Gun Crime In The UK

Written by regionadmin

19th May 2022

gun crime in the UK

While the UK is one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to gun related crimes, it does still happen throughout the country.

Offences involving a firearm have seen an increase of 27% in the last 5 years according to the Office of National Statistics despite strict laws and regulations being placed on firearms in the UK.

Here we’re going to look at the factors that surrounds gun crime in the UK and evaluate the risk it poses.

What Is Gun Crime?

The Home Office officially defines gun crime as:

‘A gun that is taken to be used in an offence, whether it is fired, used as a blunt instrument, or used as a threat.’

While most people will associate gun crime with homicides, as these incidents often dominate the headlines when they occur, the term covers a wide range of offences that involve firearms.

  • Violent crime using a firearm such as homicide, robbery, or sexual assault
  • Implicating that you’re carrying a firearm as a threat
  • Distribution of firearms without the proper licensing
  • Manufacturing of firearms and ammunition
  • Converting air pistols and starting pistols
  • Owning certain types of firearms without the proper license
  • Owning banned firearms

While there are far more examples of gun crime that takes place in the UK, this just gives you an idea of some of the different types of crimes that take place involving guns. It isn’t just violent crime

How Much Gun Crime Is In The UK?

The UK has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, which results in a relatively low amount of gun crime, especially incidents of violence that involve a firearm.

In the year ending March 2021, there were a reported 30 incidents of homicides using a firearm, which makes up for 4% of all homicides for that year in England and Wales.

We can also see that over 50% of all firearms crime in England and Wales, in the year ending March 2020, was violent against a person and criminal damage involving a firearm.

Let’s compare these statistics with a country that doesn’t have as strict gun control measures. In America there were a reported 20,901 homicides in 2021 according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That’s over a 60,000% higher rate of gun related homicides in America compared to England and Wales.

While there are more factors to take into consideration when comparing these figures, such as the size of the countries and overall population, gun control laws also have an impact on the massive difference between the figures.

That’s over a 60,000% higher rate of gun related homicides in America compared to England and Wales.

Where Does The Most Gun Crime Happen In The UK?

While you might assume most of the gun crime takes place In London, like the high rates of knife crime in the capital.

The figures released by the Home Office show us that the West Midlands has the highest rate of gun crime in England and Wales, with 25 firearm offences per 100,000 people in the year 2020/21.

This is an increase from 24 firearm offences per 100,000 people the previous year. With an average of more than 400 violent crimes being committed each day in the West Midlands.

In the same year in London, 1281 firearm offences were recorded, the lowest amount in the area since 2015/16.

uk gun crime

Are Guns Legal In The UK?

Yes, some guns are legal to own in the UK. They do however come with strict conditions and licensing requirements.

It’s important to remember that that UK law has classification for different types of firearms. This can affect the sort of licensing and registration process you will have to go through to own a gun legally.

Shotgun Licensing In The UK

Shotguns are the most common firearm found in the UK, with figures for shotgun licenses covering more than 500,000 shotgun licenses in 2021.

To be eligible for a shotgun license, there is very specific criteria and a process you must follow. This ranges from having medical evidence from your GP that you are medically fit to own a shotgun, to providing a full list of your criminal background and previous convictions.

Specific restrictions on Shotguns include:

  • Barrell must be over 24 inches in length
  • Cannot have a magazine or non-detachable magazine than can hold more than two rounds
  • The Bore of the barrel must be less than 2 inches in diameter

Prohibited Firearms In The UK

While certain guns are legal to own in the UK, there are more that are prohibited all together. These restrictions are what contribute to the low rates of gun crime across the UK, example types of firearms that are prohibited are:

  • Fully automatic and burst-fire firearms
  • Cartridge ammunition handguns
  • Lever release action rifles
  • Firearms disguised as another object
  • Easily converted firearms

It’s easy to see why these sorts of firearms are prohibited. Fully automatic and lever release action rifles have the potential to make gun crime far more dangerous, with incidents such as mass shootings producing higher numbers of casualties.

gun crime uk

Gun Crime Incidents In The UK That Led To Gun Control Reform

There have been several major incidents in the UK over the years that have resulted in further gun control laws being implemented.

The Hungerford Massacre

Taking place in 1987, an assailant shot dead 16 people and injured more than 15, before turning a gun on themselves. The firearms used included a handgun and two semi-automatic rifles.

While the suspect had licenses for all of these weapons, it resulted in the government passing an amendment to the firearms act, prohibiting burst fire rifles and semi-automatic firearms.

The Dunblane Massacre

The deadliest mass shooting in the UK, this took place in Scotland in 1996. The suspect killed 18 people, including themselves, and injured a further 15. The firearms used included a 9mm handgun and revolver.

This led to further restrictions being placed on handguns in the UK with an amendment to the firearms act in 1997, banning all pistols that require cartridge ammunition, apart from .22 handguns.

Later in 1997 there was another amendment to the firearms act, which also banned .22 handguns.

The Cumbria Shootings

In 2010 there was a shooting spree in Cumbria, where 12 people were killed, and a further 11 were injured. The perpetrator also took their own life after the incident.  The weapons used included a 12-gauge shotgun that had the barrel-sawed off and a bolt action rifle.

While no legislation was brought into place after this mass shooting, it’s worth mentioning that this type of shotgun was legal to own with the appropriate license, but the barrel can not be sawn off. The perpetrator was a licensed firearm holder, this sparked debates about further gun control laws in the UK.

Plymouth Shootings

In 2021 a mass shooting took place where the perpetrator killed 6 people, including themselves, and injuring a further 2 people.

A shotgun was used in this shooting, that the suspect was legally allowed to own, although their licenses were revoked for a previous altercation and later returned to them.

As a result of this incident, the UK government announced that it wants police to take the social media activity of people applying for firearms licenses into account, as well as reviewing the process of firearms licensing in general.

Final Thoughts

While gun crime is relatively low across the UK, it is still something we should be aware of. Most of the mass shooting are a relatively modern problem, with incidents occurring as recently as last year. We can see the government evaluate the effectiveness of gun control whenever an incident occurs.

While it would be better for improvements to be made so incidents like this are prevented before they happen, it is difficult to predict these incidents from happening. Especially if it is a licensed firearm holder.

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