The Pros and Cons of Pepper Spray
When it comes to defending yourself with pepper spray, it is important to understand the pros and cons of the substance in order to store and use it properly. Failure to do so may result in the substance being less effective.
One of the main pros about pepper spray is that it is portable and discrete. Whilst it can come in a variety of aerosols, they are all generally small enough to fit in a bag or pocket discreetly. Many also come in disguised forms (such as pens) to make them less noticeable and give make the user less inconspicuous. However, because they are packed into high pressure canisters this means there is always the possibility of them exploding in high temperature. For this reason try and keep them at room temperature where possible and do not leave them in direct sunlight.
Ease of use
Pepper spray is considered to be one of the more ‘user friendly’ methods of precautionary weapon with no formal training required before purchasing. Because pepper spray can be effective from as far away as 20 feet, there is no need for the user to get any closer to the potential attacker than necessary in order to defend themselves. However, it does come with a safety lock mechanism to prevent it going off unexpectedly and the user will need to become familiar with this device in order to be prepared for quick disabling in the event of an attack.
Pepper spray is thought to be highly effective in warding off attackers – including dangerous animals. It contains a substance called Oleoresin capsicum – the compound responsible for giving peppers and chilies their fiery flavor and is used by the police for detaining and temporarily disabling violent protesters. Oleoresin capsicum can cause pain, temporary blindness and breathing difficulties. However one of the main problems with using pepper spray outdoors is that in high winds its effects can be drastically reduced and it can even blow back in the face of the user making them more vulnerable. It can also be ineffective if the attacker is wearing protective clothing such as a balaclava or glasses.
For most people there is a balance between wanting to stay safe and feeling a moral obligation of not causing permanent damage to someone – even a potential attacker. Pepper spray meets this criteria because while it will debilitate the attacker for a period of up to 20 minutes, it is reported to be non-toxic and the effects of blindness, breathing problems, runny nose and pain will eventually wear off. However there have been cases in which the effects have been longer lasting and rare cases where they have been fatal. Some reports suggest that pepper spray can have much more serious effects such as hypothermia, miscarriage, corneal abrasions on the eyes and for people with lung disease or asthma, it can even be fatal. For these reasons many organizations are campaigning for the use of pepper spray by the police on nonviolent protesters to be banned. From a personal perspective it is the individual’s responsibility to decide how threatened they feel and whether they feel the use of pepper spray and the risks it carries are appropriate.
The Pros and Cons of Stun Guns
Stun guns are also a non-lethal method of precautionary protection and are carried by a number of civilians as well as the police. However, like pepper spray, they do have limitations. Here are some guidelines on these.
Most stun guns work on batteries – the circuitry system within the gun takes the voltage of the batteries and multiplies it several times in order to product a high electrical charge. However, this means that if the battery life is low, the weapon becomes less effective. If they run out completely then it simply won’t work. The best (and cheapest) way to overcome this drawback is to buy rechargeable batteries or a chargeable gun. That way you can always be prepared in advance of using the device to prevent any nasty surprises.
An average stun gun carries a volt of between 100,000 V – 300,000 V, which, when administered properly, will immobilize the muscles and scramble neurological signals to the brain thus rendering the attacker temporarily disabled for up to 20 minutes. Some stun guns have a higher or lower voltage meaning that the effects of this can be more or less pronounced. In any case, the gun can be administered to any part of the body and is not likely be effected by weather or other environmental factors. One of the main drawbacks with this, however, is that it is a ‘close quarter’ weapon - you have to be within touching distance of the attacker to use it and ensure that both electrodes make contact with them for it to be effective. Whereas pepper spray can be used at a distance and used as a precaution or threat, a stun gun would be more likely to be used during a physical attack. This may mean that the user could be overpowered or have the gun removed from them or even used on them.
Cheap and legal…mostly
The term ‘gun’ automatically rings bells with some people but in many states you can legally own, carry and use a stun gun with no licence. They can also be picked up cheaply – often for as little as around $50. However, there are states and countries where stun guns are only legal with a licence and sometimes completely illegal (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii). In these places carrying one is an offence, but using one could see you in jail on assault charges – even if you are the one being assaulted in the first place. You should also bear in mind that while it is legal to carry stun guns in checked baggage when flying, if you are travelling to a place where carrying them is illegal, you could see yourself in trouble again. Always check local rules before buying or travelling with a stun gun.
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