October 2022 Review

by Gun Control Network on 14-11-2022

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 2022 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 2022.

                                            Figure 1: October 2022 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 to 2022 are available at www.gun-control-network.org

We are aware of five reports in October 2022 concerning six gun deaths:

  • Two men have died after being shot at a house in Ilford, East London. It is believed that the murders suspects, reportedly members of a rival gang, arrived at the property by bike and fled in a car after the attack. Police have appealed for information.
  • A man has died after being shot by an armed police officer outside a police station in Derby, Derbyshire. He was given first aid until paramedics arrived and was pronounced dead in hospital soon afterwards. A police spokesperson said that the officers had been sent to the station’s secure car park after the man was reportedly seen there with a knife. The incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
  • It has emerged that, in October last year, the body of a man who had been fatally shot was discovered in a ditch near Heathrow Airport, London. Currently on trial, a friend of the victim claimed to have accidentally shot him in the back with a submachine gun that discharged as he was getting into the back of a car. The victim, sitting in the front passenger seat, was hit by a single shot. The alleged shooter, and two other men in the vehicle, reportedly moved the man’s body and gun, and set fire to the car. The court heard that the four men had met to carry out a “ride out attack” and that one of them had been carrying an imitation revolver. The trial continues.
  • A woman has died after being shot in the chest at a property in Moreton-on-the-Wirral, Merseyside. Police officers initially arrested a man known to the victim on suspicion of murder, but he has since been released under investigation. The incident is being treated as a targeted attack and police have appealed for help to trace the movements of a car seen at the time of the shooting.
  • A man has died after being shot following a car chase in Brixton, South London. A second man, who was knocked off his moped during the chase, also died at the scene. No arrests have yet been reported. 

Inquests

We are aware of one report in October 2022 concerning the verdict of gun death inquest:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a teenage male in February this year has concluded that he took his own life. The boy was found dead after he accessed a shotgun from a gun cabinet at his grandparents’ farm in Blackford, Cumbria. The inquest heard that the teenager had become distressed after troubles with friendships at school and that messages found on his phone indicated suicidal thoughts. One recipient of such a message told a teacher and the information was passed onto police.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of ten reports in October 2022 that we believe to relate to the above, including:

  • See Gun Deaths above — The body of a man who had been fatally shot was discovered in a ditch in London. A friend of the victim claimed to have accidentally shot him in the back.
  • A 47-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months for his involvement in a fight with two women, one of whom he was “infatuated with”. Following a series of “nasty” texts, all three got into a fight outside the man’s home in Burnley, Lancashire. During the fracas, he pointed a replica gun at one of the women, threatening to kill her, and threw curry powder at her, telling her it was acid. He was arrested at the scene. The court heard that the victim had thought “her life was over”.
  • After being convicted of Section 18 wounding with intent and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, a 39-year-old man and 30-year-old man were jailed for 20 years and eighteen-and-a-half years, respectively. In July last year, the pair drove to a property in Preston, Lancashire, where one of them shot a man with a 9mm handgun through the front door in revenge for an earlier fight. The victim suffered severe internal injuries and required life-saving surgery. A tracking device on the perpetrators’ car provided evidence of their movements on the night of the attack and a bullet casing and live round were found at the scene.
  • A 22-year-old man has been handed a suspended twelve-month prison sentence and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work after admitting possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause a fear of violence. In April last year, after his brother’s girlfriend got into a row with family members at his home in Consett, Co. Durham, the man pulled an Airsoft gun on her and said: “Touch my mam again and I’ll shoot you.” The court heard that the man had been cleaning the weapon when the confrontation broke out and that he had not pointed it at anyone. The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the replica handgun.
  • A 39-year-old man has been jailed for 32 months after pleading guilty to criminal damage and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In May this year, the man smashed a window at his ex-partner's home in Maesteg, South Wales and pointed a realistic-looking imitation handgun at her, her daughter and others inside the property. He fled the scene before police could respond but was arrested the following day. The firearm has never been found. In a victim impact statement, the woman said that she becomes "uncontrollably upset" when she thinks about the incident.
  • A 29-year-old man has been jailed for three years after engaging in a course of conduct which was abuse of a partner or ex-partner, possession of cannabis and having an air weapon without holding a certificate. He twice threatened his partner with what looked like a handgun in Glasgow, Scotland. On the second occasion, he reportedly held the firearm to her head and said, “I’ll do it”. Police officers subsequently recovered around £1620 worth of cannabis from his home, as well as a carbon dioxide powered rifle that fired BB bullets.
  • A 59-year-old man has been jailed for thirteen months and made subject to a five-year restraining order after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm and harassment with a view to causing serious harm and distress. After becoming obsessed with a neighbour in Cardiff, South Wales, the man harassed her over a number of months before banging on her front door with an air rifle. Police officers arrested him at his home and seized the firearm. In a victim statement, the woman said: “So many incidents have happened over the last few years, I cannot take it anymore. It's having a detrimental effect on my mental health and was I tearful when the police turned up. I am petrified about this man being released from custody and about what he will do to me. I cannot cope anymore and need help with this matter.”

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

We are aware of at least two reports in October 2022 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • See Gun Deaths above — A man died after being shot by an armed police officer outside a police station in Derbyshire.
  • See Inquests above — A teenage boy took his own life after accessing a legally owned gun belonging to a family member stored in a home in Cumbria.

N.B. It is a condition of a gun licence that only the gun owner knows the whereabouts of the keys to the gun cabinet.

We are aware of at least three reports in October 2022 involving the use of police Tasers:

  • Police officers Tasered and arrested a man who was allegedly “behaving erratically” while “armed with a knife” near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Central London.
  • Police officers Tasered a man who resisted arrest after posing as a basketball coach at a university campus in Twickenham, South East London.
  • A 25-year-old man has been jailed for seven years and three months after pleading guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent, making threats to kill and possession of a firearm. After he was arrested for assaulting his partner in South Shields, Tyne & Wear in February this year, he grabbed a police officer’s Taser and threatened to discharge it at attendant officers. The officers managed to lock the man in his cell where he surrendered the weapon following negotiation.  

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least fifteen reports in October 2022 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:

  • A cat is recovering after being shot in Mumbles, Wales, the pellet just missing his heart. The pet’s owner said that her cat had also been shot in the stomach with an airgun in May last year and in the face in June of this year. The charity, Cats Protection, has recently highlighted this case, with a spokesperson saying, “Air guns are unlicensed in Wales and England, which means anyone aged over 18 can legally buy and own such a lethal weapon, no questions asked. This is in contrast with Scotland, which has strict rules in place on who can buy and own an air gun. It is clear that Scotland’s laws are working — over 90% of the air gun attacks we see on cats happen in England and Wales, where there are no controls. This is shocking and shows that there is a problem with air guns being used irresponsibly in Wales and England, with cats frequently being the innocent victims.”
  • A cat has died after being shot in Cumbria and another cat had to be put to sleep after being kicked and shot in the West Midlands. Two cats living on the same street in Hertfordshire have been shot, both are recovering but one had a leg amputated. A cat is recovering after being shot in South London with a sharp tipped pellet used for hunting and pest control, a neighbour’s cat was apparently shot with a similar pellet earlier this year. A number of other cats are recovering after being shot in Derbyshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Monmouthshire, South London and West Yorkshire.
  • A swan has been put to sleep after being shot in a West Midlands Park; police are appealing for information following reports of people shooting at caged birds in North Wales and four men have been detained after allegedly shooting at wildlife with air rifles in South East London.

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 three reports in October 2022 relating to the above:

  • A 44-year-old man has been handed a two-year community order and 100 hours of unpaid work, and been placed on a 20-day thinking skills programme after trying to import blank-firing guns and ammunition into the UK. He was arrested in July last year after a blank-firing gun he’d ordered from Spain was seized at Gatwick Airport. National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators also discovered that Border Force officials intercepted and destroyed a blank firearm and 100 rounds of ammunition after he attempted to bring them into the country via Birmingham Airport in May 2020. In addition, the man had offered two front-venting blank firearms for sale online. Other prohibited weapons, including CS spray, a retractable baton and a knuckle duster, were subsequently found at his home in East Leake, Nottinghamshire. The man pleaded guilty to importing a front-venting blank firearm, importing a flare gun, selling a front-venting blank firearm, possessing a weapon capable of discharging CS gas and two offences of possession of offensive weapons in a private place (knuckleduster and retractable baton). Following sentencing, an NCA spokesperson said: “Although the guns he imported could only fire blanks, they are illegal in the UK as they can easily be converted to fire live ammunition. The weapons he supplied could have ended up in the hands of criminals, including drug traffickers, who use them to instil fear, inflict violence and, in some cases, to kill.”
  • A 23-year-old man from Wembley, North West London has been jailed for six years, three months after pleading guilty to the importation of four firearms and one count of possession of a knife. After police officers discovered a package containing a handgun loaded with five bullets at an address linked to the suspect, a joint operation with Border Force resulted in further firearms being intercepted, including a handgun loaded with eleven bullets and a loaded pistol. When the suspect was arrested in connection with the finds, he was carrying a lock knife. Evidence of transactions proved he had paid for the weapons.
  • A 31-year-old man, a 33-year-old man, and a third man also aged 31 have been jailed for four years, four-and-a-half years and five years, three months, respectively, for their involvement in a plot to convert blank-firing handguns into live weapons. National Crime Agency investigators discovered that the first man bought around 45 such weapons from gun stores throughout the Midlands and in Tamworth, Staffordshire for around £100 each, with the 33-year-old accomplice driving him on several buying trips. The third man drilled the firearms’ barrels to enable them to fire live rounds and painted them to make them look more realistic. Once converted, the weapons were estimated to be worth at least £2,500 on the criminal market. When police officers stopped a van occupied by two of the suspects in Birmingham in November last year, they recovered a pack of 9mm ammunition and component parts of two firearms. A metal worker drill and fittings were subsequently retrieved from the third man’s house. Following sentencing, an NCA spokesperson said: “Illegal firearms feed serious violence, intimidation and coercion in our communities. It's chilling to think the dozens of blank-firing weapons this gang bought could have been destined for organised criminals as viable handguns.”

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 37 reports in October 2022 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 28-year-old man has been jailed for fourteen-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a shotgun without a certificate, possession of a firearm whilst a prohibited person and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Police investigating the deaths of two students in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear in 2020, retrieved £5,000 cash, around £290,000 worth of drugs, a double-barrelled shotgun, a revolver and a quantity of ammunition from properties in the city. The jailed man was arrested at one of the properties in October last year.
  • A male paintball instructor has been handed an eighteen-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work after being charged with fifteen counts of assault by beating and six counts of cruelty to a child under sixteen. The instructor supervised a party for a group of nine-year-old boys at a unit in Longfield, Kent in June this year. During the event, he verbally abused the children and shot at them “between the legs, on the feet and neck” with a paintball gun. He has since been sacked by the company. He has also been ordered to pay compensation to his victims and attend a work and victim empathy session.
  • A 29-year-old man has been handed a suspended fourteen-month prison term with rehabilitation and ordered to pay victim compensation after pleading guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and common assault. In April this year, the man fired an airgun several times at a group of teenagers playing football near his home in South Shields, Tyne & Wear. He hit a boy on the head and a girl on her leg, neither of whom suffered serious injuries. The man told the responding police officers that he had not intended to shoot anyone, only to scare the youths away. The court heard that he and his neighbours had previously complained to the police about anti-social behaviour in the area and that he had come to “the end of his tether” when one of the teenagers verbally abused his partner.
  • Two 20-year-old men and a 17-year-old man have been jailed for life after being convicted of attempted murder, with the youngest man also found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of a prohibited weapon. In November last year, the trio chased a young teenage boy into an underpass in Birmingham, West Midlands before one of them shot him in the back with a slam gun (home-made shotgun). It is believed the victim was attacked because he had strayed onto their “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 three assailants were forensically linked to their getaway car and that a handgun and a slam gun were retrieved from an address linked to the 17-year-old. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said, “Gun crime is so damaging, there are never any winners. I hope the outcome today sends a really clear message to anyone engaging in gang or gun crime. It’s a serious offence for which you will be punished.”
  • A man has been handed a twelve-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work after admitting four counts of possessing firearms without a certificate and possessing a Class A drug. In October last year, police officers acting on a tip-off searched the man’s home in Easington Colliery, Co. Durham and discovered a large number of air weapons, a knuckleduster and a quantity of an hallucinogenic drug. Two of the air weapons, a break-barrel air rifle and a .22 calibre pre-charged pneumatic air rifle, both with detachable silencers, were found to be over the specified limit and were therefore classed as “dangerous”. The man claimed to be unaware the weapons needed certificates and the court heard that there is no responsibility on the seller to warn the purchaser of the requirement.
  • A 23-year-old man has been jailed for two years after admitting sixteen offences, including weapon and drug possession, and drug cultivation. At a car boot sale in Basildon, Essex in July last year, police officers spotted him trying to sell weapons including combat knives, fake guns, axes, knuckle dusters, a stun gun disguised as a torch and a revolver classed as a firearm (capable of shooting gas and blank bullets). A subsequent search of his home resulted in the seizure of five cannabis plants and a bag of cannabis.
  • Two men have been jailed for life after being found guilty of murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. In April last year, the two men lured a group of people onto a narrow footpath in Sheffield, South Yorkshire before one of them fatally shot one man and injured another with a handgun. The motive for the killing is unknown. Two brothers of one of the suspects, who transported him to a safe house following the shooting, were each sentenced to three-and-a-half years for assisting an offender.

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 2022 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 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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