Is Pepper Spray Legal in the United States? Answering Your Burning Questions
Pepper spray is one of the most effective non-lethal personal protection devices available today, which is why it's used by law enforcement and security personnel worldwide. But what about individuals in the United States? Are you allowed to carry pepper spray in your state? Do you need a license or permit to carry pepper spray legally?
This blog post provides an overview of how US law perceives pepper spray as well as how to use pepper spray legally.
What Is Pepper Spray?
Also known as oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, pepper spray is a non-lethal self-defense weapon that causes temporary blindness and difficulty breathing when sprayed in an attacker's face. OC spray is made from the same peppers that give chili its heat, and a small amount can cause serious irritation. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, an inflammatory agent that causes the eyes to swell shut and the respiratory system to constrict.
Types of Pepper Spray
There are three types of pepper spray: OC spray, CS spray, and CN spray. OC spray is the most common type of pepper spray made from oleoresin capsicum, a natural chili pepper extract. CS and CN sprays are made from man-made chemicals and are not as effective as OC spray.
There are also differences in how each form of pepper spray works. For example, with OC spray, a direct shot to the face affects the eyes and nose first before spreading to other body parts, such as the skin and lungs. It starts with an immediate burning sensation followed by intense coughing and difficulty breathing. OC spray can take up to 45 minutes for someone to recover fully.
With CS or CN spray, there is an initial burning sensation, but it is usually less severe than with OC spray. Recovery time can be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, depending on the severity of exposure and the person's sensitivity level.
Is Pepper Spray Legal?
People have the right to self-defense, and pepper spray is one of the most popular ways to do so. It's a non-lethal weapon that can temporarily disable an attacker, giving you time to escape. But is it legal?
In the United States, federal law does not consider pepper spray a firearm or ammunition because it does not shoot out any projectile such as a bullet. While there may be state laws on the use of pepper spray in personal protection situations, there are no federal laws restricting its use.
In New York City, for example, anyone age 18 or older can carry and use pepper spray to protect themselves in public areas. However, they cannot carry it onto public transportation like subways or buses without permission from MTA police officials.
Similarly, people living in California who want to carry and use pepper spray must obtain a valid permit.
And, while Maryland residents are permitted to buy, possess, and carry pepper spray devices containing less than 10% oleoresin capsicum (OC), they are not permitted to buy or carry anything stronger than this level.
Therefore, when considering whether or not to purchase pepper spray, it's important to research the laws in your state. Even if you can buy and use pepper spray legally where you live, it might still be illegal where you work or attend school.
While pepper spray is a great tool for self-defense, it is important to remember that it should only be used as a last resort. If you are ever in a situation where you feel like you need to use pepper spray, make sure to aim for the eyes and nose, as this will be the most effective.
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