October 2023 Review

by Gun Control Network on 13-11-2023

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 October 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 October 2023.


                                          Figure 1: October 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 two reports in October 2023 concerning gun deaths:

  • The family of a man whose body was found at his home in South East London have said that he took his own life after struggling with the pain of arthritis and cancer. While sources reported that he shot himself in the head with a Glock 9mm pistol, the Metropolitan Police have not confirmed this, saying only that the death is being treated as unexpected and is under investigation.
  • Following reports of gunfire on a street in Battersea, South London, police officers discovered a man had been shot in the chest. Despite emergency first aid, the victim died at the scene. Police have appealed for information.


We are not aware of any reports of inquests in October 2023 relating to gun deaths.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of five reports in October 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:

  • A 36-year-old man from Sunderland, Tyne & Wear has been jailed for 30 months for assault and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In February 2023, he asked a friend to drive him around to deliver drugs. During the drive, he told his friend that he had lost him money and repeatedly held the gun to his head and stomach, saying, "Do you know what this is, do you know what it could do?" Two days later, he also violently assaulted his former partner.
  • A 67-year-old man has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to two counts of murder. In March 2023, he used his legally-held shotgun to fatally shoot two men, a father and son, at their respective homes in Sutton and Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire. The attacks came after the younger victim opposed an application by the perpetrator’s daughter to take their son to live in America. The perpetrator was arrested early the following day.
  • A 30-year-old man has been handed a seventeen-month suspended prison term after pleading guilty to multiple charges including criminal damage, assault by beating, two counts of assault by beating emergency workers, driving a motor vehicle dangerously and possession of an offensive weapon. In August 2023, after calling police to tell them he felt like crashing his car at 100 miles an hour, he went to the home of his ex-partner’s mum in Bootle, Merseyside and repeatedly fired a paintball gun at the property. When a neighbour shouted at him to stop, he drove to his former partner's house and “sprayed her front door with paintballs”. When the mother and the neighbour, who had followed him to the property, drove away, he pulled alongside their vehicle and opened fire again. One of the paintballs went through an open window of the neighbour’s car and hit her in the side of her head. She described the injury as “extremely painful” and was left with a lump and heavy bruising. Police officers, who had been looking for the man since his call, witnessed him firing the paintball gun at the neighbour and chased him as he drove away. He was eventually stopped with a stinger device and arrested. The court heard that his mental health issues had worsened during a paternity dispute with his former partner and the judge ordered him to carry out a series of rehabilitation programmes, including drug rehabilitation and mental health treatment.
  • Having spent two months on remand in prison, a man has been ordered to pay £200 in costs after pleading guilty to carrying an imitation firearm in a public place. In August 2023, the man pointed a BB gun at his partner as they rowed on a street in Stoke, Staffordshire. Believing the weapon to be a real gun, a witness alerted police and armed officers responded. Three BB pistols were subsequently recovered from the man’s home address. The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the weapons.
  • A 41-year-old man has been jailed for 28 months after pleading guilty to unlawful wounding, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and controlling or coercive behaviour. In December 2022, he shot his partner in the leg with an air rifle and hit her with the stock of the weapon after they argued at their home in South Shields, Tyne & Wear. On another occasion, he hit her on the arm with a hammer and threatened her with a drill. The victim later disclosed that he wouldn't allow her to wash properly and locked her inside the house. The court heard that the man has paranoid schizophrenia made worse by drug and alcohol use.

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

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

  • See Armed Domestic Violence and Victim Known to Perpetrator above — A 67-year-old legal shotgun owner fatally shot a father and son in Cambridgeshire.
  • An 83-year-old man from Dudley, West Midlands has been handed an eight-month suspended prison term, with a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement, after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Following an altercation at his GP’s surgery over his wife’s treatment for cancer, the man visited a neighbour to complain about the incident, saying that he wanted the police to shoot him or he would shoot them, adding that he had a silencer. The neighbour’s daughter, who is a police officer, was scared by his outburst and felt it was a threat to shoot her. After she and her mother escaped the property, they alerted the police and armed officers responded. When an attempt to calm him down failed, the man was shot in the abdomen with a rubber bullet. The court heard that that the man had wanted to be shot so he could “join his wife in heaven” and that a non-viable homemade pistol had been recovered from his home in 2019. The man was not charged for its possession.

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

  • Police officers were called in after a man at a nursing home in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire reacted violently to being told he couldn’t go out. The home went into lockdown and residents were taken into the cellar to hide as the man armed himself with a bow and arrow and went on a “wrecking spree”, breaking doors, throwing concrete blocks and setting off fire extinguishers. He also confronted police with the bow and arrow and was Tasered three times before he retreated into his room. Officers then broke into the room and restrained him. The court heard that the man was a voluntary resident at the home and that he had “flipped” when staff asked him to remain indoors because he had been drinking.
  • It has emerged that, in April 2023, police officers Tasered and arrested a man who brandished an axe in the foyer of a hotel in Woodbury, Devon.
  • It has emerged that, in August 2023, police officers Tasered and arrested a man following a five-hour standoff at a property in Stirling, Central Scotland. Police were called in after the man, who had been drinking and taking drugs, refused to leave the property when asked by his former partner. He threw furniture into the garden and brandished a machete at responding armed officers. He also made gun gestures with his hands and claimed to have a sword. He was Tasered and detained as he left the property and approached the officers “in a threatening manner”.
  • Following reports of a neighbour dispute on a street in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, a police officer Tasered a teenage boy before arresting him for assaulting a police officer. The officer has since been suspended from frontline duties and the incident has been referred to the independent Office for Police Conduct.
  • A 52-year-old man has been handed a community order and ordered to attend an alcohol dependency course after admitting assaulting his ex-partner, assaulting and grabbing the Taser of a police officer, criminal damage and breaching his court bail. In September 2023, police officers attended the man's home in Rednal, West Midlands after he refused to allow his partner to leave the property. Upon his arrest, he assaulted one officer, broke his video camera and grabbed his Taser and threatened him.

Animal Death and Injury

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

  • Two cats were seriously injured after being shot with an air weapon in separate incidents on the same street in Lancing, West Sussex. One cat had a pellet removed from his leg, while the other has been left with a pellet lodged between his heart and lungs. Police have appealed for information.
  • A cat underwent surgery to have a pellet removed after being shot in the abdomen with an air gun in Plymouth, Devon. The pet’s owners have been handing out flyers in the area to warn other cat owners that “someone in the vicinity was likely to be responsible”.
  • A cat is facing surgery after being shot in the eye with an air weapon in Hellifield, North Yorkshire.
  • A cat had its tail amputated after being shot in the spine with an air rifle in North Shields, Tyne & Wear. Other residents have reported animals being shot in the area.
  • A buzzard is receiving intensive veterinary treatment after being shot inside a national park in Rosedale, North Yorkshire.
  • A swan was put to sleep after being shot in the head with a suspected air weapon at a park in New Herrington, Co. Durham. The bird was found to have suffered seven wounds when volunteers pulled it from the water. The RSPCA has appealed for information, describing the attack as “mindless”.
  • A cat has been left with nerve damage to its leg after being shot with a shotgun in Burtonwood, Cheshire. The pet underwent surgery to remove 27 pellets. Police have appealed for information.
  • Five ducks have been shot dead at a lake in Hetton-le-Hole, Co. Durham, while three others were injured in the beak, face and wing, respectively. The RSPCA has appealed for information.

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 two reports in October 2023 relating to the above:

  • A 43-year-old man from Walsall, West Midlands, and a 27-year-old man from Manchester, have been jailed for twenty-two years and sixteen years, respectively, for drug and firearm offences. After the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, was decrypted, detectives discovered messages in which the older man asked the younger man for ammunition for a number of guns, one of which was believed to have been a revolver, and discussed the procurement of a machine pistol. In other messages, the 27-year-old man discussed the supply of other firearms and selling Class A drugs. He admitted conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis, transferring a prohibited weapon (a machine pistol), possessing and acquiring ammunition, and assisting the sale and transfer of other pistols. The 43-year-old man was convicted of three counts of supplying Class A drugs, attempting to possess or acquire a submachine gun and attempting to possess or acquire prohibited ammunition. Following sentencing, a National Crime Agency spokesperson said, “These are two men who didn’t care about ruining people’s lives with the supply of drugs and firearms. They didn’t care about the consequences for communities or the fallout for entirely innocent victims. They only cared about themselves and how much money they could make.”
  • As part of an investigation by the National Crime Agency, armed police officers supported the arrest of a man on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of firearms in Liverpool, Merseyside.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 43 reports in October 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 32-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possessing cannabis and being concerned in the production of anabolic steroids. In April 2021, the 32-year-old called at a man’s home in New Romney, Kent after being asked by a third party to “hospitalise and stab” him due to a dispute over property and money. Claiming he only wanted to scare the victim, he fired a BB gun at least six times when the man answered the door. The man, who was hit three times to his hands, chased his attacker and struck him several times on the head with a garden rake. The 32-year-old’s DNA was later recovered from the rake. The court heard that man had been homeless and not taking his regular medication when he was manipulated into carrying out the attack. The victim is said to be suffering from acute anxiety, PTSD, and depression.
  • A 27-year-old gang leader who kidnapped and tortured two men, has been jailed for 25 years. In November 2018, members of the man's gang kidnapped a man outside his home in London after he had been seen wearing a Rolex watch. The victim was lured into meeting the gang leader before being stabbed and having boiling water poured over him during an eight-hour ordeal. He was released after arranging for money and the Rolex watch to be handed over. In December 2020, the gang struck again, kidnapping a man in Cardiff, South Wales. The gang leader and his gang forced the man to call a friend to arrange the transfer of £50,000 after threatening him with guns, knives and an attack dog, and waterboarding and beating him. The friend alerted police and, after hostage negotiators monitored phone calls, the victim was rescued. During the subsequent investigation, officers seized six knives, five live rounds of ammunition, a handgun, a grenade smoke bomb and a Taser disguised as a mobile phone. Eight other gang members were sentenced to a total of 89 years in prison.
  • A 28-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to six charges: purchasing and attempting to acquire a prohibited weapon; committing that offence without holding a firearms certificate; buying and attempting to acquire and possess ammunition; attempting to import a firearm and bullets without lawful authority; possessing a child pornography video and possessing extreme pornographic images involving animals. After the man ordered a Glock 17 handgun and 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition from the US on the dark web, American authorities intercepted the parcel and found the items hidden inside an electronic device. The firearm and ammunition were removed, and the parcel was sent on to the man’s home in Leven, Fife. After he took delivery, police officers found the man with the parcel in his bedroom. His computer revealed that he had been researching suicide methods, as well as the Dunblane school mass shooting and school term times. Police also found a sexually explicit video and images of bestiality. The court heard that the man had been suicidal for years; however, on sentencing, the judge said, “… I also note that 100 bullets were bought which would seem to be an excessive number for suicide purposes. This type of ammunition was designed to deform on impact… One hundred rounds of that kind of ammunition used would have been unimaginable. You are a grave risk to public safety.” The man will be placed on the sex offenders register for a period of seven years.
  • A 62-year-old man has been handed a six-month suspended sentence after admitting acquiring explosives without a valid explosives certificate and manufacturing ammunition without approval. In April 2023, after his sister told police that he had been making explosives, officers found primed cartridges, blank cartridges and spent cartridges surrounding the man’s workshop in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Seven bottles of black gunpowder were also found in a shed and in his home. The street was closed off and residents were evacuated to allow the items to be safely removed. The court heard that the man was involved in Wild West re-enactments and had been making blank ammunition. The Prosecution said that the gunpowder could also have been used in live firearms and the man should have had a licence for the acquisition and use of explosives because of their lethal potential.
  • A 39-year-old man has been jailed for 21 years after being found guilty of kidnap, possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, threatening with an offensive weapon, kidnap and seven counts of rape. In December 2022, he abducted a man in Salford, Greater Manchester after showing him what looked like a handgun. He raped his victim several times in an alleyway and once at his home, shouting homophobic abuse throughout the attacks. He then put the gun to the man’s head and threatened to “smoke him” if he told anyone. The perpetrator was arrested after being found hiding in the loft at his home.
  • Three people, arrested after the criminal messaging network, EncroChat, was decrypted in 2020, have been sentenced: a 32-year-old man received 26 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, two counts of possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and two counts of possession of prohibited ammunition; a 29-year-old man was jailed for 33 years for the same offences, as well as money laundering and an additional count of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life; and a  29-year-old woman received five years for possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of prohibited ammunition. The two men were part of a group that used EncroChat to deal heroin and cocaine worth around £2.5 million, while the 29-year-old used the network to discuss using firearms against customers who owed money. Investigating police officers discovered that the gang had access to three pistols stored at a rented flat and found a loaded Skorpion firearm and ammunition under a bed at the woman’s home in Birmingham, West Midlands. The woman, a cousin of the 32-year-old man, slept on the bed with her young son. On sentencing, the judge said, “Possession of a loaded machine pistol is an offence of enormous danger. It has a very high rate of fire and a much larger magazine and would likely lead to the injury of people who have nothing to do with the drugs trade.”
  • A 45-year-old man has been jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent and two counts of possession of an imitation firearm to cause fear of violence. His 37-year-old co-defendant received 20 months for affray and five counts of criminal damage. In November 2022, the men confronted a neighbour at a block of flats in Bedford, Bedfordshire after she asked them to turn their music down. When both men came out into the communal corridor and one of them pointed an air rifle at the woman’s door, she alerted police. The men retreated into the older man’s flat when armed police officers arrived, from where they threatened to “shoot the first officer who tried to come in”. The flat owner then fired the air rifle from his balcony, hitting a police car occupied by an officer and smashing the windscreen, while the other man threw paint and plant pots at vehicles parked below. After negotiation, both men were arrested and the air rifle and an imitation firearm were recovered from the property.
  • A 37-year-old man has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 31 years, after being found guilty of murder. He was also sentenced to concurrent sentences of eighteen years each for possession of a firearm with the intent to endanger life and possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life. In February 2022, the man drove around Birmingham, West Midlands, looking for a group of people in a silver Volkswagen with whom he’d had an argument at a petrol station. After pulling alongside a similar car, he shot the driver in the face with a self-loading pistol. The victim, who was parked outside his home, is believed to have died instantaneously. The perpetrator was arrested after his car was identified from CCTV images.
  • A 39-year-old man has been jailed for six years after pleading guilty to being knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of prohibition/restriction of prohibited weapons and possession for the purpose of selling/hiring prohibited weapons. The man, who runs a storge facility in Cardiff, South Wales, stored and mailed stun guns and police-style batons to customers on behalf of Chinese companies. His enterprise was uncovered when a parcel containing three stun guns was discovered at the home of a man who threatened a delivery driver with a firearm in Bristol. Police seized a stun gun, £1,496 in cash and business documentation from the defendant’s home and 576 stun guns from his business premises and another address. On sentencing, the judge said, “In the wrong hands, stun guns can cause damage, there was a real risk these stun guns could have gone to hundreds of people who could have used them in a dangerous way.”

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 2023 reports by weapon type


See Gun incidents in the UK page for details of incidents involving these gun types.

Guns that do not require a licence: Airguns* (so-called ‘low-powered’); Airsoft; ball-bearing; imitation; paintball; antique; deactivated; bolt guns** and starting pistols/blank firers. These guns are cheap, accessible, and available to buy on impulse. Moreover, lack of secure storage requirements enables theft. Many are capable of being converted into more powerful weapons. Guns deactivated to early specifications are capable of reactivation and recent, more rigorous specifications are not retrospective.

There is no legal definition of ‘antique’ and, although possession of antique guns is prohibited to those having served or received a criminal sentence, it is unclear how this is administered during sales and transfers.

Airsoft guns are exempt from the terms of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and are ‘self-regulated’ by the Airsoft industry. The Home Office fails to collect data on the proliferation of Airsoft skirmishing sites.

*From January 2017 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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