May 12, 2021

Kaine Introduces Bill to Curb Police Overuse of Tear Gas Against Peaceful Protesters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine introduced the Preventing the Misuse of Tear Gas Act to address state and federal law enforcement’s use of tear gas. The bill would require federal law enforcement agencies to set policies stating that the use of riot control agents like tear gas should be avoided wherever possible against non-violent civilians and that their use to quell violent activity should minimize any impact on those not participating in the violence. The legislation would also require state and local law enforcement agencies to implement such policies and comply with them in order to receive funds under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program and other Department of Justice programs.

“As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I am struck by how we strictly regulate the use of chemical weapons in battle but don’t similarly oversee the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants in domestic law enforcement,” said Kaine. “While such irritants can help de-escalate violence, their growing use in non-violent situations for crowd control or curfew enforcement should cause significant concern. It is time to limit the use of tear gas, particularly in communities already suffering from elevated levels of asthma and other respiratory ailments, and particularly in a moment where millions have suffered respiratory damage due to the coronavirus.”

The JAG Program is the leading federal source of criminal justice funding for states and localities. In the current fiscal year, Congress appropriated $484 million for the JAG Program.  

Last June, Senator Kaine cosponsored the Justice in Policing Act to address police misconduct and improve police practices and training. International treaties regulate the use of tear gas during wartime, and Congress passed a bill last year to limit the sale of tear gas to Hong Kong. However, there has been a lack of congressional oversight and action regarding the use of tear gas domestically.  

The full text of the Preventing the Misuse of Tear Gas Act is available here

The legislation is supported by the NAACP and the National Action Network (NAN).