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Legislation seeks to lessen pepper spray regulation

Legislation that would deregulate pepper spray in Wisconsin is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday in Madison.

Senate Bill 109 and Assembly Bill 119 would make several changes to the rules used to regulate oleoresin of capsicum, which is commonly known as pepper spray. The proposed legislation would take away the state Department of Justice’s authority to regulate the products, in addition to allowing retailers to display pepper-spray devices in places where they can be accessed by customers, allowing children under the age of 18 to receive the devices as gifts from their parents and ending a requirement forcing makers of pepper spray to put warning labels on their products.

Rob Kovach, a spokesman for state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, the sponsor of the Senate bill, said current law should be changed in part because the labeling requirement prevents pepper-spray products that are legal in other states from being sold in Wisconsin. He also said that children under the age of 18 should be able to use the devices for protection as long as they have received the proper training and that store owners should be free to display the products where they see fit.

Kovach acknowledged that some critics have said putting the devices within easy reach of customers will lead to more theft. But he said shop owners have incentive enough, without the encouragement of lawmakers, to do everything they can to prevent shoplifting.

Dana Brueck, a spokesman for the DOJ, said DOJ officials registered in favor of the proposed changes in May when the Assembly version of the legislation received a hearing before the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice. She did not elaborate on the reasons behind the DOJ’s expression of support.

The legsilation is scheduled for a public hearing at 11 a.m. Tuesday in front of the state Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Labor in Room 201 Southeast of the state Capitol.

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