Congress looks to ban police use of tear gas

tear gas
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Photo by Mark Hallum

A new congressional bill aims to bar police from using tear gas following weeks of protests and rioting nationwide in response to the police killing of George Floyd. 

The Prohibiting Law Enforcement Use of Chemical Weapons Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, prohibits law enforcement from using tear gas and other chemical weapons. The use of toxic chemicals, including tear gas, is already banned in warfare under the Geneva Convention.

Ocasio-Cortez says that police officers’ use of tear gas during the protests was inappropriate — particularly considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that Floyd suffocated to death. 

“To stop us from protesting the death of a Black man who was suffocated by police, law enforcement is using a weapon that restricts our lungs — during a respiratory pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Banning tear gas is one of many steps we must take in this moment to fundamentally restructure the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to protect and serve.”

Also sponsoring the bill are Illinois Congressman Chuy Garcia and California Congressman Mark Takano, who agreed that police’s reliance on the toxic chemical pose a serious threat to civilians. In Ohio, a 22-year-old woman with asthma died after police discharged tear gas into a crowd.

“Tear gas is a chemical weapon that is banned in war, there is no justifiable reason for it to be used by law enforcement against the American people,” Congressman Takano said.There has been a disproportionate response by law enforcement to the peaceful protests occurring nationwide, often involving excessive force and the use of tear gas.”

The bill comes at a moment where local governments are taking action for police reform, including in New York.

Tuesday night, legislators in Albany passed a motion to repeal 50-a, an action that would make police misconduct complaints filed either with individual departments or the Civilian Complaint Review Board available to the public. In New York City Council, lawmakers introduced a bill to make it illegal for NYPD officer to cover their badge numbers with mourning bands, tape, or any other material.

This article first appeared on AMNY.com.