The government wants people who carry pepper spray, mace or tear gas to be licensed to carry such sprays.
At a meeting of the Legislative Assembly on Monday, 10 October, Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin brought a private members’ motion urging the legalisation of such sprays for self-defence in Cayman.
Government members said they appreciated the spirit of the motion, but wanted to add an amendment requiring people who buy or import pepper spray and other noxious sprays obtain a licence to do so.
It is currently illegal to possess pepper spray, tear gas or mace in the Cayman Islands as they are considered prohibited weapons. Mr. McLaughlin said some people, particularly women, were carrying small cans of insect spray in their bags and others illegally carrying pepper spray.
“Ladies now carrying around little canisters of pepper spray …, if they are found to be doing so by the authorities, could be subject to a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for up to four years. So, we would clearly need to amend the legislation to remove as a prohibited weapon, things like pepper spray, mace and tear gas, if we are to give to ordinary persons these particular means of protecting themselves in these times in which we are now living,” Mr. McLaughlin told legislators.
Government backbencher Ellio Solomon introduced an amendment to the motion which called for the creation of a licence for users of noxious sprays as a deterrent for criminals using such sprays as offensive weapons.
Pepper spray, along with an imitation firearm, was used in an attempted robbery of a liquor store in Grand Harbour earlier this year.
Mr. Solomon, pointing out noxious sprays and gases are potentially fatal, said licences for pepper and other sprays did not necessarily have to be issued by the Commissioner of Police and the process of acquiring one did not have to be “long, drawn-out process”.
Mr. McLaughlin said his motion deliberately called for the issuance of pepper spray and other sprays for self-defence without a licence because “a year or two years from now, we’ll still be in the same position we are at now, where people, particularly women in this country, are as defenceless as they are now.”
Minister of Education, Training and Employment Rolston Anglin accused Mr. McLaughlin of bringing the motion for political reasons, adding it played on people’s fears during an upsurge in crime.
The minister said, without a licence requirement, there was nothing to prevent children and teenagers from carrying and using pepper spray and tear gas, and anybody could distribute and sell such sprays. He said distributors should be required to keep a list of who buy noxious sprays. He also said information regarding how many canisters are imported into Cayman should be kept.
He described the introduction of the motion in its original form as “reckless and irresponsible”.
Opposition member for George Town Kurt Tibbetts said while it may be expected that importers of pepper spray, mace and tear gas be licensed, licensing all users of these sprays would be “too restrictive”.
He said he was satisfied both the government and opposition had the same intention to make sprays for self-defence available to the public.
The House was adjourned until Wednesday, 12 October, when the debate on the motion was expected to continue.
During Monday’s meeting, lawmakers also voted down a private member’s motion, which was debated earlier, from independent member Ezzard Miller calling for a reduction of 50 cents per gallon on import duty on gasoline and diesel fuel.
Currently, the duty on imported gasoline is 75 cents per gallon, while the duty on diesel is 85 cents per gallon.