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Kaua‘i County Council moves to increase pepper spray access

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i is currently the only county in the state that requires residents to file for a permit and pass a background check in order to buy pepper spray.

Members of the Kaua‘i County Council are moving to change that with a bill introduced at Wednesday’s meeting.

Proposed Draft Bill No. 2898, introduced by Vice Chair KipuKai Kuali‘i and Council Member Addison Bulosan, would allow Kaua‘i adults to possess and use a maximum of 2 ounces of pepper spray in self-defense, defense of another, and protection of property — without a permit.

Kuali‘i said the measure came out of a conversation at a presentation on a recent report about Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls, when an audience member brought up the difficulty of acquiring pepper spray for self-defense.

“If there’s a domestic violence situation that happens on Friday night, the victim couldn’t even get the permit application until Monday. And a lot can happen between then,” said Kaua‘i County Council Chair Mel Rapozo, who was supportive of the measure. “With this bill, the victim could go straight down to an authorized store and pick up a 2-ounce bottle of pepper spray.”

Pepper spray permits are currently issued by the Kaua‘i Police Department.

Applicants are required to pay a $5 fee, provide basic personal information, and report whether they have a criminal history or a history of mental illness.

Kaua‘i Police Department Chief Todd Raybuck has previously expressed support for the change.

Jason Bryant, owner of weapons shop JGB Arms, said he turns customers away about once a week because they don’t have the proper permits to buy pepper spray.

He described the council
measure as “a sensible step in allowing folks to find a nonlethal path to self-defense without having to navigate a complex process and waiting at least two weeks for approval.”

He added that people seek out pepper spray not only for self-defense against other people, but also against feral pigs or aggressive dogs.

The permit requirement for pepper spray comes out of an ordinance created in the 1980s, before the substance was widely used.

Pepper spray contains an oily resin made from actual chili peppers, and causes irritation and inflammation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and skin. Though the effects of the spray are generally relatively mild and temporary, a 2003 study from the U.S. Department of Justice identified the chemical as a contributing factor in two out of 63 deaths of individuals in police custody, both of whom had asthma.

The bill passed first reading unanimously and will go to a public hearing on May 3.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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