Objectives: To present the prevalence of gun ownership among batterers and describe their self-reported use of guns to threaten intimate partners.
Methods: We used multivariate methods to analyze data from 8529 men enrolled in Massachusetts certified batterer intervention programs between 1999 and 2003.
Results: Seven percent of the sample reported owning guns during the past 3 years. Recent gun owners were 7.8 times more likely than non-gun-owners to have threatened their partners with guns. Gun owners and non-gun-owners were equally likely to have threatened their partners with knives. Batterers reported using guns to threaten their partners in 4 ways, including 1) threatening to shoot them; 2) cleaning, holding, or loading a gun during an argument; 3) threatening to shoot a pet or person the victim cared about; and 4) shooting a gun during an argument with a victim. Identified risk markers for threatening an intimate partner with a gun included substance abuse, homicidal behavior, making knife threats, and gun ownership in the 3 years preceding assessment.
Conclusion: Among batterers, owning a gun is highly correlated with using a gun to threaten an intimate partner. Legal restrictions that prohibit batterers from owning and possessing firearms should be enforced consistently. Detailed contextual information about the circumstances in which batterers use guns to threaten intimate partners and potential protective and risk factors relevant to firearm use by batterers should be explored.