October 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-11-2021
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 October 2021 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 October 2021.
Figure 1: October 2021 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, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least two reports in October 2021 concerning gun deaths:
- A man died in hospital just hours after being shot on a street in Loughborough Junction, South London. Two men have since been arrested: one, on suspicion of murder and, the other, on suspicion of assisting the alleged offender.
- A man has been fatally shot in a car park in Croydon, South London. Police have appealed for information, particularly from anyone attending a party at a nearby house.
We are aware of at least one inquest report in October 2021 relating to a gun death:
- An inquest into the death of a man, who was Tasered and shot by police officers in Hull, East Yorkshire in 2016, has concluded that he was unlawfully killed. The man, who suffered with mental health problems, was reported to police after being seen walking in the city centre holding an axe. Armed police were deployed and, when the man failed to respond to their instructions to stop, a Taser was discharged four times to no effect. The man was then shot twice in the back with a Glock pistol; he died in hospital later the same day. The inquest heard that the officer who shot the man believed he was a threat to the lives of a nearby group of workmen. The officer also stated that the first shot had not stopped the suspect.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least nine reports in October 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator, including:
- After subjecting a woman to years of abuse, including shooting at her with an air rifle, a 24-year-old man from Newbury, Berkshire, has been jailed for five years and four months, having been convicted of engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour, assault by beating and four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for a minimum of 22 years after being found guilty of murder and two firearms charges. In May last year, the man disguised himself with a facemask before shooting a man with a sawn-off shotgun in front of his fiancée at her home in Ardrossan, Ayrshire. The court heard that the man had been a friend of the victim since childhood and that the victim’s fiancée recognised him. Evidence from the shotgun and bullets, found dumped, linked the man to the attack. Sentencing him, the judge said: “You discharged the gun at point blank range. This was a premeditated and cold-blooded killing. Your responsibility for the murder has been established to the satisfaction of the jury on the most clearest of evidence.”
- Armed police officers were deployed in Leicester, Leicestershire after a man allegedly threatened a woman known to him with a handgun. There were no reports of any injuries. The suspect has not yet been located.
- After admitting manslaughter by diminished responsibility, a 52-year-old man has been sentenced to life, with a minimum term of eight years, in a mental health hospital. In May last year, he shot his wife twice with a double-barrelled shotgun at their home in Barham, Suffolk. She was pronounced dead in hospital shortly afterwards, cause of death being a gunshot wound to the chest. Following the shooting, one of the couple’s children found their mother in her bedroom and told the father to call an ambulance. The court heard that the man, a firearms dealer, had an “abnormality of mental functioning” and had not disclosed his history of mental ill health when applying for firearm licences. In March and April last year, he contacted medical services 26 times, complaining that he was suffering from Coronavirus and that no-one was listening to him. Sentenced under Section 45a of the Mental Health Act, he may be transferred to prison if he becomes well enough.
- A 23-year-old man has been handed a nine-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to complete 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 60 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm, three counts of sending a malicious communication and breach of a non-molestation order. The man sent his ex-partner messages threatening violence against her and her family, and brandished a firearm during a FaceTime call with her in October last year. After police officers recovered an imitation firearm and a knuckle duster from his home in Leeds, West Yorkshire, he was made the subject of a non-molestation order, banning him from contacting his former partner. However, he continued to send threatening text messages.
- A man was handed a nine-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm in public. In June this year, he pulled an imitation firearm out of his car in front of a man in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The court heard that the man had been involved in a long-running feud with the man and that he had previously been convicted of possession of a bladed article in relation to an earlier argument with him.
- After he threatened a neighbour with a BB gun during a row over money, a 70-year-old man from Birmingham, West Midlands, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for possession of an imitation firearm.
- A 28-year-old man was jailed for life, to serve a minimum term of 30 years, after he murdered his uncle by strangulation and stole a self-loading rifle, a shotgun and a car from his home in Aldham, Essex in December last year. His co-defendant aged 17, received an eight-year sentence for manslaughter and burglary.
- Five members of one family have been sentenced for their involvement in an attack on a relative following an argument over business matters. In June 2020, the five men confronted their victim outside his home in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where one assaulted him, another swung a machete at him, and a third shot him in the back with a shotgun. The victim later said that he had believed he was going to die. Four of the men were sentenced to a total of 37 years in prison, the fifth man was handed a suspended fourteen-month sentence and ordered to complete 200 hours’ unpaid work.
Licensed/Former Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least nine reports in October 2021 which we believe to relate to the above:
- See Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator above — A 52-year-old licensed firearms dealer has been sentenced after fatally shooting his wife at their home in Suffolk.
- A 28-year-old man has been sentenced after murdering his uncle and stealing licensed guns from his victim’s home in Essex.
- See Inquest above — A man armed with an axe was unlawfully killed by a police officer who shot him twice in the back in East Yorkshire.
- Following reports of a man with a rifle in a car in Worcester, Worcestershire, an armed police officer shot the suspect in his leg. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. The shooting has been referred to West Mercia’s Professional Standards Department and to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
- Intruders reportedly broke into commercial premises on an industrial site in Peterlee, Co. Durham and stole five airsoft guns and several crossbows.
- Four people have been arrested after police officers raided properties in Plymouth, Devon and recovered ammunition and two shotguns, one of which had been stolen in a 2018 burglary and subsequently sawn-off
- Two men were jailed for a total of twenty-three years and two months after they admitted conspiracy to supply drugs, possessing shotguns as prohibited weapons and possessing a knife. The men were part of a gang that used a massage parlour in Hull, East Yorkshire as a “front for an empire of drug dealing and prostitution”. When police searched the premises, they discovered previously-stolen, sawn-off, loaded shotguns, including one that was worth £80,000, and ten cartridges. DNA from both men was found on the weapons.
- A father and son were each handed 24 months’ custody, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work after they admitted possessing a prohibited weapon without authority. Pending the renewal of the older man’s gun dealer’s certificate, police officers inspected their address in Woodbridge, Suffolk in October last year. Amongst hundreds of weapons and components, the officers recovered parts of a self-loading rifle and a rusty 12-bore shotgun, made in 1887, with a barrel 15mm shorter than the length permitted by law. The court heard that both men held valid firearms and shotgun certificates and that four charges of possessing a prohibited weapon and two charges of possessing a shotgun disguised as a walking stick, denied by both defendants, would be left on file. The older man was also fined £5,000.
- A detective constable has been handed suspended sentences of six months for dangerous driving and ten months for possession of a firearm. Following an incident in Kettering, Northamptonshire in April 2020, the detective constable admitted possession of his police-issued PAVA spray. He had been arrested for dangerous driving the month before. He has been suspended from duty, disqualified from driving for fourteen months and ordered to pay a fine and costs, amounting to £5,300.
We note at least five reports involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least seven reports in October 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- A short-eared owl was found shot dead in Co. Durham and a heron has been shot dead in Kent. Five cats and a kitten have been injured in shooting attacks in Caerphilly, Cheshire, East Suffolk and Leicestershire, including two reported to have been shot on the same day in the same area in Powys, and suffering from horrific injuries.
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, The Cats Protection League, other organisations and individuals are calling for similar legislation in England and Wales. MPs and families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities are concerned about the failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations. In response, the Home Office has launched a further review which, at the outset, clearly rejects licensing for airgun owners in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are aware of at least one report of illegal firearms in October 2021:
- Following a National Crime Agency investigation into the supply of firearms, three men have been jailed for a total of 29 years. In October last year, surveillance officers observed one of the men getting into a car with a brown paper bag outside his home in Isle of Dogs, East London. Another of the men was subsequently seen carrying the same bag while getting in and out of the car, which was registered to the third man. When armed police officers searched the vehicle, they recovered the bag, containing a Russian brand self-loading pistol and eight rounds of ammunition. Two more similar pistols and fourteen rounds of ammunition were found hidden in the garden of the first man’s home.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 51 reports in October 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- After she acted as getaway driver for a man who fatally shot a woman in Blackburn, Lancashire in May last year, a 27-year-old woman has been jailed for fifteen years, having been found guilty of manslaughter.
- After committing several offences, including threatening a man with an air gun in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, a 32-year-old man was handed a hospital order, having admitted possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possession of a blade, sending malicious communications, assault of an emergency worker, and theft by finding.
- A 20-year-old man has been jailed for at least twenty-seven years after being convicted of murder and perverting the course of justice. In March last year, the man fired a self-loading pistol four times at a man in a bagel shop in Enfield, North London, missing with each shot. As the man tried to flee over a wall behind the shop, the man fired again, shooting him in the head. The victim died in hospital later the same day. The perpetrator tried to cover his tracks by leaving his phone in a car, connected to an active call for 56 minutes while he carried out the attack.
- After firing an air pistol at members of the public and police officers in South Shields, Tyne & Wear in October last year, a 34-year-old man has been jailed for three years and nine months, having pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
- A 50-year-old man has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years after admitting attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent. In June this year, the man brandished a replica firearm at a mother and daughter in a carpark lift in Liverpool, Merseyside, threatening to shoot one of them in the eye if they didn’t hand over their money and phones. After refusing to comply, the daughter chased the man away. In personal statements, the victims described the long-lasting impact of the anxiety they suffer as a result of the attack.
- A 32-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition. After they received information about firearms and ammunition being advertised for sale on social media, police officers searched the man’s home in Bradford, West Yorkshire in June this year. The officers recovered blank-firing ammunition, ball bearings and fireworks — believed to be used for making bullets — as well as two pistols and a shotgun cartridge.
- After being found guilty of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to possess ammunition without a certificate, and having admitted conspiring to supply Class A and B drugs, five members of a drugs gang have been handed custodial sentences totalling 91 years. One conspirator will serve his sentence in a young offenders’ institution and two others will serve an additional five years each on licence. The court heard that the men carried out a series of “tit-for-tat shootings” against rival gangs in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire in 2018 and 2019. The gang said to have had “the firepower of a small army”, used at least eight phone lines to profit from advertising drugs and flaunted its wealth and power through music videos. After gathering surveillance evidence, investigators recovered drugs, cash and four semi-automatic loaded pistols. Two other gang members are to be sentenced at a later date.
- A 63-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to six charges of possessing weapons and ammunition. When police officers called at his home in Twynholm, Kirkcudbrightshire on an unrelated matter in 2018, they discovered a submachine gun, a bolt action rifle, a shotgun, an air rifle, four multi-pump air rifles, a barrel-cocking air rifle, an air pistol and more than 600 bullets, none of which had the necessary certificates. A number of spent shells were found that appeared to have been used in the machine gun. The court heard that the man, who had worked as an expert weapons adviser to the police and had an interest in restoring firearms, bought the machine gun legally in the 1980s as a deactivated weapon. However, he had since adapted it to fire paintballs. On sentencing the judge said: “Standing your own background as an expert firearms witness, you ought to have been under no misapprehension as to the seriousness of possessing a weapon of this character.”
- Four people have been sentenced to a total of seventy-eight years for their involvement in the fatal shooting of a man in Mexborough, South Yorkshire this year. The court heard that the shooting was a “planned execution” of a rival gang member and that all four defendants were in a car when one of them fired a homemade shotgun at their target in a drive-by attack.
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: October 2021 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. N.B. This month a firearms dealer has been sentenced for fatally shooting his wife. The Home Office fails to publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in non-fatal crime. N.B. this month, two gun dealers and a man said to be a “firearms expert” who advised the Police, have been convicted of firearms related offences. 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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