham, South Yorkshire has been arrested by National Crime Agency officers and charged with attempting to access a prohibited weapon and being knowingly concerned in an attempt to import a prohibited weapon. It is believed that the man was involved in the attempted importation by post of gun parts that could be reassembled to make a semi-automatic pistol capable of firing eighteen bullets. The parts were from a gun that had been stolen in the US in 2018.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 38 reports in May 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 65-year-old man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, possession of offensive weapons, the dissemination of terrorist publications and three counts of inciting racial hatred. In September 2022, police officers raided the man’s home in Wirral, Merseyside and recovered a handgun, 384 rounds of 9mm hollow point and 9mm Kurz ammunition, nun chucks and a flick knife. Laptop and mobile phone evidence revealed the man held “extreme right-wing views” and had an “unhealthy interest in firearms, weapons and proscribed organisations”. He claimed to have smuggled the semi-automatic gun into the country from South Africa, saying he would only have used it in “extreme circumstances” to defend himself and his wife in the event of a “complete breakdown in society”. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson confirmed that the gun and ammunition will be destroyed.
- Four men have been jailed for a total of 64 years and two months for firearms offences and their involvement in operating a “huge drugs empire”. In August 2021, police officers raided a home in Redcar, North Yorkshire and seized a deactivated handgun, a replica handgun and two self-loading semi-automatic pistols with a silencer, while live and blank ammunition was found in a neighbour's garden. They also recovered £12,300 of cocaine, £18,000 cash, and a Rolex watch. The court heard that two of the men were “the bosses” of the operation, a third was a “trusted lieutenant” and the fourth acted as main supplier in Redcar. Phone messages revealed the group’s activities, including a request for a gun and body armour.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for eight years and three months after pleading guilty to possession of a Class A drug with the intent to supply, three counts of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and arranging or facilitating the movement of a person with a view to exploitation. In March 2021, police officers searched the man’s home in Newton Heath, Manchester and retrieved drugs worth approximately £10,000, nineteen mobile phones, a rifle and Glock magazines containing ammunition. The seizure came after an investigation into a county lines network that was run by the man with the assistance of two co-defendants. The trio exploited three vulnerable boys who were threatened with violence and made to live in squalid conditions while being forced to sell drugs. For their involvement, the man’s co-defendants received sentences totalling nine years and three months.
- A 34-year-old man has had three years added to an existing sentence: fifteen months for possessing an imitation firearm, eighteen months for assault and three months for witness intimidation. In November 2020, the man brandished an Airsoft rifle following an altercation at a hotel in St Helens, Merseyside. In May the following year, he struck a woman on the forehead after she intervened in a fight between him and a friend, later threatening the same woman when she became a witness in a court case brought against his brother.
- Two men have been jailed for eighteen years and thirteen years, eight months, respectively, after being found guilty of illegally manufacturing a firearm. In May last year, police officers found a plastic homemade 'FGC9' automatic sub-machine gun, magazine and bullets in a car being driven by one of the duo’s associates in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Officers searched the homes of the two men and discovered two more “almost complete” FGC9s in a loft, two 3D printers, gun components and firearms “at various stages of construction”. Following sentencing for what is thought to be the first case of its kind in the UK, a police spokesperson said, “Manufacture of viable 3D printed firearms is a real threat, and these firearms were built for one purpose only, to be supplied to other organised criminals who would use them to inflict harm.”
- Four men have each been jailed for four years for their involvement in an armed robbery. In October 2019, the first man lured a couple to an area of Plymouth, Devon, pretending he had a car for sale. The four men confronted the couple with a firearm and stole what they believed was a package of money from their truck before fleeing. The package actually contained a dog’s lead. The male victim recognized the first man’s voice from a previous car deal and the assailants were arrested shortly afterwards. The firearm, believed to be an imitation gun, was never recovered. The court heard that the first man had brandished the firearm, while all four men had conspired to plan the offence.
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for seventeen years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and possession of a firearm. His 71-year-old co-defendant received six years and eight months for supplying controlled drugs and possession of firearms. Following a five-year investigation into a drug supply operation run by the younger man, police officers retrieved drugs worth £1.3million and £10,000 in cash. Fifteen firearms and associated ammunition, found in a trailer in Braunston, Northamptonshire in September 2018, were forensically linked to both men and one other gang member. In total, 21 people were sentenced for their involvement in the drug supply ring.
- A 42-year-old man has been jailed for a minimum of 32 years for murder, with a concurrent 27-year term for attempted murder. In May 2020, following a long-running feud between two men, two shots were fired from a car towards business premises in Blackburn, Lancashire. One shot struck a teenage woman who was walking by and she died at the scene a few minutes later. The 42-year-old was involved in organising the shooting. Eight people have previously been sentenced in connection with the attack.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine/heroin and possession of a firearm. His twin brother, and another man, also aged 24, received two years, three months and three years, two months, respectively, for drug offences. After police officers found two missing boys at an address in Hatfield in January 2022, a mobile phone was seized and found to contain messages instructing the children to sell drugs. A self-loading pistol and eight rounds of ammunition were subsequently found at the brothers’ house in Streatham, South London and DNA matching theirs was found on the firearm. CCTV footage showed the children visiting the brothers’ home. The third man was identified as the person who transported the children to and from the Hatfield address. The children were referred to Children's Services.
- A 57-year-old man has been jailed for nineteen months after pleading guilty to assault and having a firearm with intent to cause a person to believe that unlawful violence would be used against them. In September 2022, the man told a group of children outside his home in Glasgow, Scotland that they were being too loud. After one of the youths threw a rock at his house, the man chased three of the group, firing a BB gun towards them. Pellets hit two boys in the back, leaving one of them with a sore shoulder. Police officers traced the man to his home address and seized the weapon and pellets.
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 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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