March 2024 Review

by GCN on 21-04-2024

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 March 2024 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 March 2024.

Figure 1: March 2024 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 March 2024 concerning gun deaths:

  • A man died at the scene after he was found with a gunshot wound in Catford, South London. Police have issued an appeal for witnesses but no arrests have yet been reported.
  • The death of a man found with a “catastrophic head injury” in an outbuilding at his parents’ home in Gloucestershire is not being treated as suspicious. A gun was found near the man’s body and police confirmed that no one else was involved.

 

Inquests

We are aware of one report of an inquest in March 2024 relating to a gun death:

  • The coroner at the inquest into the death of a woman in Emneth, Norfolk in September 2023 has recorded a narrative verdict, concluding that she deliberately shot herself with a legally-held shotgun. Police officers found the woman, injured, in the garden of her home with a licensed shotgun by her side. She died at the scene soon afterwards. The inquest heard that the woman had made a comment around two years previously about shooting herself but had not mentioned it in the “recent past”. At the time of her death, she had apparently been looking forward to the future. The coroner said that while the evidence did not reveal her intention, it was unlikely the gun could have been fired accidentally.

Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator

We are aware of six reports in March 2024 that we believe to relate to the above, including:

  • A 45-year-old man has been jailed for life, to serve at least 32 years, after being convicted of murder. In September 2023, he shot his partner in the head at close range with a semi-automatic handgun at their home in Long Clawson, Leicestershire. He then hid the gun in the garden and wiped down surfaces before calling 999. The woman was taken to hospital but died two days later. The court heard that he had been “coercive, dominant and controlling” towards his victim throughout their relationship and had likely shot her after an argument. On sentencing, the judge said, “You spun a web of lies. You were motivated by saving your own skin…” The man will serve consecutive terms of six years for possessing a firearm illegally and two-and-a-half years for having ammunition without a certificate.
  • Police officers responded to reports that a firearm had been seen during an argument between people known to each other in Southwick, Wiltshire. A man was subsequently arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
  • A 43-year-old man has been sentenced to 28 weeks in prison, reduced for time spent on remand, after pleading guilty to possession of a modified air rifle with intent to cause fear of violence. In October 2023, the man went to a neighbour’s flat in Mevagissey, Cornwall to complain about noise. When the woman opened the door, she saw him carrying an Airsoft rifle, painted black to make it look realistic. The woman alerted the police and armed officers arrested him. The court heard that the woman now needs to take sleeping tablets and is concerned about going out if the man is in the building. A five-year restraining order was also imposed, preventing him from approaching his victim.
  • Armed police officers responded after one man allegedly threatened another with a gun during an altercation in Bournemouth, Dorset. No arrests have yet been made. It is believed the men were known to each other.
  • A 34-year-old man has been jailed for 21 months after admitting stalking involving fear of violence, grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of an imitation firearm. Following a brief relationship with a woman, the man verbally abused her and sent her “nasty” messages. The woman later witnessed him hitting her new partner over the head with what looked like a handgun at a pub in Welshpool, Powys. After the woman used a baseball bat from behind the bar to hit the attacker, she felt a puff of air pass her face as the gun accidentally went off. The firearm was later confirmed to be a gas-powered airsoft gun. The court heard that the woman and her new partner both believed he was going to be killed during the attack. The perpetrator, who has issues with substance abuse and behaviour around intimate relationships, was also handed a five-year restraining order.

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

We are aware of at least two reports in March 2024 that we believe to relate to the above:§

  • See Inquests above — A woman, a licensed gun owner, known to have previously made a comment about shooting herself, took her own life with her shotgun in the garden of her home in Norfolk.
  • A 68-year-old former licensed gun owner from Golborne, Greater Manchester has been jailed for three years, four months and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In December 2023, the man pointed a shotgun at a neighbour after visiting his house to complain about loud music. During a brief scuffle, the gun owner fired the weapon into a ceiling. After police officers arrested him and seized the shotgun, they searched his house and found a second shotgun and several cartridges. The man was ordered to forfeit his ammunition and firearms, and banned from possessing a firearms licence.

We are aware of at least five reports in March 2024 involving the use of police Tasers, including:

  • It has emerged that a man, who armed himself with two axes and smashed the door of a holiday property near Barmouth, North Wales in August 2023, was tasered and arrested by responding police officers.
  • Police officers tasered a man who crashed his car into a wall in Colchester, Essex while being pursued by police officers.

Animal Death and Injury

We are aware of at least ten reports in March 2024 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun:

  • A raven is being treated at a wildlife hospital in Batherton, Cheshire after being shot with a shotgun. An X-ray revealed that at least five pellets were lodged in its body.
  • After the bodies of around 50 hares, a barn owl and a kestrel were dumped outside a community shop in Broughton, Hampshire, a man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, night poaching, an offence under the Public Order Act, killing of a Schedule 1 bird, an offence under the Animal Welfare Act, killing of brown hare in the closed season and an offence under the Firearms Act. Police confirmed that the owl and kestrel, both protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, had been shot. The incident was described as “devastating” for the shop workers.
  • Police appealed for information after a sparrowhawk was shot dead at a nature reserve near West Tanfield, North Yorkshire. It is believed that a pellet gun or air rifle was used in the attack.
  • The RSPCA is investigating after the bodies of three roe deer, a barn owl and a fox were found by local residents on fields around Woking Palace, Surrey. All the animals had suffered wounds that appeared to be bullet holes.
  • A man allegedly shot dead a greylag goose with an air rifle in Mereside, Cambridgeshire. He has since being cautioned for killing a wild bird.
  • It has emerged that a kitten was put to sleep after being shot in the abdomen with an air weapon in Lytchett Matravers, Dorset in February 2024. An RSPCA spokesperson said that a second cat had been shot in the area. Anyone caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal can face up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act.
  • A cat has been left with “significant injuries” after being shot with an air weapon in St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney Islands. Police have appealed for information, saying, “Not only are cats legally protected from cruelty, but this offence breaches the terms of being a licensed air weapon holder.”
  • A cat required surgery to repair a torn bladder after being shot with an air rifle in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The incident has been reported to police.
  • A sparrowhawk died after being shot near Saffron Walden, Essex. Police have appealed for information.
  • A cat had a pellet removed from its leg after being shot with an air rifle in Bolton, Greater Manchester. Following the attack, an RSPCA spokesperson said, “From the reports we receive, we know there are people out there who deliberately target wildlife, pets and farm animals with guns, as well as catapults and crossbows. The consequences of weapons being used on animals are devastating, with severe injuries often leading to death. What we hear about is probably only the tip of the iceberg as not all cases will be reported to us and there may be situations where animals injured and killed by these weapons are sadly never found – especially in the case of wildlife. We continue to call for stricter regulations around owning an airgun in both England and Wales. Better education, basic safety training for owners and a thorough explanation of the law could help protect countless animals from these horrible attacks in the future. Anyone caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal can face up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act.”

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 March 2024 relating to the above:

  • A 40-year-old man has been jailed for twelve-and-a-half years after admitting to planning to supply cocaine, planning to supply cannabis, having cocaine with the intention of supplying it, having criminal property and planning to obtain a firearm. After the criminal communication network, EncroChat, was decrypted, messages revealed that he had arranged drug supplies and tried to buy firearms that could be used with a silencer and that could “spray”. He went on to try to get two other fast-firing semi-automatic pistols, but these guns were “out of stock”. The messages also revealed that the man discussed using cars with secret compartments to move drugs and guns. He was arrested at his home in Liverpool, Merseyside, from where National Crime Agency officers seized cocaine worth nearly £21,000 and over £6,000 in cash.
  • Following a National Crime Agency investigation into the conversion of blank-firing weapons, ten top-venting blank-firing pistols, a silencer and a quantity of ammunition were seized from industrial premises in Kendal, Cumbria. A man has since been charged with conspiracy to possess a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition, while a second man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply firearms.

Sentences and Convictions

We are aware of at least 39 reports in March 2024 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:

  • A 32-year-old man and a 20-year-old man have been jailed for sixteen-and-a-half years and eight years, three months, respectively, after admitting firearms offences and section 18 wounding. In July 2023, the older man shot two men at close range with a double-barrelled shotgun in Bradford, West Yorkshire. One man was released from hospital after having shrapnel removed from his shoulder, while the other victim, hit in the back, remains in hospital after suffering a serious injury. The court heard that the perpetrator carried out the attack as an “act of revenge” for his family being disrespected, telling one of his victims that, if it happened again, he would “blow his head off and put him in a box”. The 32-year-old man recruited his accomplice to scout the area on his motorbike before the shootings.
  • A 25-year-old County Lines drug dealer has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm without a licence, with a consecutive term of two years and four months for drug offences. In August 2022, police officers stopped the man when he was seen driving a stolen car on false plates in Derbyshire. A sawn-off shotgun, ten rounds of ammunition, cash, 150 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin, and several number plates and mobile phones were recovered from the vehicle. Videos on the phones, shown to jury members, revealed that one of the drug gang members had fired the recovered shotgun in a wooded area. A teenage boy, found in the car alongside the man, was sentenced to three years in a young offenders’ institution after being convicted of the same charges.
  • A teenage boy has been made the subject of a six-month youth referral order and ordered to pay a £26 surcharge after admitting making threats to kill. In August 2023, police officers responded to reports of concern for the welfare of the boy at an address in East Cowes, Isle of Wight. The boy threatened to kill a police officer if he entered the property, saying that he had a gun and lots of ammunition. He further admitted firing an air rifle and possession of a weapon in a public place (bow and arrow) on the same day. An order was made to seize several weapons from the teenager, namely a knuckle duster, cap gun, toy gun, airsoft gun, black BB gun and magazine, black crossbow, arrows and a large bow.
  • A 24-year-old man has been jailed for seven years and two months after admitting possessing prohibited firearms and possessing heroin and cocaine with intent to supply. In November 2023, police officers raided a property in Wolverhampton, West Midlands and recovered two viable pistols from a bedroom, as well as drugs and associated paraphernalia, cash and mobile phones from the downstairs rooms. The man was arrested at the scene.
  • Three men, aged 35, 23, and 28, have been jailed for a total of 59 years for offences including two fatal shootings: the oldest man was found guilty of the murder of a man shot nine times with a handgun outside his home in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire in September 2018; the 23-year-old was found guilty of the murder of a man shot in the head in Blantyre in February 2019; and all three men were found guilty of the attempted murder of a man shot in the face in Cathkin in December 2018. The court heard that the victims were targeted because they had unpaid drug debts. The 28-year-old, already serving a life sentence for acting as the getaway driver in Airdrie attack, received a further eight years for the Cathkin attack and a separate assault. On sentencing, the judge said, “The fact the sale of drugs causes these appalling acts of violence and planned assassinations due to this drug debt is deeply disturbing.”
  • A 27-year-old man has been handed a suspended 21-month prison term with a ten-day rehabilitation activity requirement after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possession with intent to supply Class B drugs. In May 2022, the man behaved aggressively after a housing officer and locksmith visited his flat in Cardiff, South Wales to change the locks. He went on to point what looked like a small black handgun from a bedroom window towards the officer and another resident as they waited outside and, when they drove off, came out onto the street still holding the gun. When firearms officers responded, he came out of his flat with his hands up and was arrested. The gun was found to be a 6mm semi-automatic gas-powered airsoft pistol. The court heard that cash and cannabis had been seized from the man’s flat earlier the same year and that he had been suffering a “drug-induced psychosis” at the time of the firearm offence.
  • A 37-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years after pleading guilty to six charges including planning to obtain a machine gun, import cocaine and cannabis, and transfer criminal property. The man used an encrypted device to plan a warehouse burglary, organise the false imprisonments of multiple people and discuss the supply of drugs and a machine gun. He was arrested in January 2023 at his home in Croydon, South London.
  • A 24-year-old man has been jailed for at least 28 years after being found guilty of murder, causing grievous bodily harm and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. In March 2018, he was one of four men who attacked a young man standing outside a shop with friends in Enfield, North London. The group shot the man in the abdomen with a shotgun and stabbed him twelve times. He died at the scene despite treatment by paramedics. The assailants also stabbed one of the man’s friends in the back. The court heard that the victims had been chosen at random, possibly because they were wrongly identified as rival gang members. The other three offenders have been previously convicted of the same murder.
  • A 31-year-old man will be detained at a psychiatric institution for seven years after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of a Class A drug. In October 2020, the man donned a mask and fired four shots towards an occupied house in Bierley, West Yorkshire, with one bullet going through a kitchen window and embedding itself in an inside wall. Other shots damaged brickwork and a wooden porch. The court heard that the shooting had possibly been intended to frighten someone who wasn’t in the house at the time. Gunshot residue linked the man to the pistol discharge and circumstantial evidence suggested he was connected to organised drug criminals. Police officers subsequently recovered a Russian 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a Turkish 4mm miniature revolver from another property in the town and tests proved the pistol had been used in the attack. The man’s DNA was also found on the revolver’s hammer, grips and trigger. He was seen moving cannabis plants before the shooting and more than 200 ecstasy tablets were found at an address linked to him in London after the attack. The man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia but will be moved to prison if his mental condition improves.
  • A 65-year-old man has been jailed for five years after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm without proper authority. In March 2022, a person cleaning out the man’s former home in Glasgow, Scotland discovered a gun in a wardrobe. The 65-year-old told police officers that he had found the gun, an Italian-manufactured, converted blank-firing revolver, under some floorboards when putting in an aerial, and had deemed it a “daft old thing” on finding the trigger didn’t work. He said that no one else knew about the weapon and that he had not been asked to hold it for anyone. The court heard that the revolver was in poor condition but could fire modified blank cartridges. On sentencing, the judge said, “if this was fired at another person, the firearm could have been lethal. I am not satisfied that this is one of the rare cases where it can be said there are exceptional circumstances. This was a firearm that you ought to have informed the police about. In all the circumstances the appropriate sentence is one of five years imprisonment.”
  • Three men have been jailed for twenty-seven years, nine years and seven years, respectively, for their involvement in a violent robbery. In July 2023, the three men broke into a house in Redruth, Cornwall, before the first man used a Beretta handgun to shoot a male occupant in the back as he tried to flee. The second man hit another man over the head with a hammer while the third man kept watch. The trio fled after stealing cash and a passport. The shooting victim suffered serious injuries and required several operations.
  • A 63-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after being found guilty of conspiring to commit criminal damage and four counts of possession of a firearm with criminal intent. After being dismissed from his job at a taxi firm in Ellough, East Suffolk in 2012, the man repeatedly fired an air rifle at taxis from the open window of a car, shattering windows and damaging bodywork. On four occasions, the taxis were carrying passengers and during one attack, a driver was injured. He also poured corrosive fluid over vehicles, smashed wing mirrors and punctured or slashed tyres. The man and a co-defendant (yet to be sentenced) were arrested in September 2016, after which their homes were searched. Police officers recovered two air rifles, metal wheel bearings, tapered rollers believed to be the projectiles used as ammunition to fire from air rifles, mobile phones and a cloned registration plate. They also found two shortwave radio scanners, believed to have been used to monitor communications between dispatchers and taxi drivers.
  • Three men, aged 36 years, 34 years and 42 years, old have been jailed for thirteen years and one month, eleven years and three months, and eight years and three months, respectively, after admitting to conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited arms and ammunition. In October 2023, police officers discovered eighteen converted pistols at the 42-year-old’s flat in Datchet, Berkshire, with a further 56 weapons found at a garage in Windsor. The court heard that the men used the flat as a workshop where deactivated guns were converted to fire live ammunition before being sold on the illegal market. All three men were part of a telephone group chat used to arrange delivery of the guns to buyers and one such gun, recovered by police after being used to shoot a teenager in London, had the 42-year-old’s DNA on it. The judge described the 36-year-old as playing a “significant” role in the operation, keeping financial records for the gang, but said it was unclear which of the trio actually reactivated the weapons. Two of the men claimed to have become involved in the illegal arms trade in order to settle drug debts.

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: March 2024 reports by weapon type

Notes

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

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

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

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

  • *From January 2017 airgun owners in Scotland have required a licence.
  • ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.

Guns that require a licence: Airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; police firearms/ Tasers.

The inadequate licensing procedure is subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of at least £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.