Local reps back use of teargas

To the editor:

Howard Zinn wrote that, β€œOne certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression.” Similarly, the international community has held that the use of chemical weapons, including tear gas, is so abhorrent and the hazardous effects so detrimental to human life and liberty, that they are banned in warfare.

Tear gas produces a chemical agent that, among other things, irritates cells and triggers pain receptors that cause severe burning in the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and skin. Moreover, it has been noted that the use of tear gas may lead to asphyxiation or death.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 banned the use of chemical warfare agents.

Subsequently, in 1993 the United Nations passed the Chemical Weapons Convention that forbade the use of riot control agents, including tear gas, in theatres of combat.

The United States ratified the convention and, although the ban took effect in 1997, there is a carve-out that made it legal for law enforcement usage.

Recently, Massachusetts State House Bill 4860 proposed a ban on the use of tear gas by law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth.

Sadly, the state representatives for The Sun Chronicle area β€” Jay Barrows, Shawn Dooley, Jim Hawkins, Steve Howitt, Louis Kafka, and Betty Poirier β€” uniformly declined to vote for a universal ban on the use of chemical weapons, like tear gas, on American citizens on American streets.

These representatives owe the rest of us a clear explanation.

Tear gas has a burning effect on the lungs and a chilling effect on freedom of speech. If we are to object to the use of chemical warfare against human beings in Belfast and Derry, Hong Kong, or Rio de Janeiro, then surely we must have the courage to object to it in our own backyard.

Matthew Kavanah


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