Lawmakers propose self-defence measures

Separate motions aiming to ease certain restrictions on security guards’ possession of non-lethal weapons, as well as legalising ownership of pepper sprays and mace products, are expected to come before the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly at its next meeting.

In addition, opposition party legislators want support to create a separate authority to decide who may be issued private firearms licences – a move that would essentially dilute the police commissioner’s sole discretion over who can or cannot own guns.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said Cayman’s Firearms Law sets out certain conditions that must be met before a person can own a gun. However, in practice, he said police have tended to restrict private firearms ownership to farmers and members of the Cayman Islands Sports Shooting Association.

“This is a policy decision,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The law doesn’t restrict licences in the way that is normally done and it has gotten more restrictive as time has gone on.”

Mr. McLaughlin’s motion to establish a Firearms Authority would set at least four people on the committee, including the commissioner of police and at least three Justices of the Peace. Government members have also proposed adding the president of the shooting association to the authority.

The move to an authority would mean “someone else except just the commissioner” would be making decisions with regard to private firearms ownership, Mr. McLaughlin said.

“[The commissioner] would be part of the authority, but not the authority,” he said.

In a recent interview, RCIPS Superintendent Kurt Walton said there were 1,556 legally held firearms in the Cayman Islands as of 1 April, 2011. There were 922 owners attached to those weapons, he said.

The ultimate arbiter of gun ownership in Cayman is the commissioner of police, who is advised by a committee that reviews firearms importation and renewal applications, Mr. Walton said.

“Ultimately, that decision … is down to the commissioner,” Mr. Walton said. “You can apply for it, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be approved.”

One key issue police have spent the last several months reviewing is whether firearms are allowed for the sole purpose of self-defence or home security.

Mr. Walton said he has seen very few applications to the police firearms review committee, on which he sits, where the applicant is seeking a firearm for home defence.

“Persons who are involved in sports shooting … and obviously for hunting, that has been the most sought after in terms of applicants, “ he said. “[There are] very few coming through I see like that [for self-defence]. It’s not necessarily addressed in the firearms law.”

Chemical sprays

A second motion filed by the opposition leader would make it legal for individuals to use certain chemical sprays like pepper spray, mace or even tear gas for self-defence purposes.

Currently, possession of pepper sprays and the like are against the law in the Cayman Islands.

“A number of women, in particular, who carry pepper sprays in their handbags … notwithstanding that this is unlawful,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Certain local store owners have observed in recent months that people are buying small canisters of insect spray for self-defence purposes. The chemicals contained in those are often toxic and can cause permanent damage to anyone hit with them.

“It’s probably an indication of the level of fear that’s there,” Mr. McLaughlin said of those who are purchasing such alternate forms of protective devices.

Government members have asked Mr. McLaughlin’s second motion be amended to remove the legalisation of tear gas. They have also proposed the use of pepper spray and mace-type products be licensed.

Security guards

A third private members motion, filed by George Town MLA Kurt Tibbetts, seeks to amend the country’s law to allow security guards to carry non-lethal means of protection like bullet-proof vests, batons, handcuffs and various chemical sprays.

Such devices are not expressly prohibited for private security guards under Cayman’s Private Security Services Law, in fact, one local store recently received approval from police for its guards to wear bullet-resistant vests.

The law also allows security company employees to carry weapons, even firearms, if they are properly trained and receive permission from the police commissioner.

In practice, however, Mr. McLaughlin said it is unlikely most private security firms will gain the ability to arm their guards.

“They are not going to, at present, allow security guards to be armed,” he said. “We’re just creating targets for criminals … because these guys have no way to protect themselves.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Level the playing field, allow security guards to arm themselvea. Vests,handcuffs and batons are no defence against criminal with a gun. Allow law abiding citizens to defend themselves.

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  2. Bug spray is handier than mace, it’s legal, and it’s a lot cheaper. Market it with a handy wrist strap so the ladies won’t have to go digging through their purses to find it. Perhaps some nice designer canisters, too. Punks and theives, beware!!

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  3. Guns for almost everybody – the slippery slope. Make all guns illegal except for Police and Prisons officers. Imprison and if appropriate deport any offenders.
    Any extension of the right to bear arms will result in more crime, more prosecutions, more costs in Police, Courts, and Prisons departments, more expatriate recruits to staff these departments, etc.
    And it will not make Cayman any safer or more comfortable to live in.
    How many more times does one have to emphasise that the solution lies with the parents and relatives of the criminal and learning to be criminal people in Cayman? When will they accept their responsibility?
    And when will Cayman take the necessary step back from being a consumer society which has had it too easy for too long? The world does not owe Cayman a living. Caymanians of old understood this.
    These lawmakers (aka Legislative Councillors) need an urgent course in REALITY.

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  4. Old Hand

    Let me give you a bit of an ‘insider’ look at these proposals by the PPM MLAs.

    On the surface, it looks like they are drawing suggestions out of thin air which have no basis in Cayman’s current laws and for which new laws would have to be passed…nothing could be further from the truth.

    Every single proposal suggested is enshrined in this Private Security Law that the general public knows very little about, except that security companies and guards now have to pay fees and obtain licenses to operate, from the RCIPS.

    This law was passed by the former PPM government; these MLAs know exactly what is in this law because they passed it, although the core of this law was not created within the LA and neither was any detailed debate held over it before it was passed.

    What the PPM MLAs are now doing is using it to force some reaction from the present Government and Governor.

    The overlying theme that a firearms authority should be created and licenses issued willy, nilly is false and misleading, although I cannot say whether the MLAs intended it to be so.

    I will repeat the words of Jeff Cooper, the world’s leading authority on handgun training for self-defense purposes.

    Mr Cooper states, in his authoratative handgun training DVD series, one of the best ever created, that I do not agree with the possession of any type of firearms in UNTRAINED hands

    If this is not the underlying foundation for any easing of restrictions on gun licenses by civilians, these MLAs are asking for some serious trouble but I do trust their intelligence that they are aware that arming Cayman’s population as a solution to Cayman’s crime problem will only create more violence and anarchy.

    Lets hope that if they do move these proposals forward, they will do it in an intelligent, professional and responsible manner…

    No new laws are necessary, all the laws that are needed are already there.

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