Bringing some reason to our weapons laws

If the battle between David and Goliath had taken place in the streets of Grand Cayman, Goliath would have won.

Readers will recall that young David slew the 9-foot-tall Philistine by propelling a small stone from his slingshot into the temple of the fearsome giant, thus saving the army of the Israelites.

In the Cayman Islands, David’s slingshot would have been illegal. Goliath’s sword (especially if a clever defense attorney were arguing the case) might well have been considered a “machete,” and thus in compliance with current legislation.

Cayman’s weapons laws are a patchwork of inconsistency and irrationality. The banned list includes the obvious – firearms, ammunition and explosives; the dangerous – switchblades, knuckle dusters and billy clubs; and the absurd – BB guns, pepper spray and slingshots.

Can anyone explain why it is perfectly legal for a reveler to carry a razor-sharp machete into a bar on a Saturday night but illegal for a woman to keep a canister of pepper spray in her purse for personal protection?

Last week a 27-year-old American honeymooner escaped Cayman with a $3,000 fine after Customs officials found 50 rounds of handgun ammunition in his luggage upon his arrival at the George Town airport. Summary Court Magistrate Valdis Foldats reminded the Wyoming newlywed he could have received several years in Northward Prison for his offense.

Another “firearms” case winding its way through Cayman’s legal system involves a Caymanian caught with an air pistol three years ago. Circumstances have compelled (the appropriately named) Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn to probe the legal question of whether the CO2-powered BB pistol is a lethal weapon.
And then there was the recent case of a tourist at Owen Roberts International Airport en route to Cayman Brac when a single bullet was discovered buried deep within his backpack. He was arrested and fined $1,000 for what was an obvious oversight.

Has Cayman really come to the point where our law enforcement officers are arresting ingenuous tourists for bullets left in bags, and where our criminal justice experts are pondering whether a BB gun can kill someone?

The cases make for sensational stories in our newspaper (perhaps the headlines should read, “Are we shooting our tourism industry in the foot?”), but we doubt they have any measurable impact on the serious problem of gun crime – and violent crime – in Cayman.

Such sensationalism should not substitute for a serious national discussion over whether government can adequately protect the Cayman citizenry from violent, often armed criminals.

Home invasions have become commonplace enough in Cayman that the issue of self-protection must no longer be avoided. Even the fastest response time by the police is too slow to protect a family during a 911 call for help regarding a “break-in in progress.”

It is a fact that many people in Cayman already own firearms, and not just the criminals and the police, but law-abiding civilians who belong to the Cayman Islands Shooting Association, who are farmers or who otherwise have permission from the Commissioner of Police. As of April 2011, police reported there were 1,556 legally held firearms in Cayman, associated with 922 owners.

To be clear, we are not advocating for a universal “right to bear arms” in Cayman, but we are attempting to rebalance the conversation from the downright silly (no pepper spray) to the deadly serious (how do we protect our families in our own homes when the police are unable to).

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  1. I am advocating for a right to bear arms in Cayman and agree that we do need to have a serious national discussion over whether government can adequately protect the Cayman citizenry from violent (and often armed) criminals.

    As correctly stated in this article … ‘home invasions have become commonplace enough in Cayman that the issue of self-protection must no longer be avoided. Even the fastest response time by the police is too slow to protect a family during a 911 call for help regarding a ‘break-in in progress.”

    With background checks and mandatory training there is no reason why people in Cayman should not be allowed to own a firearm to protect themselves and their families from violent (and often armed) criminals.

  2. Sling shots, pepper spray, billy clubs and toy guns banned under the law is ridiculous!
    Mind you in my opinion, guns should still be banned due to the serious consequences if they get into the wrong hands. But if law makers can see it fit to consider casinos, parole for lifers, Sunday trading, etc….I see no reason why a 8 year old boy cannot own a sling shot or women owning pepper spray.

  3. Cayman’s laws in this respect, reflect British laws which are absurd and absurdly applied.

    Eg, in the UK, that same BB gun referred to in the article, is totally legal to possess in one’s home or at a shooting club or, in the case of the more powerful weapons, for hunting small animals and birds.

    In comparison, almost all martial arts weapons of a traditional nature, such as swords, chains etc etc are on the banned list as are expandable batons yet…

    Knives are totally accessible, as are machetes, a traditional Caymanian item found in most homes.

    Under British/Caymanian offensive weapons laws, anything used as a weapon in self-defense can be classed as an offensive weapon, depending on its use and the circumstances in which it was used in regards to reasonable use of force.

    One of the most glaring contradictions is the banning of any and all enforcement tools such as batons, handcuffs and mace/pepper spray for security officers, especially in high-risk jobs such as crowd control and nightclub security.

    If the Cayman Islands is ever going to get past this troubling debate and begin to actually review Cayman Islands laws on offensive weapons, it will call for scrapping the British approach and formulating laws to specifically address Cayman’s situation in respect of possession of weapons for self-defense and…

    That is only one aspect that would need to be looked at; there are other very important issues such as self-defense training and certification that would need to be addressed as well before any changes in weapons possessions laws could be implemented.

  4. In a gun free society or a gun free zone, only the criminals have guns. Criminals know the locations where law abiding citizens can not carry concealed weapons and they logically target those places. The riskiest place to be is one where No Guns is posted for all to see. Statistics in the US bear this out.

  5. Jack…

    Its not a clear-cut, black-and-white situation in Cayman, as it is in the USA.

    In the USA, there is absolutely no question on gun-ownership except in state laws that govern conditions and licensing in regards to concealed-carry and open-carry of firearms.

    Every US citizen has a constitutional right to own, possess and bear firearms, period.

    It is probably this familiarity that has had these US tourists running afoul of Cayman’s law recently by being careless in not checking their luggage before international travel and having bullets discovered upon arrival in Cayman; that is irresponsible gun ownership period and it also reflects laxity in security checks on international flights from the USA, that US airport security did not pick up these items before they reached the Cayman Islands.

    I, and others, have always advocated a gradual education and training regime introduced in Cayman for the use of self-defense weapons and tools before changing the current laws.

    Clearly, sticking to the letter of British law on the matter is not working in Cayman, as its not working in the UK either; the situation there is totally absurd and unrealistic.

    Neither will turning the Cayman Islands into Dodge City overnight by allowing blanket gun-ownership be the answer.