Pepper Spray is considered a “less-than-lethal agent”, but when police agencies first started using a self-defense spray there were reports of death with Pepper Spray being a contributing factor. In a study from 1992 to 1995 in California Lost Mary where police officers had used Pepper Spray 16,000 times or 24 times a day there were 26 deaths associated with people who Pepper Spray had been used on. In the series of 26 deaths examined by the ACLU from records obtained from the EPA, autopsy and medical examiner reports there was no conclusive link between a self-defense spray and these unfortunate deaths. Factors as drug use, alcohol use, injuries from resisting arrest and preexisting conditions were determined as the cause of death.
It was agreed by the California Police Departments and the ACLU that Pepper Spray or Mace should be used to only incapacitate an individual with use of one second bursts. It should never be used as punishment or “street justice”. It is recognized that there are some individuals that could get prolonged harm for use of Tear gases, but by use of one second bursts this reduces any residual effects to an acceptable level. Today it is estimated over 3000 police agencies use Pepper Spray including the FBI, Military and several other Federal Agencies.
After initial application of a self-defense spray, the victim involuntarily closes their eyes and feels a burning our bubbling in the eyelids. Coughing usually follows and the individual may choke for a period of time. The victim should be encouraged to breathe normally and blink the eyes to cause tearing. Water will not wash off the Pepper Spray residue. Use of a contact lens wetting solution seems to help clear the eyes. At all times rubbing of the eyes and skin should be avoided and effects have been known to last for up to four hours. However normal recovery of vision and coordination of the eyes should be expected in 7 to 15 minutes.
So in conclusion of the effects we may say:
1. Pepper Spray is an easy to use and effective self-defense weapon.
2. If used properly it allows the victim time to escape while the attacked is incapacitated.
3. The effects of Pepper Spray or Mace wear off in 15 to 90 minutes and it is relatively harmless.
4. Since there is no threat to life or long-term side effects the average citizen is willing to use it if necessary.
Pepper Spray is legal to purchase and use in all 50 of the United States with certain restrictions in the seven states of California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Washington and Wisconsin. These restrictions either limit the percentage of active agent, the size of the container or need for a Firearms Identification Card or License to Carry Firearms. Almost all states require an adult of 18 years of age to purchase. Shipping of Pepper Spray is limited in that it is a compressed gas and has to meet DOT standards for handling of compressed gasses.
For a potential victim of a crime, one must analyze what means are available to protect the victim. Escape is always the best means, and when it comes to life threatening danger there is nothing a valuable as a human life. Giving the criminal money or other goods is inconsequential when it comes to protecting a life. The average citizen is not mentally equipped to fire a gun at another human being. Law enforcement officers are specially trained not only in gun handling, but psychologically to handle these events. History has shown us if an average citizen pulls out a gun it usually ends up in the hands of the criminal and is used by the criminal. Also the remorse that follows the shooting of another human being is something that is hard to cope with. In some cases family members and friends have been mistaken for intruders due to high anxiety levels or poor lighting.