We all know how crazy things can get when it comes to self-defense laws here in the United States. Firearm laws can be pretty restrictive; stun guns and TASERs are banned in some states, restricted in others and legal in most; and expandable batons are in a “grey” area in many states, split between out-right prohibition for civilians while legal with restrictions in others (e.g. can only keep in the home).
Thankfully for us, pepper spray or OC spray is one of the few self-defense products that are legal in all 50 states in the U.S. But like its fellow counterparts, it holds to certain restrictions as well. Some states: do not allow tear gas, have size restrictions, limit OC % in canisters and so on.
Let’s go over the top 5 states with the worst pepper spray laws .
1. Wisconsin (PRE-2013; THE FOLLOWING RESTRICTIONS ARE NO LONGER VALID)
Shockingly, the first state with the worst pepper spray laws is not New York or Massachusetts but the Badger State of Wisconsin! It by far has the MOST restrictions out of any state in the U.S, specifically:
- Tear gas (CN/CS) or “Mace” is not allowed. UV dyes were once banned, but that
portion of the law was repealed.
- OC Products with a maximum OC concentration of 10% and
weight range of oleoresin capsicum and inert ingredients of 15-60 grams is
This includes ½ oz. and 2
- The product cannot be camouflaged, meaning no pepper spray bracelets or pepper spray lipstick, and must have a safety feature designed to prevent
accidental discharge (e.g. flip top or “cop top” can design).
- The units may not have an effective range of over 20 feet and must have an effective range of six feet.
- In addition, there are certain labeling and packaging requirements: must state that the spray cannot be sold to anyone under 18 and the phone number of the manufacturer has to be on the label. The units must also be sold in sealed tamper-proof packages.
As you can see, the list is very extensive. Wisconsin law-makers must really have an axe to grind on pepper spray manufacturers and people who are looking to defend themselves through non-lethal means. Hopefully this will change in the future.
Michigan, the Wolverine State, is #2 on the list. They have fewer restrictions than Wisconsin, but still ban UV dye. They at least allow you to have a tear gas mix in your pepper spray, compared to their sister state.
- Pepper spray must not be more than 10% OC concentration.
- Cannot contain more than 35 grams or 1.2oz of
CS (tear gas) and inert ingredients.
- UV dyes are not allowed.
3. New York
This list would not be complete without including the Empire State. New York is one of the most regressive states in the nation, with New York City serving as the primary hub of anti-self-defense sentiment. While not as restrictive as Wisconsin or Michigan in specifics, New York takes a very authoritative view towards use of force situations. Yes, they even scrutinize pepper spray usage.
- Sales require both a seller’s license
completion by a purchaser of a
- New York residents may only purchase defense sprays from licensed Firearms Dealers or licensed Pharmacists in that state. No more than two sprays may be sold at any one time to a single purchaser . Section 265.25 (14) and (15).
New York is known throughout the media for being the nation’s largest nanny state, whether it comes to regulating sugar intake to having a very high tax on tobacco. New York holds no exception to self-defense laws regarding pepper spray either.
Massachusetts could be considered the sister nanny state to that of New York. It is the only other state in the country that has the same exact purchasing restrictions as New York does in regards to pepper spray usage.
- Pepper spray cannot be sold via mail
order or online.
It can only be purchased from an in-state licensed Firearms Dealer.
- Animal repellent sprays can be bought online.
was once the
ONLY state to have considered pepper spray to be “ammunition”, requiring a valid
Firearms Identification card (FID) in order to make a purchase. That law has
since been revoked as of 2014. Ironically however, pepper spray must still be
purchased from a
compared to online shops or by mail order.
5. Washington D.C.
Although not a state, the nation’s capital could be considered as such in its own right. It is more restrictive than Hawaii, so it deserves a mention.
- Max legal net weight for a canister
2.5 ounces or 70 grams of OC, CS
or CN. CR (military version of tear gas) is not legal for civilian use.
- A WARNING label must be affixed on the
- If purchased in-state it must be registered.
interesting here is that if pepper spray is purchased within the District of
Columbia it must be registered, but if you buy it from Amazon or some other
shop outside of D.C. you are not required to have it registered. The shipping
restriction is not surprising as many other states have such limitations, but
the registration requirement is.
These 5 states won't let you protect yourself with pepper spray.
And there you have it. Those are the top 5 states with the worst pepper spray laws , ranked on the number of restrictions per state. Although Wisconsin and Michigan have the most, they are still far better states to live in than New York or Massachusetts, both of which ban stun guns and TASER devices and have very restrictive gun laws.