We all know how crazy things can get when it comes to self-defense laws and self-defense weapons and devices here in the United States. Firearm and pepper spray laws can be pretty restrictive. As a rule of thumb, states will regulate pepper spray and OC spray in terms of the canister size, concentration, age and criminal record.
Other self defense weapons and devices like Stun guns and TASERs are banned in some states, restricted in others and legal in most. 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).
We'll cover the top 5 states with the worst pepper spray laws below. We've also included our pepper spray laws by state video that is part of our in-depth Pepper Spray 101: How to Protect Yourself at a Distance course.
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 (like OC/CS or CN mixtures). Other states have size restrictions and limit the OC percentage in canisters.
Top 5 States with the Most Restricting Pepper Spray Laws
1. Wisconsin Pepper Spray Laws
Here are the Wisconsin state laws current through 2019-2020 that discuss self defense. 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. when it comes to pepper spray, 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portion of the law was repealed.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 are authorized.
This includes ½ oz. and 2
- The product cannot be camouflaged. This means no pepper spray products like pepper spray bracelets or pepper spray lipsticks.
- In the state of Wisconsin pepper spray must have a safety feature designed to prevent
accidental discharge (e.g. flip top or “cop top” can design).
- Although pepper spray can not be purchased by someone who is under 18 years old, if the pepper spray is purchased by a parent or guardian and given to them, it can be carried and possessed by a minor.
If your find yourself asking can I carry pepper spray in Wisconsin? The answer is yes as long as you are of age and have not been convicted of a felony or assault charge. You can legally ship, carry and use pepper spray in Wisconsin.
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 self defense means. In 2013 Wisconsin Act 77 did make minor adjustments to pepper spray law; hopefully there will be more changes in the foreseeable future.
2. Michigan Pepper Spray Laws
Michigan, the Wolverine State, is #2 on the list. They have fewer restrictions than Wisconsin when it comes to pepper spray laws, but still ban UV dye. They at least allow you to have a tear gas mix (like OC/CS or CN mixtures) in your pepper spray, compared to their sister state.
- Pepper spray must contain 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 Pepper Spray Laws
This list would not be complete without including the Empire State pepper spray laws. 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, New York takes a very authoritative view towards use of force situations. Yes, they even scrutinize pepper spray usage.
- Pepper spray 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.
4. Massachusetts Pepper Spray Laws
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. Pepper Spray Laws
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 top 5 states with the worst pepper spray laws may hinder your non-lethal self defense options.
We recommend consulting with a legal authority if you have more pepper spray concerns regarding your state. We compiled the top 5 states with the worst pepper spray laws list by ranking each territoriy 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 while having very restrictive gun laws.