Should tear gas be banned? | The Tylt

Should tear gas be banned?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents fired tear gas canisters at migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico. Some caught up in the tear gas were young children. Use of tear gas by law enforcement in the U.S. has long been debated. While the effects of most tear gas used in the U.S. are severe, they are not permanent. Many argue government agents should not be able to use chemical weapons, even non-lethal varieties, on citizens. Others say tear gas is a humane way to maintain order. What do you think?

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Tear gas has been officially banned on battlefields since 1997. However, according to Slate, the ban does not extend to domestic clashes.

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention doesn't apply to domestic law enforcement. (The United States was a major proponent of the exemption, fearing that the convention might be interpreted to prohibit lethal injection.) The most common lacrimator used for riot control is a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile , or CS. (It's not actually a gas so much as a powder that's usually mixed with smoke to create an airborne agent.) CS has no long-term effects when used properly, but the treaty still bans its use in battle since it's difficult to distinguish from more dangerous agents in the fog of war. (You don't want the other side to think they're being attacked with, say, sarin, and respond in kind.) It's also considered inhumane to deploy CS as a means of weakening enemy soldiers so they might be killed by conventional means—although that didn't stop the United States from using tear gas to flush the Viet Cong out of tunnels and then bombarding them as they fled.
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The Washington Post explains the uncontrollable nature of tear gas and the fact that there is very little research into its long-term effects, making tear gas a risky tool for law enforcement.

Chemical weapons such as CS gas are indiscriminate and “uniquely terrorizing in their application,” which necessitated their ban in combat in 1993, said Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Once launched in a volley or thrown into an area, chemical weapons cannot be controlled and can drift toward people who are not targets, Davenport told The Washington Post on Monday.
In battle, that would include civilians and wounded troops, and even friendly soldiers if the winds shift. U.S. battle planners in World War I accounted for American casualties from U.S. forces' own asphyxiating gas attacks.
...Research has noted that an infant exposed to CS gas develops severe pneumonitis and requires a month of hospitalization. But the effects of tear gas on younger bodies is not well documented, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a biological and chemical weapons expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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Vox reports that many scientists are concerned about the increased use of tear gas, given there is little research into long term effects. 

"I'm very concerned about the increased use, and the much laxer attitude we've developed towards the potential health effects," says Sven-Eric Jordt, a scientist at Duke University who researches tear gas.
Jordt says we know a decent amount about how tear gas effects the body in the short-term: it activates pain receptors, especially in the eyes, forcing the eyelids to squeeze shut and tear uncontrollably. Jordt, who himself was tear-gassed during a protest in Germany in the 1980s, describes the sensation as "like cutting an onion but about 100 times more severe."
There is little known, however, about whether the main chemical in modern tear gas — a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile — can have longer lasting effects on the body.
...There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous. It's not very frequent, but it has been a problem in the Middle East and other places.
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Law enforcement and other proponents of using tear gas note that it is far less dangerous than alternative crowd control methods, which run a higher risk of long-lasting injury.

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Politifact backs this assertion up. While many people would prefer an alternative to tear gas, in the heat of the moment, there are few better alternative. 

There are few immediate alternatives to tear gas for riot control. There are strategies to prevent riots, including better community relations, a less militaristic appearance, and improved training, all of which have been raised in relation to Ferguson. But once rioting is under way, police need tools to control it -- and "even though tear gas is far from perfect," said David A. Koplow, a Georgetown University law professor, "it continues to be used in that role because there’s nothing else better."
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Border Patrol agents, backed up by the president, have defended the decision to use tear gas at the border, saying they were facing an onslaught of migrants and attempted to use non-lethal means to push them back. Per the Associated Press:

President Donald Trump is strongly defending the U.S. use of tear gas at the Mexico border to repel a crowd of migrants that included angry rock-throwers and barefoot, crying children.
...He said it was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself” that he was assured was “very safe.”
...Border Patrol agents launched pepper spray balls in addition to tear gas in what officials said were on-the-spot decisions made by agents. U.S. troops deployed to the border on Trump’s orders were not involved in the operation.
“The agents on scene, in their professional judgment, made the decision to address those assaults using less lethal devices,” McAleenan told reporters.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should tear gas be banned?
A festive crown for the winner
#TearGasForSafety
#NoTearGasOnCivilians