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Bahamas has highest rate of weapons in hands of civilians in regional countries surveyed

Roughly 82 percent of homicides in The Bahamas were committed with firearms, the highest rate in the region, according to a recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report.

The report, “Survey of Individuals Deprived of Liberty: Caribbean (2016 – 2019)” examines data from six Caribbean countries: The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

“The Bahamas has the highest rate of weapons in the hands of civilians (Small Arms Survey, 2017) and ranks first in terms of the presence of weapons in homicides and third place in terms of the presence of weapons in other crimes (IDB, 2017),” the report said,

“Thus, in The Bahamas, the high rate of weapons in the hands of the civilian population aligns with the high presence of weapons in crimes committed (IDB, 2017).”

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago followed The Bahamas with 73 percent of homicides committed with firearms in both countries. In Barbados, 38 percent of homicides are conducted with firearms, and in both Guyana and Suriname, 25 percent.

“We note that the three countries with the lowest homicide rates committed with firearms and where knives are used more than or as commonly as firearms — Barbados, Suriname, and Guyana — are also the countries with the lowest homicide rates,” the report said.

With 19 firearms per 100 inhabitants, The Bahamas also had the highest rate of firearm ownership, according to the report. 

“In relation to access to firearms by civilians in the six countries of interest, the list is headed by The Bahamas, with 19 weapons per 100 inhabitants, followed by Suriname (16), Guyana (16), Jamaica (9), Barbados (4) and Trinidad and Tobago (3) (Small Arms Survey, 2017),” it said.

“The survey data showed no clear relationship between the homicide rate and the rate of firearms in the hands of civilians.

“For example, while Suriname had the lowest homicide rate and (one of) the highest rates of firearms in the hands of civilians among the six countries examined, Trinidad and Tobago had one of the highest homicide rates and the lowest rate of firearms in the hands of civilians.”

It added, “Jamaica is interesting because it has the fourth highest rate of weapons per 100 civilians (Small Arms Survey , 2017), yet it surpasses all other countries studied for presence of weapons in non-homicidal offenses and ranks second after The Bahamas for presence of weapons during homicides.” 

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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