May 2024 Review

by Gun Control Network on 01-07-2024

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 2024 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 2024.

                                                  Figure 1: May 2024 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 three reports in May 2024 concerning gun deaths:

  • One man died and another was injured after they were shot by a farmer in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. The farmer has since been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. The injured man and a third man were subsequently arrested for aggravated burglary, while a fourth man was arrested for conspiracy to commit burglary and a fifth man, for assisting an offender.
  • Emergency services responding to a report that a car had crashed into a ditch near Henley, West Sussex, discovered a man had died in the vehicle after being shot. Investigators are working to establish whether the man was killed as he was driving. A shotgun was found in the vehicle.
  • A man died in hospital after being shot during an alteration involving a large group of people in Lambeth, South London. A car, used to drop the victim off at the hospital, has since been found and a man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.  

Inquests

We are aware of three reports of inquests in May 2024 relating to gun deaths:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in November 2023 has concluded that he took his own life. The man was found with a shotgun wound to the head at his home in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.
  • An inquest has been opened and adjourned after a man from Kerry, Powys died from a gunshot wound in April 2024. After being called to the man’s home, police officers found him next to a shotgun. The man held a firearms licence. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Chineham, Hampshire in June 2023 has concluded he took his own life, cause of death being a traumatic brain injury. The man was found at a bus stop next to a double-barrelled shotgun. The inquest heard that the man, who held a firearms licence, had been struggling with health conditions. 

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are not aware of any reports in May 2024 relating to the above.

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

We are aware of at least six reports in May 2024 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Inquests above — A licensed firearms owner was found fatally shot, next to a shotgun, at his home in Powys.
  • See Inquests above — A coroner concluded that a licensed firearms owner, found next to a shotgun, fatally shot himself in Hampshire.
  • Two Metropolitan Police firearms officers, accused of breaching police standards of professional behaviour after a man was shot and injured in the back in Wimbledon, South West London in December 2018, have been cleared of gross misconduct. The man was shot during a pre-planned operation into a suspected robbery of a cash-in-transit van. Armed officers tried to apprehend the man when he was seen acting suspiciously near the van, but he ran away. The two officers, who believed he was carrying a gun, chased him and fired their weapons. One bullet hit the man in the back and the other “most likely” hit a nearby block of flats. The man was treated in hospital and discharged the following day. The Independent Office for Police Conduct directed the Met to organise the gross misconduct hearings and referred a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS authorised a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent against one officer and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent against the other but did not take a criminal case forward as there was no “realistic prospect of conviction”. 
  • An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the death of a soldier who was fatally shot during a training exercise at a firing range in Otterburn, Northumberland in 2016, has found that the Army failed to properly implement a safe system of work for the session. The soldier was shot in the back of the head by another soldier as they walked through the moorland firing range, wearing night-vision gear and shooting at remote-controlled targets. An HSE spokesperson said, “The planning and conducting of the exercise was poor, and there was an ineffective system to monitor the management arrangements mandated within the MoD’s own procedures. Mandated planning meetings in the lead-up to the exercise were not attended by some staff. Errors were made while producing written instructions and some staff lacked confidence while producing them. The finalised written instructions differed from how the exercise was being conducted. There should have been an additional supervisor with the firers on the night of the incident, due to the soldiers’ lack of experience when carrying out nighttime firing. Mandated ‘night time’ specific safety tasks were not carried out prior to fining commencing. Incorrect and unauthorised night vision equipment was being used by some soldiers. Officers who were not sufficiently experienced in controlling such an activity were not properly mentored or supervised to deal with an exercise of such complexity.” The Ministry of Defence has been issued with a formal Crown Censure, an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.
  • Armed police officers were deployed following reports that a man had been seen brandishing a crossbow in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Police shot and injured the suspect after he allegedly used the crossbow to shoot an officer in the leg. The man, who has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, is thought to have suffered potentially life-changing injuries. It was later confirmed that the suspect had also reportedly stabbed another man. Both the police officer and the stab victim have since been released from hospital.
  • Police officers were deployed following a report that a firearm had been stolen during a burglary at a house in Beccles, Suffolk. A police spokesperson later confirmed that two air rifles had been recovered. No arrests have been reported.

We are aware of at least four reports in May 2024 involving the use of police Tasers, including:

  • It has emerged that, in June 2023, police officers Tasered and arrested a man outside a betting shop in Hull, East Yorkshire after he tried to stab another man. The offender has since been jailed for eight months. 
  • Police Officers intervened after one dog reportedly attacked another in Hartlepool, Co. Durham. When pepper spraying the attacking dog had no effect, one officer deployed a Taser. The Taser hit the dog but, when one prong hit another officer, he fell to the ground, screaming. The aggressive dog was subsequently seized by police and a woman has since been arrested on suspicion of having a dog dangerously out of control in a public place. The dog attacked suffered serious wounds to the neck and required veterinary treatment.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least eleven reports in May 2024 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:

  • Police believe that a golden eagle that vanished in October 2023, after being seen near Fountainhall, Scottish Borders, has been shot dead. The female bird was part of a lottery-funded conservation initiative that moves young golden eagles from across Scotland to boost breeding populations in South Scotland. Based on evidence found at the bird’s last-known roosting site, police believe the bird was shot while sleeping in a tree before “someone then removed her body and destroyed her satellite tag”.
  • A cat has been put to sleep after being shot in the spine with an airgun in Norwich, Norfolk. The incident has been reported to the police and the RSPCA.
  • A tawny owl died from its injuries at a rescue centre after being shot with a rifle in woodland near Orlingbury, Northamptonshire. A police spokesperson appealed for information, saying, “Like most birds in the UK, tawny owls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to kil, injure or capture a bird and also to damage or destroy their nests.”  
  • It has emerged that a female peregrine, found injured at a nature reserve near Greenfield, West Yorkshire earlier this month, had been shot. X-rays revealed shotgun pellets lodged in the bird’s left wing. The peregrine was euthanised due to the extent of its injuries.
  • A fox cub has been put to sleep after suffering a head injury caused by a suspected gunshot. The 10-week-old cub was found by a member of the public in Gillingham, Kent.
  • Police have received a report that a cat died after it was shot with an air rifle and attacked by dogs in Church Crookham, Hampshire. A description of three men and three dogs, seen in the area at the time, has been issued along with an appeal for information.
  • A cat has been put down after being shot in the chest with a BB gun in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
  • Police appealed for information after a cat was shot with an airgun in York, Yorkshire.
  • A swan was put to sleep after being found in Cefn Golau, Monmouthshire with fishing line around his leg and a fishing hook in his neck that had penetrated the oesophagus, causing an extensive infection. X-rays revealed that he had previously been shot with an airgun and had a pellet lodged in his head.  
  • Three herring gulls have been shot in Worthing and Ferring, West Sussex. Two of the birds were put down due to the extent of their injuries. A senior animal rescue officer, said, “Not only is this disgusting act illegal, but it is also extremely cruel, especially at this time of the year when the birds are having their young. They may well have been sitting on chicks which will now more than likely starve to death. Like all wild birds, herring gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and anyone found guilty of killing or harming one, or disturbing a nest, can be heavily fined and/or given a prison sentence.”
  • A jackdaw was put to sleep after being shot twice with an air rifle in Darlington, Co. Durham. The bird was found in a front garden and taken to a local vet’s surgery, where it was discovered that one pellet had shattered its pelvic bone and a second had lodged in another bone. Police are investigating the incident as it is an offence to use an air rifle in a built-up area.

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 one report in May 2024 relating to the above:

  • A 46-year-old man has been jailed for four years and eight months after pleading guilty to attempting to possess a prohibited firearm and attempting to possess ammunition for a firearm without a certificate. In March 2024, authorities in the US found a Glock 26 self-loading pistol, 10 rounds of hollow-point 9mm ammunition and an owner’s manual in a parcel addressed to a property in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire. After a decoy parcel containing an audio and video recording device was sent in its place, a conversation between the man and another male was recorded, in which the man said he had a Glock in the package. National Crime Agency officers arrested him shortly afterwards and found a conversation on his phone in which he agreed to pay £1,300 to a man “seemingly in America” for the gun and ammunition. On sentencing, the judge said that the gun and ammunition were “valuable commodities to serious criminals operating within this country.”

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 32 reports in May 2024 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 29-year-old woman has been handed a suspended 20-month prison term and 30 rehabilitation activity requirements after admitting possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and criminal damage. In October 2022 she fired a realistic-looking black BB gun as her boyfriend argued with a group of men outside a leisure centre in Chatham, Kent. Although she claimed to have aimed the weapon into the air “to scare people away”, one pellet appeared to hit one of the men in the back and another hit a witness’ car windscreen. After she ran out of ammunition, the woman was “tackled to the ground” where she became unconscious. The court heard that the witness, who at first believed the gun to be real, thought the woman was going to shoot the men and felt scared for her own safety. The woman was ordered to pay £200 compensation to the witness.
  • A 40-year-old man and a 36-year-old man have been jailed for fifteen years and twenty-four years, respectively, for supplying Class A and B drugs, firearms and ammunition. The men were arrested after the criminal messaging network, EncroChat, was decrypted and messages revealed they had traded in drugs, ammunition and firearms including a semi-automatic pistol and fully-automatic weapons. The older man was arrested in December 2020 at his home in Birmingham, West Midlands, from where police officers recovered around £85,00 in cash and heroin worth £5,000. A number of phones were found at the younger man’s home address the following day. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “This was a highly intricate investigation which has seen us break up a supply chain of both firearms and drugs. As a result we’ve stopped significant quantities of drugs and numerous firearms from ending up on our streets. And both these men have now been given jail terms that will see them remain behind bars and out of our communities for a substantial amount of time.”
  • Police responded following a report that a man had allegedly threatened to shoot a member of the public with what looked like a rifle at a petrol station in Blackpool, Lancashire. A teenage boy was detained at the scene and two replica guns, including an Airsoft rifle, were seized. The incident was resolved by way of a community resolution.
  • A 24-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years and nine months for the manufacture of a weapon and ammunition, with concurrent terms of five years for each of two counts of possession of a firearm. In January 2023, police officers recovered a converted blank-firing pistol and two live shotgun shells from the garden of a property occupied by the man in Birmingham, West Midlands. They also seized two metal pipes, which reportedly could be combined to make an improvised weapon, known as a slam gun. The items were subsequently linked to the man. The following month, a slam gun recovered from a vehicle in the city was traced back to the man, leading detectives to believe that “he was involved in supplying as well as making these devices”. Upon his arrest at another property, officers recovered imitation firearms, shotgun cartridges and metal pipes, while his phone revealed messages, images and searches that suggested he was involved in the sale of firearms. Following his detention, it emerged that more slam guns that could be forensically linked to the man had been seized by the Metropolitan Police. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “These weapons can maim and kill, and they’re supplied to criminals who use them to intimidate and elicit fear in others. We’re working hard to take these weapons off our streets and put those involved in trading them, like this man, behind bars.”
  • A 33-year-old man has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to three counts of possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of ammunition and possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs. In September 2023, police officers recovered three loaded firearms from inside the lining of a bed at the man’s home in Birmingham, West Midlands. They also recovered cash, ammunition, around £15,000 worth of cocaine and more than £3000 worth of cannabis during the search.  
  • A 75-year-old man has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 40 years, after being convicted of murder. In 2005, two women police officers responding to an armed robbery at a travel agent’s in Bradford, West Yorkshire, were shot by three men. One officer died and the other was seriously injured. The court heard that the 73-year-old, who was in a lookout car during the raid, had played a “pivotal role” in planning the robbery and knew firearms would be used. He fled to Pakistan after the attack and was extradited to the UK in 2023. Following sentencing a police spokesperson said, “Two mums set out to work that day – two ordinary people doing extraordinary work for the public. One didn’t return home and one didn’t return home in the same way. All those years ago we made a promise to hunt down every last member of this gang and today we achieved that.”
  • A 33-year-old man has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, criminal damage, driving while disqualified and failing to provide a specimen for analysis. In February 2024, the man pointed an imitation firearm at a homeowner and his young daughter after knocking at the door of their house in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. He went on to smash a window with a firearm, only running away when the victim defended himself. The man was arrested nearby later the same day after being pulled over by police officers for driving while disqualified.
  • A 60-year-old man has been jailed for eleven years and three months after pleading guilty to four counts of manufacturing a weapon, device or ammunition specified in section 5(1) of the Firearms Act 1968, with concurrent terms for ten counts of possessing ammunition for a firearm without a certificate. Following reports of a man with a gun in Burton, Staffordshire in July 2022, armed police officers arrested the man and recovered two 3D-printed, hybrid semi-automatic rifles known as FGC-9s. Two similar 3D-printed guns and around 800 rounds of homemade 9mm ammunition were subsequently seized from his home address. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “(he) told us he had made these weapons using a 3D printer and items he bought online ‘out of curiosity’, The reality is that these were viable weapons that were tested and shown to be capable of firing live ammunition. Our message is clear, that weapons manufactured using 3D printers will be treated as seriously as any other traditional firearm and those who make them can expect to be given lengthy prison sentences as a result.”
  • A 58-year-old man has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to kidnap, threatening a person with a bladed article in a public place and two counts each of attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm. In December 2023, the man threatened a woman with a gun and knife before making her drive him from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire to Northampton. Two days earlier, he had threatened a member of staff at a post office with an imitation gun and demanded money, saying he would kill a female customer, who was with her young son, if the worker did not comply. After the worker pushed a panic button, the man also threatened the worker’s wife. The worker and members of the public then tried to detain him, but he defecated into his hand to scare them off. He was found in nearby allotments shortly afterwards by police.
  • A 35-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years after pleading guilty to two counts of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing a disguised firearm, possessing a prohibited weapon, possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs and possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply. In January 2019, police officers searched the man’s shipping container in Tonypandy, Glamorgan and recovered drugs “100 times more potent than diamorphine” and drugs paraphernalia. After the man was traced, one of his cars was found to hold large quantities of cocaine while a second vehicle contained two single-barrelled sawn-off shotguns, live shotgun cartridges, two electric stun guns, an imitation handgun, digital scales, £17,000 in cash, four mobile phones and a knuckleduster. On sentencing, the judge told him the weapons were clearly designed to “protect” his drug dealing business, adding, “You knew very well the risks of getting involved in crime as serious as this.”   
  • A 44-year-old man and a 39-year-old man have been jailed for life after being convicted of murder while the older man was also sentenced for causing grievous bodily harm, possessing a prohibited weapon and supply of Class A drugs. In June 2020, a man stepped out of a car and shot another man eight times in Roydon, Essex with one shot going through the victim and hitting two women nearby. CCTV and mobile phones analysis linked both men to the shooting with messages from the decrypted criminal messaging network, EncroChat, revealing that the older man had “likely been out to get” the victim and had deleted potentially incriminating data after the murder. Both men fled the country after the attack, but were extradited from Morocco and Spain, respectively, to stand trial. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “This murder was unusual in its level of sophistication organisation and brutality. It was not a spontaneous act of violence, but rather a planned and carefully co-ordinated execution … (the older man) is a committed and high-level criminal and thought he could use his knowledge of law enforcement tactics and encrypted messaging to evade justice. He enlisted the help of his accomplice to act as a potter, striking the moment (the victim) was seen to emerge from a party he had been attending.”

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 2024 weapon types recorded in firearm Incidents

Notes

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 at least £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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