Information

Recorded Crimes and Offences Involving Firearms, Scotland, 2018-19 and 2019-20

Statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police in Scotland in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved or where a firearm was stolen.

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2. Commentary

2.1 Offences involving firearms (Tables 1, 2, 2a, 3, 4; Chart 1)

  • In 2019-20, the police in Scotland recorded 341 offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been involved, an increase of 3% since 2018-19. In 2018-19, the police recorded 332 offences, a decrease of 5% from 2017-18. The 332 offences in 2018-19 were the lowest since records began in 1980 and the 341 offences in 2019-20 are the second lowest.
  • In 2019-20, 33% of recorded offences involving a firearm were for Possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime etc. A further 14% of total recorded offences were for Breach of the peace etc., 11% were for Robbery, 11% were for Common assault and 9% were for Reckless conduct with firearms.
  • In 2018-19, three Homicides involving a firearm were recorded, with one recorded in 2019-20. There were nine Attempted murders involving a firearm in 2018-19 and seven in 2019-20.
  • The number of Serious assaults involving a firearm was unchanged from two in 2018-19 to two in 2019-20. The number of robberies involving a firearm recorded in 2019-20 was 39, an increase of 10 from 2018-19.
  • When air weapons and unidentified weapons are excluded, the total number of offences involving a firearm increased by 19% between 2018-19 and 2019-20 (from 196 offences to 233 offences).
  • Offences relating to Possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime etc. and Breach of the peace etc. continue to account for the largest proportion of offences involving a firearm when air weapons and unidentified weapons are excluded (at 36% and 16% of offences, respectively).
  • The use of firearms in criminal activity continued to constitute only a small proportion of all offences recorded by the police in 2019-20, including 1.5% of Homicides (one offence), 2.8% of Attempted Murders (seven offences) and 2.2% of Robberies (39 offences). Only 0.1% of all Serious assaults, and less than 0.1% of both Common assault and Vandalism offences, involved the alleged use of a firearm. For further information please see Note 2 of Section 3.7.

2.2 Main firearm recorded (Tables 4, 4a, 5; Chart 1)

  • Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, the most likely main firearm recorded was an air weapon. This changed in 2019-20, where the most likely main firearm recorded was a pistol/revolver.
  • An air weapon was used in just over one-fifth (21%, or 71 offences) of all offences involving a firearm in 2019-20, down from 27% (91 offences) in 2018-19. When unidentified and other firearms are excluded, air weapons were used in 30% of offences in 2019-20. Over the last five years, the number of offences involving an air weapon fell by almost two-thirds (from 190 to 71 offences).
  • Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of offences involving a pistol/revolver increased by 43 offences (83%), making it the most common main firearm in 2019-20 (28% of offences). The only other type of firearm that saw an increase over this period were other firearms, up 17 (37%). All remaining firearms saw decreases, with the number of offences involving shotguns (-15, or 33%), air weapons (-20, or 22%), unidentified firearms (-8, or 18%) and imitation firearms (-5, or 12%) all falling.
  • In general, in 2019-20 a pistol/revolver was the most common weapon used – including for crimes of Robbery (56%), Vandalism (36%) and Possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime etc. (37%).
  • In 2019-20, Air weapons were most common in Reckless conduct with a firearm (43%), Common assault (32%) and Other crimes and offences (35%).
  • Chart 1 shows the type of weapon used in each offence as a proportion of the total number of offences recorded in each year (excluding unidentified and other firearms), 2015-16 to 2019-20.
Chart 1: Main firearm recorded in offences involving the alleged use of a firearm, as a percentage of recorded offences (excluding unidentified and other firearms), Scotland, 2015-16 to 2019-20
Air weapon was displaced as the main firearm in 2019-20 by Pistol/revolver. Imitation and Shotgun are third and fourth most common main weapon, respectively, with rifle least common.

2.3 Firearm use (Tables 6, 6a, 7, 8, 9, 9a; Chart 2)

  • Amongst recorded offences in 2019-20, 167 (or 49%) involved a firearm being used to threaten. A firearm was discharged in 35% of offences. The breakdown of how the main firearm recorded was used is provided in Chart 2.
  • The increase in the number of offences involving firearms between 2018-19 and 2019-20 was not driven by a single change in how the firearm was used. The largest change by volume was observed amongst ‘used to threaten’ offences which increased by 15% from 145 in 2018-19 to 167 in 2019-20.
  • Changes seen in most other categories were smaller. Increases were seen in fired – non-fatal injury (+9), used as a blunt instrument (+6), and other uses (+1). Other categories saw decreases, fired – fatal injury (-2), fired – property damage (-5), and fired – no injury / damage (-22).
  • The number of offences in which a firearm was fired and caused fatal or non-fatal injury to a person increased by 26% from 27 in 2018-19 to 34 in 2019-20. For more information regarding the method of counting victims, see Note 5 of Section 3.7.
  • The number of offences in which a firearm was discharged causing no injury or damage decreased by 22 offences from 68 in 2018-19 to 46 in 2019-20 (-32%). Crimes where property was damaged decreased by five offences from 46 in 2018-19 to 41 in 2019-20 (-11%).
  • Of the 121 offences in which a firearm was discharged in 2019-20, 35% (42) involved an air weapon, of which none resulted in fatal injury. Of those 42 offences, 16 resulted in no injury or damage, 12 in property damage, and the remaining 14 in a non-fatal injury to a person.
  • Of the 38 Common assaults involving a firearm in 2019-20, eight resulted in the weapon being discharged and causing a non-fatal injury. This accounts for nearly a quarter (24%) of the 33 recorded offences in which a firearm was fired and caused a non-fatal injury.
  • In 2019-20, where a firearm was discharged resulting in no injury, over a third (35%, 16 offences) were classified as Common assault and 24% (11 offences) were classified as Reckless conduct with a firearm. Where a firearm was used to threaten, almost half (48%) of these were offences of Possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, commit crime etc.
Chart 2: How main firearm recorded was used in offences involving the alleged use of a firearm, Scotland, 2018-19 and 2019-20
In offences involving the alleged use of firearms the most common usage of the main firearm was Used to threaten. In 2018-19 and 2019-20 this was the main usage in 145 and 167 cases, respectively. Next most common is Fired – no injury/damage, with 68 and 46 cases, respectively. Fired – damage to property is third most common, with Other use, Fired – fatal/non-fatal injury and Used as blunt instrument successively less common.

2.4 Location of firearm offences (Tables 10, 10a; Chart 3)

  • In 2019-20, most offences involving firearms either took place in a Dwelling (40%) or on a Public highway (27%). Public highways include roads and footpaths.
  • Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the only locations that saw an increase in offences were, Public highways (+19), Places of public entertainment (+1) and Other locations (+8). Other locations include: within a motor vehicle, on licensed premises, and other outside locations, e.g. in a field.
  • The number of offences occurring in a Dwelling (-1), Shop (-9), Post Office (-2), Bank/Building Society (-3) and School/College (-2) all decreased from 2018-19 to 2019-20.
Chart 3: Location of offences involving the alleged use of a firearm, Scotland, 2018-19 and 2019-20
In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, a Dwelling was the most common location of a recorded offence involving the alleged use of a firearm, with 136 and 135 ,cases, respectively. Public Highway is the second most common setting with 93 cases in 2019-20, up from 74 in 2018-19. Other locations is third most common, with Shop, School/College, Post Office/Namk/Building Society and Place of Public Entertainment successively less common.
  • In 2019-20 six offences occurred in a school or college involving the alleged use of a firearm. This represents a small change from 2018-19, when eight offences were recorded. In total, one offence involving the alleged use of a firearm occurred within a bank, building society or post office in 2019-20, with a further single offence in places of public entertainment.

2.5 Victim characteristics (Tables 11, 11a)

  • Details on the way that victims are counted within this bulletin are provided in Note 5 of Section 3.7.
  • Of the 34 main victims who were either fatally or non-fatally injured during an offence involving a firearm in 2019-20, 27 were male (79%) and 7 were female (21%).
  • The number of offences that included a male main victim increased by four between 2018-19 and 2019-20, while the number of offences that included a female victim also increased by four.
  • In 2019-20, the median age of victims was 32. Eighteen percent of all offences where someone was either fatally or non-fatally injured involved a victim under the age of 16. There were 15 offences that had a main victim aged 31 or older, accounting for 44% of offences with a main victim.
  • When air weapons and unidentified weapons are excluded, there were 20 offences with a main victim in 2019-20, a 43% increase from 14 in 2018-19.
  • For data that specifically relates to the number of homicide fatalities involving the use of a firearm, please refer to the Homicide in Scotland National Statistics.

2.6 Clear up rates (Table 12)

  • In 2019-20, 69% of all offences involving a firearm were cleared up. For further information on clear up rates please see Section 3.6.
  • There were large variations in the clear-up rate across the different crimes in 2019-20. Crimes with relatively high clear up rates include, Homicide (100%), Serious assault (100%) and Breach of the peace etc. (86%). Crimes with relatively lower clear up rates include, Vandalism (9%), Attempted murder (43%) and Robbery (62%).

2.7 Accused characteristics (Table 13)

  • In 2019-20, there were 234 offences in which accused person(s) were identified. Of these, 222 (96%) were male, while only 12 (4%) were female.
  • In 2019-20 the median age of an accused person was 28. The main accused was under 16 years old in 8% of cleared up offences involving the use of a firearm (19 out of 234 offences). A further 14% of cleared up offences were committed by an accused aged 16 to 20 years (33 offences). Of all offences that were cleared up in 2019-20, the most common ages of the main accused were those aged 21-30 and those aged 41 and older, with 84 and 51 offences respectively (36% and 22% of all offences cleared up).

2.8 Offences in local authorities (Tables 15, 15a)

  • When considering the trends in the number of offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used in each local authority area, it should be noted that most local authority areas have relatively small counts of firearm offences. As a result, small changes in the number of offences in which a firearm was alleged to have been used can lead to large changes in percentage terms.
  • In 2019-20, the local authority areas of Glasgow City (63), North Lanarkshire (37) and Fife (30) had the highest number of offences involving firearms. When cases involving air weapons are excluded – the highest number of offences were also recorded in Glasgow City (42), North Lanarkshire (26) and Fife (25).

2.9 Stolen firearms (Tables 16, 16a)

  • During 2019-20, Police Scotland recorded four offences in which a firearm (other than an air weapon) was stolen (a decrease from nine offences in 2018-19).

2.10 Miscellaneous firearm offences (Tables 17, 17a)

  • Data presented in this section and Tables 17 and 17a are based on Recorded Crime in Scotland 2020-21 National Statistics, not Police Scotland firearms data returns.
  • The number of miscellaneous firearm offences recorded by the police, relating mainly to the possession, handling and distribution of firearms and ammunition, rose from 452 in 2018-19 to 537 in 2019-20, an increase of 19%. In 2020-21, the first full year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, 432 offences were recorded. For further information on Miscellaneous firearm offences please see Note 1 of Section 3.4.
  • The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 came into effect on 31 December 2016, meaning there are now four full recording years of offences committed under this act. These show a decline in recorded offences, beginning with 396 offences in 2017-18 and followed by 336 offences in 2018-19 and 296 offences in 2019-20. In 2020-21, this fell further, to 257 offences, although this final fall may in part be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact

Email: Justice_Analysts@gov.scot

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