November 2023 Review

by Gun Control Network on 30-12-2023

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 November 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 November 2023.

   

                                                          Figure 1: November 2023 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 four reports in November 2023 concerning gun deaths:

  • Armed police officers fatally shot a man on the doorstep of his home in Dagenham, East London after he called emergency services to say he had loaded guns and wanted to take his own life. After a specialist negotiator failed to defuse the situation, the man confronted the officers on his doorstep. He was shot twice and died at the scene shortly afterwards. The victim’s wife reported that he had been suffering mental health issues and had been unable to find help. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
  • A post-mortem examination has confirmed that a man, found dead in a field in Plungar, Leicestershire earlier this month, died of a gunshot wound. The victim’s death is being linked to that of another man who passed away after police stopped his vehicle on the A52 in Nottinghamshire. A firearm was discovered in his car. A man, arrested on suspicion of the murder of the first male, has since been released under investigation.
  • Paramedics gave advanced life support to a teenage boy found with serious gunshot wounds in Birmingham, West Midlands. The victim, transferred to hospital in a critical condition, died from his injuries two days later. A teenage male has since been arrested in connection with the shooting.
  • A post-mortem examination has revealed that a teenage boy, found dead next to a canal in Birmingham, West Midlands, died from a gunshot wound. A firearm was found nearby. Police believe the boy’s death is linked to that of another boy, who was fatally shot in the city five days previously.

Inquests

We are aware of one report of an inquest in November 2023 relating to a gun death:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a police sergeant in the custody centre in Croydon, South London in September 2020 has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. The victim was fatally shot with an antique Colt revolver, smuggled in by a man who had earlier been stopped and searched by other officers. Seven bullets and two bags of cannabis had been seized from the shooter’s person but the officers failed to find a holster hidden under his left arm. While being transported to the custody centre, the man transferred the gun to his hands despite being cuffed. There was no metal detector at the entrance to the custody area and it was only when he was brought to his feet for a second search that he moved his hands from behind his back and, at near point-blank range, fired two shots at the victim, hitting him in the chest and thigh. The police sergeant later died of his injuries in hospital. The coroner said that there had been “a failure to carry out a safe, thorough and systematic search”.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of eight reports in November 2023 that we believe to relate to the above, including:

  • A 30-year-old man has been made the subject of a section 37 hospital order after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon, possession of a firearm with intent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, four charges of breaching a restraining order and two charges of assault by beating. In April 2023, the man fired an air gun at a neighbour in the garden of his home in Wetton, Staffordshire, before punching and hitting him about his head. The court heard that he had history of aggressive behaviour towards other residents and was the subject of a restraining order at the time of the shooting. The judge said that the perpetrator was “plainly suffering from a mental disorder, schizophrenia.”
  • A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to 26 months in a young offenders' institute and made the subject of a five-year restraining order for possession of an imitation firearm and disclosing a private sexual photograph of a woman by sending it another person. In January 2023, the man held an imitation gun to a former partner’s head in a car in Leeds, West Yorkshire, telling her that if he couldn’t have her, no one else could. The imitation firearm and blank-firing bullets were later recovered from the vehicle. In an impact statement, the victim described continuing “to struggle with every-day life” and said she “doesn't go out anymore and is fearful that she is under constant threat”.
  • A 40-year-old man has been jailed for two years and eleven months after pleading guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm without intent, possessing a prohibited weapon, possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply and possessing an offensive weapon in public. In July 2023, after falling out with a friend, he went to the man’s home in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire and Tasered him when he answered the door. He also hit the man in the leg with a hatchet and Tasered him a second time. The victim suffered an open wound and a leg fracture, requiring surgery. Police officers subsequently discovered the axe, Taser and a large quantity of cannabis at the perpetrator 's home.
  • A 32-year-old man has been handed a suspended fifteen-month prison term and ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work and six months of mental health treatment after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to cause another man fear of violence, common assault and causing criminal damage to property. In April 2023, at his home in Southend, Oxfordshire, the man attacked his father after he intervened in a fight. The 32-year-old man bit his father’s arm before pointing an air pistol at him. The court heard that the son had been drunk at the time and was “extremely ashamed and embarrassed by his behaviour”.
  • A 45-year-old man has been handed a suspended 20-month prison term and ordered to complete 30 programme sessions and a six-month alcohol treatment requirement after admitting assault with an air rifle causing actual bodily harm, engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour, assault causing actual bodily harm and assault. In May 2023, he shot his wife in the leg with an air rifle at their home in Lydney, Gloucestershire. He also held a blowtorch near her head and threatened to burn their house down. The court heard that he had bullied and controlled his wife, and made numerous threats to kill her, over a long period, committing many offences while drunk. The judge made the man the subject of a ten-year restraining preventing him from direct contact with his wife.
  • Armed police officers were deployed following a report of concern for a woman's welfare at a property in Ovingham, Northumberland. Four men were arrested at the scene and a suspected firearm was recovered. It is believed that all those involved were known to each other.

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

We are aware of at least three reports in November 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Gun Deaths above — Armed police officers fatally shot a man on the doorstep of his home in East London.
  • A 37-year-old man has been jailed for 32 months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and breach of a suspended sentence. In March 2023, the man told an associate that he had a gun and grenades to blast police and had set up booby traps at his home in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear. When officers attended the address following a disturbance, the man, who appeared to be in possession of a revolver, locked himself in his bedroom. Following negotiations, he opened the door, still holding the firearm. After he failed to drop the weapon as instructed, an officer fired a baton round at the man’s thigh. He was treated in hospital for minor injuries and arrested. His weapon was found to be a gas-powered BB gun.
  • A 26-year-old man has been sentenced to eighteen months in prison after being found guilty of burglary of a dwelling and theft. In August 2022, the man stole a gun from a property in Witney, Oxfordshire. He was arrested and charged the same day.

We are aware of at least three reports in November 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:

  • An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has ruled that officers involved in an incident, during which a man was Tasered and subsequently died, did not commit a criminal offence. Police officers attended an address in Braintree, Essex in November 2022 following reports of a disturbance. After a man allegedly assaulted one officer and resisted arrest, he was Tasered. Paramedics were called in after the man became ill but he died at the scene shortly afterwards. Following the ruling, a spokesperson from the IOPC said, “We found no indication that the actions of any officers involved in this incident justified the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or that they had committed a criminal offence.”
  • It has emerged that, in August 2023, police officers Tasered and arrested a man after he repeatedly punched an off-duty officer in the face. The victim had approached the man after seeing him smashing a window at his former partner's home in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear. The injured officer suffered a broken nose, two black eyes and bruising to his ribs and body.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least four reports in November 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:

  • After a cow was shot in the head twice using the wrong cartridge in a bolt gun, the director of a slaughterhouse in Leintwardine, Herefordshire pleaded guilty to three charges: contravening the provision of an EU regulation relating to pain, distress and suffering at the time of killing an animal; contravening the provision of an EU regulation at the time of killing an animal; and failing to ensure an instrument, equipment or installation at a slaughterhouse facilitated rapid, effective stunning or killing. The court heard that the cartridges used during the incident in February 2023 were not strong enough to stun the cow and that the business had failed to follow standard operating procedures.
  • A cat suffered irreparable nerve damage after being shot with a BB or air gun in Elmswell, Suffolk. The incident has been reported and police have appealed for information.
  • A cat has been put to sleep after being shot with a BB gun in Wickford, Essex. Pellets had penetrated his spine, leaving him paralysed. The incident has been reported to police.
  • A cat has been put to sleep after being shot in the spine with an air gun in Crewe, Cheshire. X-rays revealed that the cat, who was unable to walk, had suffered multiple severe injuries. A spokesperson from the RSPCA said, “Airguns can cause horrific pain and suffering… It is unspeakably cruel, totally unacceptable and illegal to shoot animals for ‘fun’ — or as target practice — but sadly our emergency line receives hundreds of similar reports every year.

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 Agency and National Crime Agency

We are aware of two reports in November 2023 relating to the above, including:

  • In a joint operation with the UK Border Agency to investigate the increase in synthetic opioid products being adulterated into the drugs supply network, police officers raided several properties in Waltham Forest, North London and recovered 150,000 tablets of Nitazene, a “substantial amount” of other Class A and B drugs, a firearm, a pill pressing machine, over £60,000 in cash and £8,000 in cryptocurrency stored in various hard drives. Eleven people have since been arrested for their involvement in purportedly selling drugs via the Dark Web, using encrypted chat applications and social media.
  • A 38-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman have been jailed for eight and six years respectively, after being convicted of conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons.  In 2018, National Crime Agency (NCA) personnel shut down a gun factory in Hailsham, East Sussex that had been manufacturing handguns “from scratch”. It was discovered that the couple had supplied materials to make weapons and ammunition, buying 366 inert rounds from military memorabilia websites, as well as eleven pistol magazines. Thirteen pistols made at the factory were found in criminal hands, with one revealing the man’s DNA on its internal spring.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least  30  reports in November 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 19-year-old has been jailed for life after being found guilty of attempted murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. In November last year, the man, together with three fellow gang members, chased a young teenage boy into an underpass in Birmingham, West Midlands before he shot him in the back with a slam gun (home-made shotgun). It is believed the victim was attacked because he had strayed onto the gang’s “turf”. The injured boy managed to call for help and armed police officers gave emergency first-aid before he was taken to hospital. He has been left paraplegic, having suffered damage to his spinal cord. The court heard that the other three assailants were forensically linked to a getaway car and that a handgun and a slam gun were retrieved from an address linked to one of them. They were jailed for life in October 2022. Following  sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “The unprovoked and callous actions of all of these young men has changed the life of an innocent boy forever… Our primary focus is always to prevent these incidents from happening, but sadly we do continue to see gun violence on our streets. We need our communities to come together to help us in our fight against gun and gang-related crime.”
  • A  44-year-old man and a  21-year-old man have been jailed for eleven years and thirteen years, four months, respectively, after being convicted of using an explosion likely to endanger life. The older man was also sentenced for an unrelated charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition, and two offences of supplying Class A drugs. Both men were recruited to set off an improvised grenade in a stolen car outside the home of a gang rival in Salford, Greater Manchester. Residents were evacuated from their homes after the car exploded. The incident was part of a longstanding feud between two groups that involved shootings and other violence. At an earlier trial, the court heard that police officers had found a Zastava M57 self-loading pistol and a magazine containing compatible ammunition in an overgrown garden adjacent to the older man’s home. His DNA was found on the gun’s handgrip. He was also found to have been operating a County Lines drug supply chain.
  • Four men have been jailed for total minimum terms of 173 years after being found guilty of murder and other charges. Following a feud between one of the four and another man, two of the accomplices forced their way into the home of their intended victim in Liverpool, Merseyside in August 2022 and one opened fire with a Skorpion submachine gun. The intended victim was not at home, but one of fifteen shots fired killed his girlfriend. The court heard that one group member was the “malign presence” behind the shooting, while other accomplices drove them to the scene and organised and encouraged the attack. The man targeted, said to be associated with an organised crime group, did not cooperate with police after the shooting.
  • A 45-year-old man has been jailed for four years and four months after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs, possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession of a prohibited weapon. Police officers arrested the man in Oldham, Greater Manchester in December 2022 after receiving a safeguarding concern from a primary school. Ten snap bags of suspected cocaine were found on his person, while more drugs, a Dan Wesson silver CO2 BB Revolver, another BB gun, four rounds of imitation ammunition, an expanding police-style baton and a butterfly knife were recovered from a safe at his home address.
  • A 39-year-old man has been handed a suspended 21-month prison term and ordered to carry out 25 rehabilitation days and 200 hours of unpaid work for possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear or harm. In April 2022, the man cut in front of another car whilst driving on the M6 near Warrington, Cheshire. After the other driver beeped her horn, he pointed an imitation gun at her and her passenger. Police officers arrested him at his home and recovered the BB gun used. Both victims have reported significant psychological impacts.
  • A 50-year-old man from Barton Turf, Norfolk, has been jailed for twelve years for “masterminding” an international drugs plot that involved using recovery trucks and couriers disguised as Deliveroo drivers. His plans were uncovered after the criminal messaging network, EncroChat, was decrypted in 2020. The man’s messages revealed he had been involved with selling and distributing almost £7 million worth of cocaine and cannabis and planned to buy a Russian made handgun, import liquid cocaine from Peru in jars of asparagus and launder illicit money through his car sales business. After fleeing to Bali, he tried to return to the UK via Ireland. He was arrested after arriving by ferry in Anglesey.

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: November 2023 reports by weapon type

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 £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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