Guns in the Bahamas: The person who controls the gun


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Guns in the Bahamas: The person who controls the gun
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12 p.
Brennen, Shane.
Hutcheson, Stephanie.
Carroll, Marie.
The College of The Bahamas.
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Nassau, Bahamas.
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Guns--Bahamas.   ( lcsh )

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College of The Bahamas
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College of The Bahamas
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Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 1 Guns in The Bahamas: (3) The person who controls a gun Shane Brennen, Stephanie Hutcheson & Marie Carroll School of Social Sciences The College of The Bahamas Abstract Gun ownership has become of increasing concer n as the number of people murdered in The Bahamas with guns has increased in recent years. This paper reports the findings of an Internet study that looked at selected ch aracteristics of 267 people who controlled a gun. Most of these people were males (96%). About 3% of the gun owners had used their weapons to threaten household members. Gambling and alcohol ab use were the two most common deviant behaviours of gun owners. Those who controlled handguns were more likely to participate in deviant behaviours than other type s of gun owner. These findings point to the need to monitor those who possess handguns. Introduction Firearms are the leading cause of homicide in The Bahamas (Hanna, 2005) and both legally and illegally owned are used to harm people (Carroll, Brennen &Hutcheson, 2011). While there is information about those who had control of a gun and used the firearm to kill someone (Hanna, 2005), little appears to be known about the pe rson in the wider Bahamian population who controls a gun. Advocates of gun ownership in the USA and elsewhere claim “is it the person who kills, not the gun” but this is an issue whic h continues to incite debate and comment, for example: Osio (2011). Such claims make it impera tive that we know something about the people who control guns in The Bahamas as well as the purpose to which they put the guns. This last


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 2 issue has been addressed by Brennen, Hutcheson a nd Carroll (2011), and the object of this paper is to look at the person who controls a firearm. Carroll, Brennen and Hutchesonl (2011) have de monstrated that most guns in their study were kept in breach of their permit and so are i llegal, even though they are licensed. This automatically raises a concern about the person who controls the firearm as these controllers are potential criminals, if they the police were to fo rmally found to them in breach of their permit. The majority of guns are licensed for the purpo se of hunting (Carroll, Brennen & Hutcheson, 2011) but in the US it has been not ed that hunters appear to be more violent than people who do not hunt (Flynn, 2002) so this raises the questi on as why police are willing to arm people who are potentially the more violent in society. Issues such as these make the study of the pers ons who are armed a matter of public interest so that policies can be put in place to protect society. Methodology The results in this paper come from the surv ey reported on by Hutcheson, Brennen, Bethel and Carroll (2011) which explains the methodology in detail. Briefly, they devised a survey form which looked at three com ponents of gun ownership: (1) Characteristics of the home, economi cal and behavioural, within the home, (2) Characteristics of the person who controls the gun (when more than one gun was in the home, the respondent was asked to given information about just one person who controlled a gun) and (3) Information about the gun itself (when more than one gun was in the home, the respondent


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 3 was asked to give information about just one gun which was controlled by the person identified in (2)). An outline of the areas covered in the questionnaire is given in Table 1. Table 1: Outline of the survey form used. Demographics of the respondent: Age, sex, citizenship, us ual place of residence About the household: Income, occurrence of domestic violence, sexual abuse, hilling of companionable animals, hitti ng of children as a means of discipline, household is considered “loving”. Guns in the home: Number, type. On one se lected gun (which we term the “reported” firearm): source, license status, availability of gun to be used. Demographics of the person who controls a gun Sex, age, upbringing, primary purpos e of the firearm (including information on hunting habits), characteristics of the person who controls the gun (criminal activit ies, behaviours towards other members of the household), employment status. The survey was posted on Survey Monkey™. In the Spring 2010 students from several Social Science classes contacted people by email to soli cit participation in th e study. These contacts were also asked to forward the survey link to their friends, thereby using a primary purpose of the firearm technique. Students were given cr edit for participation in the solicitation of respondents. The limitations of this approach are explaine d by Hutcheson, Brennen, Bethel and Carroll (2011). As the method is non-probabilistic, sa mpling method prevents claims that the respondents were “representativ e” of the wider Bahamas, but this does not invalidate associations within the respondent group. The data gathered allo w a first attempt at describing people who control firearms who are not being de tained by law enforcement agencies. In this respect it is to be expected that the findings woul d contrast with thos e of Hanna (2005) who describes the perpetrators of homicides in The Bahamas.


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 4 Results The profile is based upon the responses of 267 part icipants who indicated th at there was at least one firearm in the home and another 28 who thought that was at least one firearm in home, (295 in total). In the case of homes with multiple firearms, respondents were asked to select one gun and answer the questions as they related to the pe rson who controlled that particular firearm. About the home in which the pers on who controls the firearm lives The median household income based on 259 responses was $49,376; 5.0% had a household income of less than $10,000 and 13.1% had a household income of over $100,000. Of 291 replies, 84.9% thought that they lived in a “loving” household, but 32.2% (of 286 replies) indicated that domestic violence was present in the home. Sexual abuse definitely occurred in 8.6% (of 291 homes), and had probably occurred in further 3.1%. Cats a nd dogs were kept in 163 homes with guns, and the animals were hit in 37.4% of these homes and in an additional 1.2% the animals had been injured through intentional physical harm. The majority, 96.1% (n=283), of those w ho controlled a firearm were male.


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 5 About the childhood of the home of the person who controls the gun Only 14.3% of those who controlled firearms had not been subjected to co rporal punishment as a child, and 2.2% had been abused (Table 2). Table 2: Use of violence to train the pers on who controls the g un in his/her childhood. As a child was the person hit as a form or discipline? Percentage No 14.3% Yes, only when naughty 34.4% Yes, sometimes 27.5% Yes often 7.7% Yes, and abused 2.2% Do not know 13.9% N 273 Most of those who controlled a firearm were brought up in homes with a father as only 34.9% were brought up in homes where his/her father wa s usually absent. Criminality was perpetuated by household members from 3.7% homes when this person was growing up and 24.7% of these persons as children lived in the households which had a firearm. About the person who controls the gun The majority of persons who controlled the gun had a post-high school e ducation (Table 3). Their median age was 44.4 years, however, it should be noted that 1.8% of the sample were 20 or under and 6.7% aged over 60. Most of those w ho controlled a firearm had a steady full-time job (90.7% of 269 responses). Of 247 responses, 74.9% of those who controlled of a firearm did not need it for their legitimate job. Of those who did need the firearm for their job (62), 91.2% were law enforcement officers and the remainder were farmers.


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 6 Table 3: Highest level of education of the person who controls a firearm Highest level of education of the pers on who controls a firearm Percentage Primary school 0.7% Junior school 1.5% High school 21.8% Post-high school/technical 22.2% Some college/university 20.0% College/university degree 20.0% Post-university/college degree/p rofessional qualification 11.6% Do not know 2.2% N 275 Gambling and misuse of alcohol were the two most common of the deviant behaviours included in the study (Table 4). A small percentage of those who controlled guns were criminals and/or under investigation by the police. Table 4: Activities of pers ons who control a firearm YesN Participates in gambling? 14.4%270 Drinks alcohol in access? 8.9%269 Physically harms any member of the household? 5.9%271 Uses illegal drugs? 5.5%273 Used gun to threaten a member of the household? 3.1%257 Has a criminal record? 3.0%269 Has been charged but is out on bail 1.9%270 Use the gun to commit crimes? 1.8%271 Participates in illegal drug trafficking? 1.8%271 Belong to a gang? 1.5%271 Sexually abuses any member of the household? 1.5%270 Has been charged but is in custody? 1.1%271 Many of the handguns were stated to be used fo r the employment of the person who controlled the firearm (Table 5). Table 5: Need of a firearm for legitimate job. Type of firearm Firearm needed as part of the person’s employment Rifle HandgunShotgun Total No 70.8%50.0%79.8% 74.9% Yes, is a law enforcement officer 29.2%46.4%17.8% 22.8% Yes, is a farmer 0.0%3.6%2.5% 2.3% N 2428163 215


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 7 Hand guns are typically illegal, so Table 6 examin es behaviour by the type of firearm the person controlled, and for clarity, we concentrate of those firearms which were not needed as part of a person’s legitimate job (i.e.: those answering “n o” to the question in Table 5), and compare handguns to other firearms. All but one of the undesirable behavi ours included in Table 6 were more often associated with those who contro lled a hand gun than other types of weapon. In addition, domestic violence was more common ( 57.1% of 14 homes) when the firearm was a handgun than another type of firearm (28.3% of 145 homes), OR (homes with a handgun vs. homes without a handgun) = 3.38 95% CL[1.11-10.35]. Table 6: Behaviour of the person who controlle d a firearm by type of weapon (includes only those weapons not required for the persons legitimate job). Type of firearm OR 95% CL Person who controls this weapon: Handgun Other firearms Handvother guns LL UL Is a member of a gang 0.0% 0.0%Uses illegal drugs 50.0% 1.4%72.50 12.66 415.10 Has been charged but is out on bail 23.1% 0.7%43.80 4.17 460.24 Participates in illegal drug trafficking 23.1% 0.0% 15.70 8.62 28.60 Has a criminal record 28.6% 0.0% 15.50 8.51 28.23 Has been charged but is in custody 15.4% 0.0% 14.36 8.12 25.40 Physically harms any member of the household28.6% 2.8%14.10 3.06 64.93 Sexually abuses anyone in the household 14.3% 0.0% 13.16 7.64 22.68 Used the gun to threaten a household member 15.4% 1.4%12.55 1.61 97.83 Gun used to commit a crime 7.1% 0.0%12.23 7.27 20.59 Drinks alcohol in access 35.7% 5.6%9.44 2.56 34.84 Participates in gambling 30.8% 12.3% 3.16 0.88 11.33 Discussion Investigation of firearm ownershi p and use is a sensitive issue, particularly as most handguns are outlawed. Consequently, those who have handguns ma y wish not to either participate in the study or respond truthfully. In addition, there may be a genuine confusion in the minds of respondents as to the legitimacy of the gun in relation to the job of the person who controls the


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 8 gun. This is limitation is seen when examining Ta bles 4 and 6, where owners who were members of a gang also had a gun for their legitimate j ob. This seems unlikely and would suggest that some of the guns, which were claimed as being he ld “legitimately”, may well not have been so. Further, given the way in which the sample wa s obtained, respondents were not necessarily the controllers of guns and so their responses w ould be limited as to how well they knew the behaviours and habits of the person who contro lled the gun. Further, the non-random method of the survey means that the results may not be ge neralizable to the wider population of gun owners in The Bahamas. Not withstanding these limitations the data start to shed light on an important group of society, about which little is currently known. The households in which guns were reported are amongst the more wealthy homes in The Bahamas. In the 2000 census, only 26% of household income had a total income of $50,000 (Bahamas Department of Statistics, 2002). This may help to explain why the study found that the majority of persons who controlled the gun had a continued their educa tion after leaving high school and why this group had a median of just over 44 years. Over 90% of those who controlled a gun were fully employed. This is consistent wi th the reported unemployment rate of 14.2% in 2009 (Bahamas Department of St atistics, 2009). The occurrence of domestic violence in these homes was higher than that reported in three of the four studies presented by Caroll, Fielding, Brennen and Hutcheson (2011) but the occurrences of other fo rms of violence did not appear to be particularly different to those reported in earlier studies such as Plumridge and Fielding (2009). These indicate that t hose who controlled the gun were typically middle aged employed males with a post-high school education.


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 9 The homes in which controllers of firearms were brought up appeared to be broadly similar to homes in the wider population. In the 2000 census, 63.6% of homes were headed by a male (Bahamas Department of Statistics, 2002), the pe rcentage of homes having a gun was similar to that reported in several studies reported by Hu tcheson, Brennen, Bethel and Carroll (2011) and the percentage of homes which incl uded a criminal was similar to that reported by Brennen et al. (2010). Consequently, there is no evidence from th is study that anything in the childhood of the gun controller may have predisposed him to having a gun in adulthood. However, to examine this further, we would require information from those who do not control guns, and expand the range of possible mediating factors. The controller of weapons is almo st exclusively a male characteri stic. While this bias has been reported elsewhere (for example in the USA), the exte nt of the bias in this sample exceeded that found in a 2005 poll in the USA (Carroll, 2005). This may reflect a tendency upon the part of the survey participant to report merely on the weapons controlled by males. However, this finding could be collaborated to some extent using information held by the Royal Bahamas Police Force on firearm licenses, however, the app lication does not specia lly require the sex of the applicant (Box 1).


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 10 Box 1: Personal details required wh en applying for a firearm license. People who controlled a weapon partic ipated in all the selected ac tivities which would be a cause for concern (Table 4). As has been stated by Hanna (2005), people on bail have killed people. This study indicates that people on bail continue to have access to firearms which helps to account for the fact that such people are in a posi tion to kill people. These findings suggest that persons on bail, and possibly thos e with a conviction, should be deni ed the right to control arms. Although in the Caribbean “ drugs and firearms go hand in hand” ( Agozino, Bowling, Ward and St Bernard, 2009, p.293) this study indicated that ga mbling (which is probably participation in what is termed “numbers”) was the most common deviant behaviour included in this study, and


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 11 this would be expected as guns and illegal gambli ng are also associated (for example: Olesker, 1994 and Peppas, 2010). Webster and Vernick (2009) ha ve pointed out that the abuse of alcohol and access to firearms in a cause for concer n due to the way people can behaviour when intoxicated. However, what may be of greater concern, is that although some person who controlled participated in all the deviant behaviours included in this study, the rate of participation was always higher when the person controlled a handgun. This would sugge st that people who control hand guns are likely to be at greater risk of participating in deviant behaviours than those who control rifles or shotguns. These findings reinforce the polic y of restricting handguns. The results also mean that people who are charge d with unauthorised possession of a handgun should be carefully monitored in order to protect soci ety and households from the undesirable activities in which such people participate. Therefore, this study suggests th at the current po licy of tagging violent offenders on bail (Bahamas Information Service, 2010) should be expanded to include those who control hand guns, irrespective of other charges which may have been brought against them. References Agozino, B. Bowling, B., Ward, E. & St Bernard, G. (2009). Guns, crime and social order in the West Indies Criminology and Criminal Justice 2009; 9; 287DOI: 10.1177/1748895809336378 Bahamas Information Service. (2010). Electroni c Monitoring Key Cog in Government’s ‘War on Crime’. November 22. Retrieved from: electronic-monitoring-key-cog-ingovernments-war-on-crime-4373.html Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2009) 2009 Labour force survey. Retrieved from


Draft: Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011 Page | 12 Brennen, S., Fielding, W. J., Allen Carroll, M. C, McCants-Miller, J. C, Adderley, L., & Thompson, M. A. (2010). A preliminary invest igation of the prevalence of corporal punishment of children and selected co-o ccurring behaviours in households on New Providence, The Bahamas. The International Journal of Bahamian Studies, 16, 1-18. Retrieved from Carroll, J., (2005). Gun Ownership and Use in America Gallup. Retrieved from: Carroll, M., Brennen, S., & Hutcheson, S. (2011) Guns in The Bahamas: (2) About the gun. Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011, Nassau, The Bahamas Flynn, C. P. (2002).Hunting and I llegal Violence Against Humans and Other Animals: Exploring the Relationship. Society & Animals 10:2 Hanna, C. (2005). Homicide in The Bahamas 1991-2003: A descriptive research study Nassau, Bahamas: Royal Bahamas Police Force. Hutcheson, S., Brennen, S., Bethel, N., & Carro ll, M. (2011). Guns in The Bahamas: (1) Firearms in Bahamian homes. Violence Symposium, 3rd November 2011, Nassau, The Bahamas Olesker, M. (1994). Gambling, guns and these changing crimes. April 10. Retrieved from: 4-04-10/news/1994100070_1_paragraphs-salsburyvariety-store Osio, P. (2011). NRA: Where Are You? http:/ / 02/nra-where-are-you/ Peppas, J. (2010). Mayor testifies in guns, gambling trial. December 17 North Little Rock Times. Retrieved from: Plumridge, S. J., & Fielding, W. J. (2009). Domestic violence in the homes of college students, New Providence, The Bahamas. The College of The Bahamas Research Journal, 15 ; 4555. Retrieved from: Webster, D. W., & Vernick, J. S., (2009). Keep ing firearms from drug and alcohol abusers. Inj Prev. 15:425-427 doi:10.1136/ip.2009.023515