Pepper Spray Laws by State

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Introduction

Pepper spray (also known as mace spray) is a projectile-based weapon used for self-defense, policing, and crowd control. Though originally designed to defend against predators, like bears and wolves, pepper spray has become a favored tool for college students and city dwellers. Pepper spray causes inflammation in the eyes, leading to temporary blindness, as well as general discomfort and burning in the lungs. The active agent that causes these symptoms is called capsaicin, which is a component that can be also found in chili.

Pepper spray may come in different forms (spray, foam, gel, foggers), but is typically found in canisters that are small enough to be carried in a pocket or a purse. Some also come in concealed items like rings. Pepper spray has now been used for years against aggressive animals and during riots and demonstrations. Due to its convenient size and the fact that it is not lethal, pepper spray has recently become a common weapon for self-defense, especially among women.

StatePepper Spray LawsBrass Knuckles Legal Status
AlabamaLegalWith Permit
AlaskaLegalIllegal
ColoradoLegalIllegal
ConnecticutLegalWith Permit
FloridaLegalWith Permit
GeorgiaLegalLegal
IdahoLegalLegal
IndianaLegalLegal
IowaLegalLegal
KansasLegalIllegal
KentuckyLegalWith Permit
LouisianaLegalWith Permit
MaineLegalIllegal
MarylandLegalWith Permit
MinnesotaLegalIllegal
MississippiLegalWith Permit
MissouriLegalIllegal
MontanaLegalLegal
NebraskaLegalWith Permit
New HampshireLegalIllegal
New MexicoLegalWith Permit
North DakotaLegalWith Permit
OhioLegalWith Permit
OklahomaLegalIllegal
OregonLegalWith Permit
PennsylvaniaLegalIllegal
South DakotaLegalLegal
TennesseeLegalIllegal
TexasLegalLegal
UtahLegalLegal
VermontLegalIllegal
VirginiaLegalWith Permit
West VirginiaLegalWith Permit
WyomingLegalLegal
ArizonaLegal with RestrictionsLegal
ArkansasLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
CaliforniaLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
DelawareLegal with RestrictionsWith Permit
HawaiiLegal with RestrictionsLegal
IllinoisLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
MassachusettsLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
MichiganLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
NevadaLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
New JerseyLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
New YorkLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
North CarolinaLegal with RestrictionsWith Permit
Rhode IslandLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
South CarolinaLegal with RestrictionsLegal
WashingtonLegal with RestrictionsIllegal
WisconsinLegal with RestrictionsWith Permit

Pepper Spray as a Self-Defense Weapon

The right to self-defense – or the right to use defensive or reasonable force to protect oneself or others from imminent, unlawful physical harm – is granted by American law. Self-defense encompasses different methods, from martial arts and other combat sports to the use of weapons. Some weapons are specifically used for self-defense purposes such as knives, batons, stun guns, or personal defense weapons (PDWs) which are firearms intended for self-defense and security. Pepper spray falls under this category. Everyday objects, including baseball lights, flashlights, and kitchen utensils, can also be used as improvised weapons for self-defense.

Since the beginning of the 20th century and the start of the women’s rights movement and emancipation, women’s self-defense has become a common practice, and pepper spray has become a self-defense weapon that is widely used by women to protect themselves.

Is Pepper Spray Legal?

The legality of pepper spray or other self-defense weapons is a controversial debate. Proponents argue that people, and especially vulnerable people, that are subjected to violence and harassment should be able to protect and defend themselves. They also stress that in a society where carrying a gun for self-protection is allowed, pepper spray should also be legal.

Finally, they say that in most cases, assailants already have a weapon or some form of advantage over the victim. Self-defense tools like pepper spray will give the victim a chance to fight back, without harming the attacker permanently. On the other side of the debate, opponents argue that legalizing pepper spray will only fuel violence. Moreover, it will blur the lines between what is considered to be a self-defense weapon, and what is not. Pepper spray and other self-defense devices could therefore land in the hands of ill-intentioned people or be used in abusive ways.

Pepper Spray Laws by State

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have authorized the use of pepper spray for self-defense in some form or another. Around half of the states have enacted restrictions on the use and possession of pepper spray. Some states restrict the use of pepper spray to self-defense purposes only. Other states have limits on the quantity a can may hold. And in Massachusetts and New York, it is unlawful to purchase pepper spray on the internet.
The states where pepper spray is fully legal are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Colorado 
  4. Connecticut 
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Idaho
  8. Indiana 
  9. Iowa
  10. Kansas
  11. Kentucky 
  12. Louisiana 
  13. Maine 
  14. Maryland 
  15. Minnesota 
  16. Mississippi 
  17. Missouri 
  18. Montana 
  19. Nebraska 
  20. New Hampshire 
  21. New Mexico
  22. North Dakota 
  23. Ohio
  24. Oklahoma 
  25. Oregon
  26. Pennsylvania
  27. South Dakota
  28. Tennessee
  29. Texas
  30. Utah 
  31. Vermont 
  32. Virginia 
  33. West Virginia 
  34. Wyoming 

The states that have restrictions on pepper spray are: 

  1. Arizona
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Delaware
  5. Hawaii
  6. Illinois 
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Michigan
  9. Nevada 
  10. New Jersey 
  11. New York 
  12. North Carolina
  13. Rhode Island 
  14. South Carolina 
  15. Washington 
  16. Wisconsin 

Pepper Spray Laws by State

Alabama

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Alaska

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Arizona

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Arkansas

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California

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Colorado

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Connecticut

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Delaware

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Florida

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Georgia

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Hawaii

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Idaho

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Illinois

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Indiana

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Iowa

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Kansas

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Kentucky

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Louisiana

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Maine

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Maryland

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Massachusetts

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Michigan

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Minnesota

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Mississippi

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Missouri

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Montana

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Nebraska

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Nevada

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New Hampshire

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New Jersey

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New Mexico

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New York

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North Carolina

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North Dakota

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Ohio

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Oklahoma

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Oregon

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Pennsylvania

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Rhode Island

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Illegal

South Carolina

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South Dakota

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Tennessee

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Texas

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Utah

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Vermont

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Virginia

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Washington

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West Virginia

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Wisconsin

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Wyoming

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Legal

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