Before we get into whether you can or should carry a non-lethal weapon in a gun-free zone, know that this isn’t legal advice, we aren’t lawyers and we didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
I also have found that you definitely DON’T save fifteen percent or more by switching to GEICO. In fact, they kind of ripped me off. But one digresses.
So, carrying a non-lethal alternative to a concealed carry pistol is definitely a good idea as a backstop if you’re going to be in a gun-free zone. This may include a place of work, a school, courthouse, federal buildings or any other locations where carrying a concealed firearm is prohibited by state or federal law.
Should you? As a best practice, it’s a good idea. However, you need to take care to select a non-lethal weapon you can actually possess in such areas, and your options are limited.
If you are going to carry any weapon as an alternative to a firearm, it is incumbent on you to do the requisite homework. Ignorance of the law is no excuse — well, in most cases — and pointing out that, “At least it wasn’t a gun!” isn’t going to fly in front of a judge.
The states as well as federal law prohibit “dangerous weapons” in various areas, typically defined as an instrument capable of inflicting death or great bodily harm or something to that effect. Again, the exact definition may vary depending upon which state you live in and (again) you need to do your homework.
For instance, knives, collapsible batons, nunchucks (if you’re still 8 years old) blackjacks and other impact weapons are almost always prohibited.
So, let’s define what an acceptable, non-lethal weapon is.
We can therefore infer that a non-lethal weapon or non-dangerous weapon is any weapon, instrument or device that is not capable of killing a person or inflicting grievous injury. Granted, some studies have linked some non-lethal (or more aptly “less-lethal”) weapons to some deaths; you can get into it in the comments section because that’s a whole other can of worms.
What would some specific examples be?
Pepper spray is perhaps the one weapon which can be carried without reservation. Federal buildings may be off limits, and pepper spray must be checked when flying.
State laws vary as to the kind of pepper spray that can be carried; some states restrict the volume of the canister (say to 4 fl oz or less) and others limit the concentration of capsaicin. Some states allow pepper spray that includes dye.
While all states allow it, some cities do not; Illinois, for instance, does not prohibit carrying or use of pepper spray in self-defense but the city of Chicago (naturally) restricts its use…as if the criminals there don’t have enough of an edge.
California, for instance, restricts volume to 2.5 oz and prohibits certain individuals (minors, felons, those convicted of drug-related or pepper spray-related crimes) from possession. However, anyone may concealed carry or open carry pepper spray if they choose. The state of Michigan prohibits purchase or carrying of pepper sprays with more than 35 grams (1.2 ounces) in volume, and with an oleoresin capsaicin (the active ingredient) concentration of more than 18 percent.
By way of comparison, most bear sprays have an OC concentration of less than 18 percent, though some contain more.
A good number of states prohibit possession by minors, and some states restrict online purchases. While not as strict as gun control laws, carrying pepper spray is still not without some nanny state fettling. However, this would be a good option for gun-free zones, as pepper spray is effective and easily concealed…though again, check to be sure that possession is not prohibited in certain areas.
Stun guns and/or TASERs are another effective less-lethal option. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled in Caetano v Massachusetts that that state’s ban on stun guns was unconstitutional as a stun gun is protected under the Second Amendment. This set off a small wave of decriminalization.
However, two states (Rhode Island and that bastion of Second Amendment rights, Hawaii) still prohibit stun guns of any kind for civilian use. How much longer that will last…remains to be seen. Both states have pending litigation.
Just as with pepper spray, there may be some state or local restrictions on who may purchase them and so on. A few states, Wisconsin for instance, require a person to have a concealed weapons permit to carry a stun gun.
Many jurisdictions prohibit carrying a stun gun in certain areas, such as schools, state buildings and the like…just as such areas typically forbid carrying firearms. Again, check your local and state regs.
Impact weapons, such as folding batons, are less lethal than firearms or knives but more lethal than the above-mentioned weapons. These would be covered under any prohibitions against “dangerous weapons,” so it’s safe to say that anywhere considered a “gun-free zone” is likely to prohibit batons.
But what about a kuboton, a jawara or something along those lines? A compact striking tool?
Few laws govern these items. Therefore, they are one of the few items that are almost always safe to carry if you can’t carry a concealed carry gun.
Another option is to have an impact-rated tactical pen for use in the same manner. In fact, that may be the “safest” option as it’s just a pen; no one is going to kick up a fuss over writing tool.
Of course, you could also learn to fight. If you’ve never done any training at all, stick to the combat sports (MMA, Muay Thai, boxing, judo, jiu jitsu, freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling, sambo) or a combat-proven self-defense system such as Krav Maga.
If you can’t carry a weapon, many attackers can be stunned or stopped if you toss them butt-over-tea-kettle. A busted nose tends to stop people in their tracks; eyes water, blood starts pouring and fun is had by no one. And you don’t need a permit for these hands.
Legitimate martial arts training is also great exercise, and who among us couldn’t use a bit more?
Granted, as has been proven time and time again, gun-free zones don’t really stop lunatics bent on mass murder. If anything, more have taken place since gun-free zone legislation was enacted. The Second Amendment doesn’t say the “right of the people to carry and bear arms shall not be infringed…except for these select locations” after all, which seems to defeat the purpose a little bit.
But what do you think? Don’t chance it? Or is there a non-lethal weapon you prefer to carry if you can’t concealed carry a pistol?