Archive for October 11th, 2011

MLAs fight over self-defence

| 11/10/2011 | 70 Comments

(CNS): Although both government and opposition members are in agreement that the use of pepper spray as a form of self-defence for law abiding adults should be legalized, both sides of the Legislative Assembly managed to turn the issue into a political fight on Monday when the MLAs returned to the House. A private members motion filed by the opposition leader asking government to change the necessary laws to allow people to use self-defence chemical sprays for personal protection without requiring a licence saw the two sides divide when government filed an amendment to the opposition motion to insert a requirement for a licence.

While both sides agreed on the principle, the PPM and UDP members still managed to clash over how the proposal should move forward. Backbench government member for George Town Ellio Solomon accused Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin of being “irresponsible and reckless” with what he said was a poorly worded motion that could make things worse by putting pepper spray into the hands of criminals. After Solomon tabled the amendment to require people be “licenced” to use the sprays, he said they were too dangerous and could not be used unchecked. Government supported the principle but wanted restrictions, the UDP backbencher said as he accused the opposition leader of “wanting five-year olds” to be able to purchase the pepper spray.

McLaughlin pointed out that the opposition was not advocating that there be no restrictions at all on the sale or importation of the sprays but explained that he was trying to avoid the unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that a licensing system on the users could create. The opposition leader said by government insisting that users had to have a licence they would water down the spirit of the motion, which was designed to find a straight forward way to allow women in particular a simple accessible means of self defence against the rising crime. The PPM leader said his motion had been reasonable but as the government had the numbers they would be able to change it as they wished.

Education Minister Rolston Anglin accused his predecessor of political theatrics and said all government was doing was adding “belt and braces” to the amendment, which Anglin said had not been properly thought through. He accused the opposition leader of trying to suggest that there was a “plethora of women out there” that were under attack, but he said things were not that bad. He warned that if criminals were able to get their hands on pepper spray they would not hesitate to use it.

A recent court case revealed that criminals already seem to have access to the spray as a teenager pleaded guilty to using pepper spray during a failed armed robbery at Grand Harbour in May.

As the younger politicians indulged in a point scoring exercise about the motion, the opposition’s two veteran politicians both attempted to steer the debate back to a sensible compromise.

The second elected member for Bodden Town, Anthony Eden, who seconded the original motion suggested that the politicians could,if they all supported the principle, find some way to cut through the nonsense and agree on what restrictions should be in place short of licensing users. The former opposition leader, Kurt Tibbetts, echoed his sentiments when he suggested that there could be a middle ground between government’s position that the original motion was too open ended and the opposition stance that the government’s amendment was too restricted, before the House was adjourned until Wednesday morning.

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