Small arms policy and research have largely ignored the significance of gender in shaping attitudes and behaviour towards firearms, who owns and uses them, and the differential circumstances in which men and women become victims of firearm violence. The importance of gender differences in gun ownership and gun violence becomes strikingly clear when their role in non-conflict settings—such as family and domestic violence—is considered. Studies in a number of countries have shown that between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner (WHO, 2002, p. 93; UNODC, 2011a); in countries where guns are easily available, they are often the weapon used to commit such homicides. In stark contrast, most men who fall victim to gun violence are killed outside the home by people who are not their intimate partners.
In many cultures, the possession of guns, whether in a personal or a professional capacity, is strongly associated with traditional notions of masculinity that convey authority, privilege, prestige, and power. Yet the presence of guns in the home increases the risks of accidents, murder, and suicide for family members, and they play a significant role in the intimidation and long-term abuse of female partners. These realities have yet to significantly influence policymaking on gun violence prevention in many contexts.
This chapter highlights the relationships between guns, violence, and intimidation by intimate partners. It reviews what limited data exists on the use of firearms in intimate partner violence (IPV)—whether to kill, injure, or intimidate.