Concerns over shotgun security following data breach

Gun security

 

Major concerns have been raised concerning gun security after a a recent data breach has caused 100,000 names and addresses of UK customers of a leading website for buying and selling shotguns and rifles to be shared on the dark web.

The BBC reported that the stolen data will include many people that do own firearms and shooting organisations are urging caution. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) warned its members to be vigilant around home security following the breach. Below Farsight examine why optimising home security as well as shotgun security is particularly important at this current time.

Gun ownership in the UK is tightly controlled, making guns difficult to acquire and therefore an attractive, valuable target to criminals. This breach adds to the existing threat of gun owners being targeted by unscrupulous criminal gangs. One gun owner affected by this recent data breach told the BBC:

“The breach seriously comprises my security arrangements for my firearms and puts me in a situation where me and my family could be targeted and in danger”

Is now a good time to reconsider your shotgun security? We think so, but let’s look at the facts…

 

Crime involving shotguns and rifles has increased by a whopping 54% over the the past five years

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that in the year ending March 2020, a total of 9,406 crimes involving guns took place – causing 1,225 slight injuries, 290 serious injuries and 26 fatal injuries.

Specifically looking at offences recorded by police in which shotguns or rifles were the principle weapon used – 49 slight injuries were reported, 58 serious injuries and 11 were fatal.  Clearly, in the wrong hands these firearms are very dangerous weapons and their use in violent crimes such as aggravated burglaries and robberies is on the increase again.

In fact, as the figures below show, over the past five years the numbers of reported crimes where shotguns or rifles were used as the principle weapon have increased by a staggering 54% (April-March 2015/16 compared to the same period in 2019/20):

Gun Crime statistics

Data from the ONS: Offences involving the use of weapons: data tables year ending March 2020

Interestingly, the ONS have reported that in 2019, offences involving firearms were disproportionately concentrated in urban areas, with almost 6 in 10 offences (58%) recorded in five metropolitan Police Force areas (Metropolitan Police, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside). But this in not necessarily where where these weapons are coming from!

Whilst handguns and converted imitation weapons are the most common types of firearms being used to commit offences, the above chart shows incidents where shotguns and rifles are being used as the principle weapon are on the increase.  Although legally licenced guns are tightly controlled in the UK, many that were once legally owned are ending up on the black market after being stolen from their owners emphasising the importance of adequate shotgun security measures being considered.

For example, as the BBC highlight, a legal gun covered by a firearm licence could be stolen from a farm or firearms dealer.  In fact, murdered MP Jo Cox was killed with a gun that had been stolen from a licenced owner.

Gun crime in 2021

Whilst it is too early to see a complete picture of the number of reported gun crime incidents for the year 2021 – particularly relating to shotguns and rifles, you don’t have to search the news media too hard online to find a raft of reported incidents of gun crime across the UK indicating that the rise in gun crime may be set to continue:

> West Midlands: Sub-machine gun and shotguns seized during police raid in Birmingham – Express & Star  / July 2021

> London: ‘Assassins’ armed with shotgun shot man through letterbox as baby slept in bedroom – My London / July 2021

> London: Croydon brothers guilty of drive by shooting, a shotgun was fired out of the window of a stolen car – Your Local Guardian July 2021

> Herefordshire: Drug dealer who armed himself with shotgun jailed – Hereford Times / July 2021

> Northumberland: Builder fights off shotgun wielding burglar in Hexham – Hexham Courant / June 2021

> Southampton: Man found with sawn off shotgun that had been stolen during a burglary – Daily Echo / May 2021

> Suffolk: Two teenagers and a woman blasted in ‘targeted’ village shotgun raid – The Sun / April 2021

> Peterborough: Sawn off shotgun found after police raid – Peterborough Telegraph / February 2021

Looking at some of the above ‘recent’ gun related incidents, it becomes clear that shotguns put in the hands of those with ill-intent are very dangerous and can even lead to fatalities on our streets and in homes and businesses.  Legal gun owners surely must do everything within their power to keep their guns from hitting the streets – but are current measures employed enough to ensure shotgun security is optimised as well as the safety of the owners assets, premises and people?

Now is a good time to consider improvements to shotgun security where necessary – but who is most at risk from shotgun gun thefts?

Where are the guns coming from?

Mirror request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that there are nearly 1.4 million shotguns and more than 600,000 other firearms. – mostly rifles, held legally in the UK.

According to the Home Office there are 567,358 shotgun licenses on issue in England & Wales as at March 2020 with an average of 2.4 shotguns held per licence.  In addition 159,483 firearm  certificates on issue with an average of 3.8 firearms held per licence – the majority being rifles at 58% typically used for target shooting or vermin control.

That’s over 2 million legally licensed shotguns and other firearms out there that thieves and criminal gangs would love to get their hands on!

…and judging by these types of news headlines they seem to be succeeding:

Nearly 160 guns have been reported stolen in Lincolnshire alone in the past decade – Lincolnshire Live article published 4th April 2021

More than 100 guns stolen from Cheshire in recent years – Cheshire Live article published 6th April 2021

More than 150 guns have been stolen in Leicestershire –  Leicester Mercury article published 15th June 2021

Of the legal 1,383,777 shotguns covered by shotgun licences, almost all (over 99%) are categorised as ‘Section 2 shotguns’ which are restricted to no more than two rounds.  The main usage of these weapons is vermin control, clay pigeon shooting or sporting purposes.  Of licensed shotgun owners, a high proportion live in rural areas and use their guns for sport or to protect their farmland which becomes clear when you look at the distribution of firearms by area:

Firearms distribution

Image credit: Home Office Statistics on firearm and shotgun certificates, England & Wales: April 2019 to March 2020

As a leading remote CCTV and Alarm monitoring partner to farms across the country, we are acutely aware that crimes affecting rural communities, in particular farmers, are increasingly being targeted by opportunists and criminal gangs. Farm security is being tested, prompting farmers to rethink their security measures to combat this crime surge.

Recent news headlines demonstrate just how vulnerable many rural homesteads and farms are to burglaries and in some cases violent raids by gangs to get hold of their legal weapons:

> Shropshire / Staffordshire Border : Shotgun stolen from farmer’s truck – Express & Star / March 2021

> Isle of Wight: Unloaded shotguns stolen from outskirts of Tapnell Farm – IW Radio / July 2021

> Liverpool: Firearms stolen from farmer’s cabinet stolen after gang stormed his farm and shot him twice – Liverpool Echo / July 2021

> Lancashire: Appeal after shotgun was stolen from Eccleston – Lancashire Telegraph / Feb 2021

> Yorkshire: Burglary gang who stole shotguns and ammunition during raids – Yorkshire Evening Post / June 2021

The above is only a cross section of some of the recent incidents happening across the country.  These show that there are opportunist thefts, but also more violent raids happening showing criminals’ determination to get their hands on weapons by any means – including by intimidation and even violence to force legal gun owners to open their locked gun cabinets.

Of course it is not just shotguns and rifles that criminals are targeting farms and rural homes and businesses for – machinery, vehicles, livestock, tech devices like GPS tracking devices and fuel are all proving highly attractive too due to increased demand for these on the black market.  We recently examined why criminals are targeting farms – read the details here:  ‘Is it time to rethink farm security’ 

Is it time to rethink your gun security and broader home security measures?

In relation to gun security, The Countryside Alliance warns that while it is a legal requirement to always store your shotgun security, now is an excellent time to review your security arrangements at home and consider whether they can be improved.

This warning comes after reports from the National Crime Agency that shotgun theft is on the rise with a rise in shotgun thefts of 50% in 2020 compared to 2019.

In the aftermath of the recent data breach of website dealing in firearms, BASC also warns its members to be vigilant around home security – to make sure all firearms are locked away and make sure buildings are secure.

BASC outlines your legal obligations for gun security – as the holder of a firearm or shotgun certificate you are required to comply with the conditions on your certificate relating to security – conditions 4 (a) and 4 (b). These can be seen here: BASC Security Advice.

In addition, the Home Office has published detailed guidance in its Firearms Security Handbook 2020.

The guidance covers the minimum standards recommended across many scenarios for gun owners, where a range of security measures are outlined depending on numbers of guns, their types and uses, your premises and the levels of risk that storing them on your premises could attract.

These can include gun locks/hasps, gun cabinets as well as minimum requirements of physical security security protecting unauthorised entry to the premises where the guns are stored.   In some cases audible alarms, monitored alarms or even CCTV systems are recommended, although these tend to be for higher numbers of guns and/or higher risk situations.

From our point of view, adhering to minimum standards to protect your guns and indeed farm premises, assets and people is a start, but by the way farms and rural communities are increasingly seeing the affects of being targeted by criminals, we think security is a serious matter and should be optimised to give the peace of mind that everything possible is being done.

Take for example an audible alarm going off.  It may be a false alarm or an intruder, but who will check it out if you’re not home or even if you are home? You, a passer-by, a neighbour or family member? Maybe an alarm going off will scare an intruder way, but what if it doesn’t and they are hell bent on getting their hands on your guns?

How can you optimise your shotgun security with Farsight?

Farsight offers 24 hour / 365 peace of mind with our remotely monitored SSAIB accredited services across alarm systems and/or CCTV – so that any triggered alarm can be responded to by trained professionals in real time. We are good at it too, being awarded the Best Security Provider in the UK in 2020

We are also NFU Pro members and an NFU CCTV Partner which means we offer a 10% discount for our services to fellow NFU members.

security monitoring

 

When choosing an alarm system to protect your home and further optimise your shotgun security, it is important to establish that it is certified by an accredited independent inspectorate such as SSAIB or NSI.  Also make sure you choose a certified installer and ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) such as Farsight. Only compliant alarms will ensure an immediate police by response. Read more about from Police Crime Prevention Initiatives.

Due to high levels of false alarms, a police response to blind alarms and calls from the general public does not guarantee an immediate police response. Even with monitored alarms holding a police URN number there are limits to number of false alarms they will respond to.  That is why the alarm signalling industry has moved on with alarm visual verification now possible. This links an alarm system to internal CCTV cameras so an incident can be visually verified as a genuine incident before police are called – which can help to protect vital URNs.

Read more: What is Alarm Visual Verification?

Why consider a ‘Farsight monitored’ CCTV system?

Effective CCTV monitoring has become a crucial element to consider when optimising your security to protect premises, assets and people not just your shotgun security in isolation.  So, how does remote CCTV monitoring work?

In our experience, by combining CCTV monitoring with live, proactive audio warnings can be particularly effective in deterring farm security incidents before they progress. In fact, during 2020 Farsight CCTV operators issued a mammoth 119,901 audio deterrent warnings and progressed almost 10,000 incidents to blue light services demonstrating a proactive security deterrent approach rather than a retrospective one.

As a leading UK based remote monitoring station, Farsight works with security systems installers and business sites across the farming & agriculture sectors to help protect their premises, assets and people with our range of security monitoring services.  Our services Include:

We can help to protect what’s yours from theft, fire or malicious damage… we’d love to see how we can work with you to optimise your farm security…contact us below: