The private ownership of firearms has always maintained its place within The Bahamian culture as both a privilege and as a protectorate. For the recreational hunters, a trip to the pine forest of the outer islands in search of wild boar, raccoons, and local gaming birds will require the use of a hunting rifle, while the pump action shotgun is a common favorite amongst local business owners in the major island cities of New Providence, Abaco, and Grand Bahama where burglary, assault, and other trespasses to property and person are a rising concern, and committed by individuals who are in illegal possession of an revolver, assault rifle or other firearms prohibited by The Firearms Act.
Applying for Gun License
Regardless of its use, Bahamian law does make provision for the ownership of certain types of firearms within the Firearms Act, which can be obtained by the grant of a gun license authorized by the Commissioner of Police. Firearm license application forms can be found here , the submission of which should include the following:
- Two color passport size photographs;
- Bill of sale for both firearm and gun safe purchased by the applicant;
- Applicant’s driver’s license, Passport, and National Insurance Card;
- Non – Bahamian applicants are required to produce proof of legal status in The Bahamas (i.e. certificate of permanent residency, work permit, etc.);
- In circumstances where proof of firearm purchase cannot be obtained, a letter must be written stating where the firearm was purchased and how long the firearm was in your possession;
- Application fee of $50.00 for shotguns and $100.00 for rifles.
Although the application provides for the submission of the bill of sale for the firearm and safe, do not expect to simply purchase your weapon from the local gun shop and cart your weapon home if you are not in possession of a Gun License. If it is your first application, the firearm dealer will ask for payment of a deposit on both the firearm and a safe in order to provide a bill of sale for your gun license application. Full payment for the firearm is expected once your application has been approved, upon which you should be able to possess your new firearm.
As stipulated by the Firearms Act, the Commissioner may grant a gun license to an applicant if he is satisfied on good and sufficient evidence that the applicant is a ‘fit and proper’ person. Although the Firearms Act remains silent on the factors which constitute “good and sufficient evidence,” this legislation provides that individuals of intemperate habits, of unsound mind, or of any other unfitted reasons to be entrusted with a gun will not be granted a license by the Commissioner.
Notwithstanding the discretionary power held by the Commissioner, one may expect for persons who are mentally incapacitated or applicants holding previous criminal convictions involving violent acts will not be granted a firearm license. Reports lodged by members of the community (i.e. domestic violence, assault and battery against another) or current criminal investigations involving the applicant being involved in a violent act may also hinder the individual’s application, which may result in further provision of evidence to support the applicant’s character, or the implementation of conditions on the Gun License, Special License, or Firearm Certificate at the discretion of the Commissioner. Therefore it is advised that applicants knowingly under any form of criminal investigation, subjected to a lodged criminal complaint to the police, or previously diagnosed with a mental illness, should submit character references when submitting their application.
If the Commissioner refuses to grant or renew the provision of a Gun License, Special License or Firearm Certificate and the applicant may appeal the decision of the Commissioner to the Licensing Authority who may either confirm, vary, or revoke the decision made. The decision of the Licensing Authority is final, and in accordance with the Firearms Act, may not be called in question in any court.
A Note on Revolvers, other High-Capacity Firearms, and Ammunition
Generally, only members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force are allowed to carry revolvers and other types of firearms (i.e. automatic rifles, assault rifles, canons, etc.) and ammunition associated with this form of weaponry. However the Licensing Authority holds the authority to permit the use of revolvers to Bahamian residents through the provision of a Special License (for revolvers) or a Firearm Certificate (for high powered weaponry). The Licensing Authority may also vest its powers to the Commissioner of Police to grant, reject, or revoke the provision of Special Licenses or Firearm Certificates. If you plan to submit an application for a Special License or Firearm Certificate, expect to present the same documentation as required for a Gun License application.
Similar to a Gun License the Commissioner does have the authority to implement conditions on the Special License or Firearm Certificate at his discretion, nevertheless it is casually suggested that the privilege of holding a Special License or Firearm Certificate are reserved for members of the professional and political elite. As the roaring debate on whether business and home owners should be eligible to own a hand gun continues into the unknown, it seems as if Bahamian legislation has struck a balance allowing residents to own some form of firearm for recreational or as a means of protecting themselves.
|Mario L. McCartney is the Founder and Principal of LEX JUSTIS, a boutique law firm providing Corporate, Private Client, and Traditional legal services in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Mr. McCartney is also the present editor and main contributor of firm’s blog site and welcomes all opinions and comments to his articles.|
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