I hate pepper spray. Not just a little bit, I absolutely hate it. I have been sprayed with pepper spray for law enforcement certification four different times. I no longer carry pepper spray; I carry a gun. But I respect pepper spray. It works. It turns me into a blind, red-faced, snot-dripping ball of pain. I am not unique in this reaction.
The technical name for pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum, or “OC” for short. Derived from simple cayenne peppers, pepper spray is offered in different strengths. Ten-percent OC is typically the max. I have been sprayed with five percent and 10 percent, and I could not tell the difference. They were both devastating. A newer potency standard measures capsaicinoid concentration. Instead of measuring how much OC is in the formula, it measures the strength of the active ingredients in the pepper spray.
Some states have laws that regulate pepper spray, but it is legal for personal defense in all 50. There are laws against buying it if you are a minor or a convicted felon. In our nation’s capital, you must register with the police in order to have the right to possess pepper spray, even in your own home. I’m sure they had your personal safety in mind when drafting these registration rules in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Carrying pepper spray on an airplane is also a no-no. The captain is breathing the same recycled air as everyone else on board, so closing up his eyes and lungs will typically be frowned upon by anyone wanting to survive the flight. Changes in air pressure have been known to crack open bottles, so please don’t put it in your checked baggage.
I recommend pepper spray for lots of people and for lots of reasons. If you are not trained or comfortable carrying a gun, pepper spray is an excellent choice for personal defense at home and out on the street. Likewise, if you are in a state that does not allow you to carry a gun, pepper spray is far better than walking around armed only with your wit. However, you also need to think about what type of pepper spray will work best for you.
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