Should pepper spray remain illegal?

According to Wikipedia, pepper spray is banned for personal use in all states except Western Australia. This is an outrageous restriction on a non-lethal means of self-defence. Sadly, most voters appear comfortable with the status quo.

The only way to change policy in favour of individual liberty is to take baby-steps. Instead of jumping straight to legal gun ownership, a moderate position would be to question the rationale behind the pepper spray ban. Pepper spray reform could elicit a more reasonable response from the public than advocating guns for self-defence, because there’s less potential for emotional fearmongering when it comes to pepper spray.

57 thoughts on “Should pepper spray remain illegal?

  1. I do think this is going too far. I (unlike I’m sure other readers) support heavy restrictions on firearms for the sake of the overall safety of citizens. However pepper spray being a non-lethal weapon which is designed not to cause long term injury, should be an option for those concerned with personal safety. Otherwise what other options do we have for personal defense? (a kitchen knife maybe? no restrictions there).

  2. Pepper spray is an option for people who are not trained in the use of guns for self defence. So are tasers, knives and sword sticks. I’d support their availability for anyone who wants to use them for that purpose.

    In the US, concealed carry permits for pistols are available in 41 states. However, the permits are only issued after applicants complete a training course covering safe handling and the law. In other words, you need to know when and how to use it.

    In trained hands (and it’s not that difficult to learn), a gun is hugely superior for self defence. It has much longer range, fires multiple shots (pepper spray can be used just once), and will reliably stop violent attack. However, for those unwilling or unable to learn how to use guns, any kind of weapon is usually better than nothing.

    The principle behind self-defence is that we do not own our own lives unless we are able to protect them. Having the means is obviously integral to that. Libertarians definitely should support the availability of pepper spray, just as they should support the availability of other methods of self-defence including guns.

    Baby steps might be required to turn back the tide of the nanny state, but only as long as we know where our steps are leading.

  3. I … support heavy restrictions on firearms for the sake of the overall safety of citizens.

    Except that nowhere in the world has there been a situation where strict gun laws have made citizens safer. For some reason those who harm others with guns do not seem to be affected by laws.

  4. I agree that we should support Jarryd and Sukrit’s ideas of starting small before jumping straight to all out firearms ownership for self defence. Gradualism is the way forward and non-lethal technology solutions are a great way to open the debate.

    Push the line of sporting firearms ownership and then, in some time, self-defence as a legitimate reason for owning a firearm under current laws.

  5. [I]Except that nowhere in the world has there been a situation where strict gun laws have made citizens safer. For some reason those who harm others with guns do not seem to be affected by laws.[/I]

    I’m speaking more in regard to unwanted mishaps whilst someone is defending themselves. I have been in situations in which I have felt my life was in danger however my perceived attacker was simply your run of the mill shit-stirrer. If I had a gun in that situation it could have ended badly, if I had pepper spray it just would have taught someone a valuable lesson :).

  6. The idea behind an armed population is that people won’t go out starting trouble because they fear that their victim would be armed. Yeah, you may think of past situations where if there was a gun involved it might of been messy, BUT that event may not of also taken place due to a fear of a lethal reprisal by a victim. It is suicide trying to pull off a home invasion on the house of a gun nut. Its states with a lot of gun ownership criminals tend to leave people alone because they don’t want to be killed for small loot.

    Pepper spray is a perfect way to get your foot in the door and try to get woman’s rights activists on board. An unarmed woman is most likely powerless against a man or group of men who may want to victimize her. Men can hit harder, become more aggressive, ect. Right now a woman can call for help, which may not work, or she could fight back, which may not work, or she could just sit and be a victim. Pepper spray, and guns, turn this table. Two 100kg body builder type guys who want to victimize a 50kg woman can be immediately met with incapacitating or lethal force, their size and strength advantage means almost nothing. People won’t victimize others if there is a good chance that it will end your life. The “Hey lady, give me your purse” phenomena may come to and end when it results in the dude’s brains being scattered behind him.

  7. I was quite surprised when I found out that pepper spray is banned for importation (with a $275,000 fine or 10 years imprisonment) and sale in most of Australia. I thought that legalising all non-lethal weapons, at least, is something that reasonable people could agree on.

    I can understand people being brainwashed by the gun massacres in America, but I’m really interested in what sorts of justifications are given for a pepper spray ban. Why isn’t it just assumed that women and the elderly should have access to it to protect themselves at night?

  8. The reasons offered make no sense Sukrit. The most common is that it will be taken by the criminal and used against the victim, a standard lie used by the anti-gun lobby as well.

    My view is that the nanny-statists see it as opening pandora’s box. Once possession of an object for the specific purpose of self-defence is acknowledged in the law (as opposed to using something that is kept for another purpose), it then leads to an argument about why you can’t have something that is genuinely effective. Like a gun.

  9. It seems silly to make a ban on carrying something harmful. Am I not legally allowed to carry other harmful things, like rocks, or scissors, or jars of acid ?

  10. Yeah, I’m all for pepper spray being available…

    As for tasers – in some ways, I’m actually more wary of tasers than I am of guns, especially in hands of police.

  11. “It seems silly to make a ban on carrying something harmful. Am I not legally allowed to carry other harmful things, like rocks, or scissors, or jars of acid?”

    You can carry scissors, but you’re not allowed to run with them.

  12. At the moment, Jono, yes, you are allowed such dangerous actions. But when we get a really effective Police Force, you’ll be sorry!
    Why don’t we start celebrating our Aboriginal Heritage by carrying sharp-edged boomerangs around? They are sold to tourists, after all. They’ll have a hard time banning that!

  13. That’s pretty shocking, Jim… the UK really has been going downhill fast with this sort of stupidity.

    I would like to think that such nonsense couldn’t happen in Australia, but for a mob that’s not very submissive, we do seem to put up with a fair amount of crap. I fear we may simply be a decade or so behind them.

    For those too lazy to click on the link, the poor bloke was hassled by police for carrying “a very hard object” in public: a cricket ball.

  14. And you’d better start bluntening those sharp tongues! An article in the Legal Affairs section of last Friday’s ‘The Australian’ discusses the Steyn Case before the Human Rights Commission- and points out that the court is looking into an equally serious matter. A standup comedian made jokes about lesbians, and some lesbians heckled him, and they didn’t like his response to their heckling, so they charged him with hate crime. In Canada, to be charged is to be guilty, it seems.
    I’m sorry, JC, you’ll have to very polite from now on. How will you fill up your columns now?

  15. I think campaigning for pepper spray legalisation is a great idea. I had no idea it was banned, and I’d wager most of the population are equally ignorant of that fact.

  16. Great idea for a post Sukrit.

    This issue is a no-brainer. Pepper spray is obviously a tool of self defense.

    With a very small amount of training, pepper spray can be highly effective even on multiple attackers. The sprays in the US have a powerful spurt of at least a few metres.

    I agree, it’s infuriating to think that good, conscientious citizens such as older ladies are at increased risk of horrifc crimes such as abduction, torture, rape and murder thanks to our government that is perverting their function of protecting us from violence.

  17. If you were found walking the streets with scissors in your pocket you would most likely be charged.

  18. Pingback: Guns for personal defence? No thanks. at sw’as

  19. I bought a pepper spray for my wife and daughter and believe it is a must if they work, travel or are alone at night. Is it worth it for $35, a potential tool to save someone you loves life? I think so. I highly recommend these guys in WA very helpful, great product

  20. Home invaders broke into our home and used pepper spray on myself and my son then proceeded to bash and rob us as we were unable to see to defend ourselves.
    This happened in Victoria thanks to the importation of WA sourced pepper spray across the borders to Vic where it is illegal to posses.

    may be a good shot gun would have been handy but more than likely they would have just stolen it or worse been able to use it on us.

    interested in peoples thoughts.

  21. It sounds like you wouldn’t have been prepared to use the shotgun Jane. With any weapon, gun or pepper spray, familiarity improves effectiveness. There’s not much value in having it if you can’t or won’t use it.

  22. I thought women should be allowed to carry some form of self defense mechanism if they wish to. But since I talked to someone from NSW rape crisis centre, I’ve changed my mind. Find some reasons why she thinks the weapons should be banned in our blog.

  23. I am more for extendable Batons to be available for self protection since I have heard of cases where pepper spray has made a situation worse. Also, with proper training, extendable batons make very effective self defense tools. Lets not forget that they can be as long as 26″ in its extended form, while still able to maintain conceal ability at just 10″ in its closed form. Obviously, there should be regulations with who can own one by issuing licensing similar to America’s approach to CCW’s.

    Though, I do 100% fully support pepper spray since it is one of the least lethal self defense tools and is just so simplistic to use. But like anything, it has its disadvantages.

    I believe when it comes to personal protection devices, people should be able to have options since one device might work better for one than another.

  24. Pepper spray or not pepper spray a perpetrator can use any means to prey…. Eg baton, knife, baseball bat, hockey stick, hammer, axe …

    But the situation will be a lot different if the victim is handy with a self defense mechanism he/she is confident to use … Eg pepper spray

    My humble opinion, a martial art instructor for 15 years. Trained in 3 styles. A champion in sports Taekwondo

  25. Pepper should be legal in Australia, however the first thing we should look at is on avoiding trouble in the first place and putting security measures in place. Jane Mac do you not have security doors or security screens on your windows. Every one should look at life from a security point of view, does not have to be complicated, last but not least learn real self defence and use your perfume or under arm spray if you have to. Just remember if you us any type of under arm spray or perfume it was because you felt you life was in danger.

  26. I have a wife and two very young children, I want them to have the best if any self defence I cannot give them when I am not around. I also understand some of the people whom might threaten my family may use this, but I would prefer that over a knife or a gun, which would take a lot longer to get over (mentally). I can’t believe people in Australia cannot protect themselves and the law is supporting the bad guys. I would rather my family use pepper spray and get a fine, over being injured or killed.

  27. Well said Graeme I cant agree with you more. The government has stripped every honest person of their self protection. The crims will ALWAYS get their hands on weapons. The police and crims together are having a field day. An 82 year old lady was raped twice and beaten in her backyard at Rockhampton on Australia day. You think its gunna get better by taking away every form of self protection off innocent people and relying on the police to protect us? Do- Gooders will always rant about how it puts weapons in criminals hands.. But if the criminal has it regardless of “law” what good is it gunna be?.. Most of the Do- gooders live in rich areas in their own safe little environment, not until they get bashed, robbed, stabbed or worse that they realise how stupid they are.

  28. Of course every one should have access to pepper spray, pepper spray will stop dog attacks as well as these gutless people who attace the vulnerable, dog attacks are common so maybe we could aim towards getting it legalised for that reason. Judges and the people making the decisions on whether pepper spray is legal sit in their comfortable homes and have the police on hand if they are threatened. In the mean time learn propper self defence and learn to stop threats with appropriate force.

  29. I have been reading these posts for a while, just had to wade in a comment, my interest is a competent martial artist (two styles learned concurrently Karate and Kendo for 10 years ) and firearms trainer, first lets see if we can sort some things out, anyone here over middle age with fighting skills ? no ? perhaps? to defend oneself and to be prepared to do so,is a strong moral choice to take and I can tell you from training many people, that if you FIGHT back an attacking assailant, statistics tell us, you have a much better survival rate than being a sheep. ( its as high a 70%)I can assure you a potential rapist gets very turned off his target if she kicks him in the goolies!

    So to say that pepper spray is a “weopen” to be used against a victim and then use the excuse to ban it, is a very monty python tactic to do in a nanny State, did anyone know that in the year December 2009 ( FBI Uniform Crime Report ) states that “…….over 1 million times a firearm was used to stop a felony within the USA….” that also includes by the way just brandishing a firearm and not firing it in any way.

    Now compare that to the homicide rate last year in the USA,remember the USA has over 300 million people, we have just a bit over 23 million according to last census, so do the sums, if we have 20 million or so and they have 300 million and we have 1,100 homicides of all types and you multiply our rate 15 times, then you get a broader picture of what our rate would be.

    Where am I going with this ? well easy…, me, your wife, your girlfriend, your children, your gran mother, has a right to walk freely without some two bit dirt bag bashing them for 20 bucks and they (sic ) us, have defend themselves with all means at their disposal and if that means pepper spray,then that is a very good way of stopping the lice who prey on them. ( I might add and then run way if you can, sometimes that’s not possible to do….been there done that.)

  30. Interesting thread.

    Try this: Type into a google “bashed” and “home”. Then select australian content. See whats comes up. I did and was blown away by the amount of home invasions.

    Now I’m a handgun owner and dont advocate looser gun laws. Yeah thats right! They are good! I would actually suggest a slight tightning with an added IQ test.

    Using a gun is a final option and the consequences are irreversable.

    I am an advocate for pepper spray and other non lethal forms of defense for the following reasons:
    1You can have poor judgement in the heat of the battle and blast someone with pepper spray and no serious damage done

  31. Sorry hit the submit button before finishing

    2 By having a good form of non lethal defense avaliable. People are less likley to utilize more lethal forms of defense such as bats, knives, swords, guns etc

    I personally would prefer to use pepper spray in a defense situation than a gun.

    Common sense needs to prevail.

  32. Matt – When you say that the gun laws are good which state are you refering to?

  33. Hi all

    I had a horrible experience today with road rage that made me wish I had been able to defend myself. A man was able to round me up, park in front of me so I couldn’t get away, and threaten to kill me because I had, in his mind, committed some traffic offense. This man was much taller and heavier than me – I’m 5″2′ and 50 kilos and this guy was massive, at least 6″ tall. It made me wish I had something to defend myself with!!!! I live in NSW and, as such, pepper spray is illegal. Yet this man could just come along and violate MY personal safety and the police won’t do a thing about it! Why is it that people who are bigger or more intimidating than you are should be able to terrify you so much? I don’t think it’s very fair. That’s why women like me are killed – because there is nothing around to defend themselves with!!!!

  34. Kas – just film the whole thing and go to the police. Or maybe just put it up on youtube (with the guy’s number plate clearly showing).

    .. last time this kind of thing happened to me it was over too quickly to get the mobile phone camera out and working. It probably would have cost the ‘peaceful’ ethnic fellow his licence. 🙂

  35. If pepper spray became legal for all states in Australia there would be a lot of people that would mis-use it, most likely getting it re-banned again. But Australia is a little over strict with its weapons laws.

  36. I agree Kas – some decades ago a girlfriend of mine came back from South Africa and said “here you have this – I dont need it anymore but you are single and going out at night and it might be a good thing to have.”
    It was a disposable spray mace that apparently had twenty or thirty shots in it. So we tested it on her long suffering husband to make sure it still worked (it did) and I carried it in my handbag for ten years.
    Reminds me of a story my first boyfriend, who was both rich and spoilt told me – his grandmother kept a miniature derringer in her purse with one bullet in it for exactly the same reason – self defence.
    Im actually all for it (for women). Women are victims too often. I dont know whether the mace in the disposable spray lost its effect – over ten years – I never had a reason to spray it. I was lucky but I was always reassured by its presence. It would have a given a window of opportunity where you can run away, start screaming and not be caught. It should be manadatory for young women. I agree Australia is overstrict with its weapins laws. Govt most probably worried people will shoot up the speed cameras.

  37. Same. All of the above should have it. I really do think Australia is overstrict in its weapons laws. Seems to me the only people that have them are criminals and the government and one cant help but wonder, the way things are in some governments, if they do a brisk trade recycling them between each group.

  38. I was just [about 1 hr ago] threatened by a guy who consideres me a threat to his business.He came into my office off the street and was inches from my face screaming. He had really lost it over somthing that was in his mind huge. I tried to calm him down and was ready to cop whatever he was going to dish out. He was making threats to return.Now I have a muscular dissability. I keep it from the general public but it is getting harder as I am progressing downhill. He does not know about it and thinks I am fair game. My ten yo can kick my butt!
    What do I do to defend my self?

  39. i live in sydney, and just this morning went for a jog, only to find an old man in a car stalking me down 3 streets. if it wasn’t for 2 rubbish trucks which meant he wasnt able to pull over and had to turn the corner, i don’t know if i would have returned home safe. all day i’ve felt so unsafe and scared of stepping out in the street, so i hopped online to see if i can get my hands on pepper spray, only to realise it’s illegal.

    i agree with the general feeling on this forum, and hope that in future we might see some changes in legislation, because apart from pepper spray, what options does a girl in her late teens, who gets attack, do in the few seconds she has to react??

  40. “Overall robbery and assault rates in the United States are also comparable to other developed countries, such as Australia and Finland, notwithstanding the much lower levels of gun ownership in those countries.[51][54]”

  41. Thanks for the link. Interesting discussion of drugs and the law. But how should I be connecting that with this.
    Capsicum spray might be a good idea, I’m just dubious about using that as a ‘gateway’ weapon to bring mass handgun ownership (concealed or not) into this country.

  42. The US has a higher murder rate because of the war on drugs.

    Canada has more lax gun laws and lower homicide and gun related crime rates. They also have a less intense war on drugs than the US’ insane war against it’s own citizens.

  43. I agree that war on drugs, like terror, is insane. But can all the disproportionate gun violence in the US be put down to it?

    Though our laws are less draconion, we are not moving towards real liberalisation here anytime soon.

    There are plenty of other hazards too. Accidents, firearm suicide, ‘secondary’ markets, mistaken identity, over-reaction.

    I really don’t see a compelling argument for liberalising gun laws.

  44. ” But can all the disproportionate gun violence in the US be put down to it?”

    Yes. The incarceration rate per capita has gone up over 600%. Half of the incarceration is due to drug related offences. Have you seen what happened to the murder rate under alcohol prohibition –

    “The murder rate rose with the start of Prohibition, remained high during Prohibition, and then declined for 11 consecutive years when Prohibition ended.[2] The rate of assaults with a firearm rose with Prohibition and declined for 10 consecutive years after Prohibition. In the last year of Prohibition–1933–there were 12,124 homicides and 7,863 assaults with firearms; by 1941 these figures had declined to 8,048 and 4,525, respectively.[3] ”

    from CATO, May 25, 1989
    Policy Analysis no. 121

    Thinking about Drug Legalization

    by James Ostrowski

    “I really don’t see a compelling argument for liberalising gun laws.”

    Like I said, Canada has laxer gun laws and less violence.

    Go through the data from the AIC. Gun suicide isn’t a special problem. It just substitutes. Same for gun crimes. Gun laws don’t stop massacres – 9/11 for example. The pilots were unarmed by a Federal US directive!

    Guns do not cause crime or suicide. At worst, they have no effect.

    Here is something to challenge your views:

    Click to access Baker-McPhedran_critique_of_chapman_et_al.pdf

    I don’t know how any rational person can be for gun control after reading that evidence.

  45. Accidents: 640 people in a population of almost 300 million; negligible – compare it to almost 40,000 deaths by car accident (both USA).

    Firearm suicide: 16,900. What makes you think that people serious enough to take their own life will be deterred by lack of access to a gun? The US doesn’t have a disproportionate amount of suicides. They rank 20th out of 34 developed countries for suicide, similar to Australia. It is impossible to know the number of people who would not have committed suicide absent guns – I think it would be a low number. In any case, suicide is not a violation of rights.

    Secondary markets: Criminals easily get guns now, perhaps slightly harder than under liberalisation, but I think disarmament of victims easily makes up for it.

    Mistaken identity, over-reaction: I don’t know any numbers on these, but I doubt it would be that big.

    Gun deaths in the US have continually fallen, despite gun ownership and total guns increasing at the same time. The negative aspects of firearms are much more prominent than the positive aspects. You must take into account the lessor seen good of guns.

    Crime prevention: Many, many crimes are prevented, just by the risk posed to a criminal by there being a high proportion of gun owners. America has a low rate of burglaries; 7 per thousand, contrast this with Australia’s 21 per thousand (the highest in any developed country). Rapes; America 0.3 per thousand to Australia’s 0.8 per thousand.

    In most cases a crime in progress can stopped by threatening a criminal with a gun – and this is considerably safer than any other option a victim has – including total compliance.

    A victim need not even own a gun. A gun owning bystander, passer-by or neighbour can come to the aid of a victim – as well as provide a deterrent to criminals.

    It’s the robberies, assaults, rapes and murders that are prevented by firearms that are little heard of.

  46. Yes i totally agree pepper spray should be legalised to people over 18 in all states not just W.A it is the perfect thing for the vulnerble such as the elderly people ect…..

  47. Thats exactly why it should be legalised what you could do if your really want it is drive to Western Australia where its legal to buy and bring it back to whatever state you live in…

  48. Pepper spray should be allowed for self defense- and since it causes no permanent damage there should be no limit in the amount a person can carry. Even walking the dog can be risky, because it’s very common for loose dogs to run up a start a dog fight. This can be a dangerous situation that can be almost impossible to get out of if the irresponsible owner is not around to intervene. Pepper spray can subdue the animals without causing any real harm, and protect your own dog from getting hurt (especially if you’re allowed to carry more than those dinky 1/2 oz. containers).

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