September 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 12-10-2023
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 September 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 September 2023.
Figure 1: September 2023 incident reports by type
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
We are aware of two reports in September 2023 concerning gun deaths:
- A woman died in hospital two days after being shot at a property in Long Clawson, Leicestershire. A man has since been charged with murder, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of ammunition without a certificate.
- After responding to a report that a woman’s body had been found at a property in Emneth, Norfolk, police officers arrested a man on suspicion of murder. A provisional post-mortem examination revealed that the victim died of gunshot wounds to the torso. Police are not currently looking for anyone else in connection with the shooting.
We are aware of one report of an inquest in September 2023 relating to a gun death:
- The coroner at the inquest into the death of a man in Long Stratton, Norfolk in June 2022 has recorded a conclusion of suicide, cause of death being a shotgun wound. The man, a farmer, was found dead by his family inside a farm buggy in a field. The inquest heard that the deceased had suffered depression, while a toxicology report revealed that “alcohol drunk before his death would have impaired cognitive behaviour and motor function”.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of three reports in September 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- An 18-year-old man has been handed a conditional discharge after admitting four counts of assault by beating. During an altercation at their home in Deal, Kent, he fired a BB gun at his partner. On another occasion, he followed her into the bathroom at a pub and pinned her against a wall while trying to hit her. He went on to hit his partner’s friend and a pub employee who tried to get him off the premises. Although he described the incident as severe, the magistrate did not enforce a community service order because he believed it would likely cost the man his job in the Royal Navy.
- A 37-year-old man has been jailed for six years and two months after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear and harassment. In April 2023, after bumping into his ex-partner in Birmingham, West Midlands, the man fired two shots from a blank-firing gun into the air to scare her. The following day, when two police officers attempted to stop him after they noticed him acting suspiciously, he pulled a gun and shot at one of them. He was arrested the following day.
- A 37-year-old man has been jailed for four years and five months after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and unlawful wounding. In December 2022, the man fired a shotgun through a window of a home in Brandon, Suffolk. The householder, who was known to the man, suffered minor leg injuries.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, Police Weapons/Stolen Guns and Ammunition.
We are aware of at least six reports in September 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- An 11-year-old boy was treated in hospital for a potentially life-changing wound to his hip after being shot with a shotgun. The victim had been with a group of adults who were rough shooting in woodland in Catsfield, East Sussex. Police officers arrested a 54-year-old man at the scene on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. Rough shooting is a method of live quarry shooting where trained dogs are used to flush game out of the hedgerows, woods or other cover as shooters walk along.
- 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.
- A 54-year-old man and 61-year-old man have been fined £700 and £840, respectively, after admitting to failing to comply with the conditions of a firearms licence. The younger man was also fined £9000 for killing a protected species, a pine marten, in Stewartry, Dumfries. Both men have had their firearms licences revoked.
- It has emerged that police officers in Derbyshire seized three shotguns from a man and revoked his shotgun certificate after Special Branch contacted them in August 2021 about his suitability to safely hold them. The man was allegedly involved with a far-right group and had posted a photograph of Adolf Hitler and a former Ku Klux Klan leader online, as well as derogatory comments about Muslims. Dismissing his recent appeal, the judge said “...he had given us significant concerns, coupled with sharing links to terrorist literature and manifestos. Consequently, we take the view that the police were quite correct to act as they did when his shotguns were removed in August 2021 and his licence was revoked… We were thus satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that the appellant demonstrated views that were sympathetic towards violence aimed at non-white ethnic or religious groups, and his reckless provision of links to potential terrorist manifestos and literature were such that he was a danger to the peace.”
- A 62-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm without a certificate and four counts each of possessing a prohibited weapon and possessing ammunition without a certificate. In April 2021, after machine gun parts addressed to the man were intercepted at Munich Airport, police officers searched his home and his workshop in Blyth, Northumberland and discovered a self-loading pistol, a starter pistol, gun parts and various types of ammunition, including 20 live NATO calibre rifle rounds, 50 live .22 long rifle calibre rounds, 20 live .45 calibre rifle rounds and 100 live 9x19 calibre rounds. The court heard that the man’s firearms licence was revoked in 2017 after he fell out with some neighbours and that he was “a nerd” with “a passion for firearms” who liked “taking things apart and finding out how they work”. The judge, however, said that, although it was unlikely the man would use a weapon, he had “a clear understanding” that he should not have held onto the self-loading pistol after legislation banned its possession. He added, “They are tough provisions - the intention is to deter people like you from holding onto, in this case, most importantly a handgun, potentially a dangerous weapon, particularly if it had fallen into the wrong hands, as you are well aware.”
- A 53-year-old man has been handed a sixteen-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to wounding a man and criminal damage by killing a dog. In January 2021, the man was shooting targets at the back of a rural property near Allendale, Northumberland when a friend gave him a .22 semi-automatic rifle to shoot at rabbits. The friend had a certificate to use the gun on his land but shooters have a duty to make sure it is safe to fire. The man failed to check a footpath before firing the rifle and hit a man out walking his dog in the back of his knee. He also killed the man’s dog with a bullet to the head. Despite surgery, the victim has been left with the bullet in his leg and is now unable to run. The court heard that the 53-year-old extended his apologies to the victim and said that he “never wants to fire another gun in his life”.
We are aware of at least four reports in September 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- A West Midlands Police officer is being investigated for unlawful act manslaughter, common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm after Tasering a man at a house of multiple occupancy in Birmingham, West Midlands. Police officers attended the property following a report that “two residents there had been attacked by a man with a knife”. During a conversation with two officers, the victim was Tasered as he approached an attic window. He then fell from the window and later died from his injuries. The Independent Office for Police Conduct confirmed that the officer has also been served with a gross misconduct notice for potential breaches of police standards of professional behaviour.
- Armed police officers were deployed following a call from a man who said he had a firearm and would harm himself and others at a property in Wyberton, Lincolnshire. The officers Tasered the man as he left the property. He has since been charged with possessing a knife in a public place and making repeated calls to 999 that were grossly offensive or menacing.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in September 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- See Licensed/Former Licensed Owner/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, Police Weapons/Stolen Guns and Ammunition above — a man in Scotland was fined, and his licence revoked, for killing a protected species, a pine marten.
- See also above — A dog was killed and a dog walker was injured in Northumberland after a man used a friend’s licensed gun to shoot rabbits, but failed to check a footpath to ensure that it was safe to fire.
- A cat has been put to sleep after being shot in the spine in March, Cambridgeshire. Investigating police officers said there had been reports of similar cases in the area within the last year.
- A cat died during surgery after being shot with an air rifle in Plymouth, Devon. A pellet had caused irreparable damage to his intestines and an artery feeding one of his kidneys. Police are investigating.
- Police are investigating multiple reports of cats being shot with a suspected BB gun in Chorley, Lancashire.
- A cat required surgery to have a pellet removed after being shot in the leg with an air gun in Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire.
- After a girl found her cat unable to move in the garden of her home in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, a vet confirmed the pet had been shot. A metal pellet was discovered lodged in the cat’s spine causing “significant damage”.
- A cow, found dead in a field in Cliviger, Lancashire, is believed to have been shot with a high calibre rifle. The animal, a Beef Shorthorn-cross heifer, was shot from the back with the bullet exiting its chest. The cow’s owners believe she may have been chased by poachers with dogs before being killed.
- Three men have been fined a total of £583 and ordered to pay a total of £1580 compensation, plus court costs and a victim charge, after pleading guilty to poaching offences on grouse moorland near Moorsholm, North Yorkshire.
- After seeing a buzzard falling into some trees in Worcester, Worcestershire, a man contacted the RSPCA to say he believed the bird had been shot out of the sky. He was unable to find the bird in dense foliage but reported hearing its cries weaken and finally stop.
Imitation, Airsoft, airguns and BB guns do not currently require a licence in England or Wales. These guns are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals.
N.B. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence, and airgun crime in Scotland has decreased by one third.
Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, Cats Protection, other organisations and individuals are calling for similar legislation in England and Wales after 300,000+ members of the public petitioned in favour of airgun licensing. The Government launched a consultation followed by a further consultation but as a result of responses, the overwhelming majority of which came from members of the shooting community, they concluded not to license airguns in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are aware of one report in September 2023 relating to the above:
- A man from Kirkcaldy, Fife was fined £1500 after Border Force officials seized a Spanish blank-firing pistol he had bought “on impulse”.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 49 reports in September 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for 24 years after being found guilty of section 18 wounding, possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition without a certificate. In November 2019, Lewis was one of four men on motorbikes who chased a man’s car in Birkenhead, Merseyside. The male driver was treated in hospital for three gunshot wounds after one of the group shot at his vehicle several times. The attack was found to have been part of a long-running dispute between organised crime gangs in the area. In a separate trial, the man was found guilty of conspiracy to sell a revolver, a sub-machine gun and a semi-automatic pistol, and conspiracy to supply drugs.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for four years after being convicted of three counts each of collection of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism and making indecent images of children. The man was arrested in May 2022 at his home in Norwich, Norfolk, where police officers recovered Nazi memorabilia, National Front stickers, knives, imitation guns and terrorist publications including instructions on bomb making and a handbook on making a sheet metal gun at home. Officers also discovered hundreds of indecent images of children. The court heard that the man had been forced to leave college and the Army because of his extreme right-wing views and the judge noted that he had “failed to respond” in a meaningful way to the government-funded scheme, Prevent, which aims to steer people away from extremist ideologies.
- Five men have been sentenced for their involvement in organised crime: A 36-year-old was jailed for 23 years after being convicted of possession of firearms and supplying Class A drugs; a 39-year-old, a 51-year-old and a 34-year-old received 21 years, fourteen years and sixteen years, respectively, for conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition, and Class A drug supply; and a 44-year-old man was sentenced to eleven years for conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition. In March 2022, police officers recovered a revolver-style handgun from behind a bath panel at a property linked to the 36-year-old. Six more firearms were discovered at his other properties in Basildon, Essex, as well as about £750,000 cash, a large quantity of cannabis, cocaine and drugs paraphernalia. In the same month, armed police officers stopped a car driven by the 51-year-old and found ten handguns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition concealed under the back seats of the vehicle. Phone evidence led to the later arrests of the other three conspirators. On sentencing, the judge said that the group were “professional criminals… with a desire for easy money”.
- A 23-year-old man has been jailed for fourteen-and-a-half years after admitting possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition and being involved in the sale or transfer of ammunition. The man was arrested at home in Birmingham, West Midlands after he posted videos of himself online, posing with firearms. He also posted photos of himself holding a machine gun and sent text messages in which he “boasted” about buying cheap firearms from America. In one text to a friend, he said he needed to fix his shotgun so that he could “smoke” someone. Police officers seized one live weapon, shotgun cartridges, bullet casings and tools to convert blank-firing ammunition from the property. It has not been reported whether the other firearms found were real or imitation.
- A 39-year-old man from Maghull, Merseyside has been jailed for eighteen years and five months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin, and conspiracy to sell or transfer a prohibited weapon, namely a self-loading pistol. After the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, was decrypted in 2020, detectives discovered messages to and from the man referencing drug dealing and the sale of firearms and ammunition. The court heard that the man had played “a significant role in high level serious organised crime” and had acted as “a conduit between potential buyers and potential sellers”.
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after being convicted of possession of an imitation firearm, common assault and affray. In August 2021, the man grabbed a child walking home in Leigh, Kent and showed him an imitation gun in his pocket. The court hear that the man had mistakenly believed the child had been involved in an incident concerning his daughter. In a statement, the victim, who has suffered panic attacks since the incident, said: “I have nightmares about what happened, and I can’t sleep.”
- A 33-year-old man has been jailed for 26 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to cause fear, and possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life. After the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, was decrypted, detectives discovered that the man was the head of a criminal organisation who had planned gun and other attacks from his “bolt hole” in the Netherlands. He also used his contacts to help associates source guns. Messages revealed he had plotted shootings at properties, including at a house in Bury, Greater Manchester, and made threats to “slash his enemies with knives” if they crossed him. Following a surveillance operation in April 2020, police officers seized two handguns and Class A drugs and arrested several of the man’s “underlings”. He was extradited back to the United Kingdom in May 2021.
- Seven men have been jailed for a total of 94 years for multiple offences following their involvement in a violent dispute with a rival gang. In January 2023, a car was driven several times into the front of a house occupied by four children and their mother in Hartlepool, before a car parked at the address was smashed up and set on fire. The following night ram raids were carried out on businesses in Horden, Co. Durham and gunshots were fired from a vehicle carrying the associates towards a van driven by the rival group. Following a complex investigation, police officers raided several properties and recovered a gun and ammunition, as well as heroin and cocaine with a street value of £75,000.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for twelve-and-a-half years after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm and being convicted of possessing an imitation firearm and attempting to pervert the course of justice. In March 2023, the man raped and strangled a woman at an address in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, before hitting a man over the head with an imitation handgun outside the property. He also sent letters to the female victim urging her not to give evidence against him.
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: September 2023 reports by weapon type
See 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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