gun free zone
Thomas R Machnitzki [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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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?

Sabre Red Pepper Gel. Credit:

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.

TASER Pulse, the civilian counterpart to their law enforcement products. Credit:

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.

A Koga SD-1, a high impact polymer yawara by Cold Steel. Credit:

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.

A tactical pen by Tactica Defense Fashion. Credit:

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.

Credit: Danneville32/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

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.

Public Domain, Link

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?

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  1. Judge each, “gun free zone” on a risk reward basis. If the threat level is high and there are no “heroes” around to sniff out tax cows nearing arms, carry a highly concealable gun. If the threat is low or there are “heroes” around to make an arrest. Don’t carry or carry a less than lethal.

  2. Here is my favorite video of the proper employment of a tactical pen.

    On another, more serious note, someone ought to manufacture and market a tactical, 12 inch dildo. In this politically correct environment, such an implement would be welcomed in gun free zones as an expression of GLQT pride. It could also be employed in a punative manner after an assailant has been beaten into submission.

  3. To those of us who grew up during the 70’s, when weapons control laws were far beyond what we have with CCW and knife liberalization today, it was pretty common to carry a roll of dimes in your pocket, all taped up so it wouldn’t break easily.

    If you have to ask “what for?” then you’ve never been in a fist fight with a roll of dimes at your disposal or against someone who had a roll of dimes at their disposal. Guys with larger hands might opt for a roll of nickels. Today, the “tactical flashlight,” properly chosen, can offer some of the same advantages.

    A leap sap can really bring some pain to someone who wants to mess with you. They’re quiet, no moving parts, hard to break, and oh, yea, they hurt like holy hell.

    A rapidly improvised weapon that was rather effective was a car antenna ripped off the car. They make vicious whips.

    I still maintain that too many people want the “magic tool” for self-defense, rather than investing time and energy in cultivating the mindset.

    • When I was in the Coast Guard, back when we dressed like sailors, we would roll up a roll of pennies in our neckerchief. Hidden under the flap of our dress blues it was never detected, but instantly available. It could clear a path out of any bar.

      • Exactly. And if it looks like a run-in with The Law is in your near future, you take the coins out of the neckerchief, put them in your pocket, put on the neckerchief in a conventional manner and Bob’s your uncle.

    • Check your local laws. A roll of coins is always ok, but adding tape could fall into prohibited territory in states that ban brass knuckles, saps, and similar weapons. You know, like California. I don’t remember the whole list, but it includes the above as well as nunchucka, leaf saps, sword canes, dirks, daggers, batons, collapsible batons and so on. A sock filled at the end with coins is a sap.

  4. It’s up to you with a risk-reward for violating johnny law. I totally disarm at City Hall/Po-leece station. I may or may or may disarm in a post office. You do you…

  5. Generally I try to avoid GFZs but when forced to enter them by something like jury duty or a flight I go with the pen.

  6. Anytime an insurance company has a budget the size of Geico’s or Progressive’s that should tell you something.

    Also, for my money, Mayhem is far more entertaining. Flo’s not even really trying anymore.

  7. “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.”

    Well, that narrows it down to pretty much EVERYTHING! From large rings on the hands to steel-toed boots on your feet there are literally MILLIONS of common items (including anatomical parts that can’t be removed) that can cause death or great bodily harm.

    • Steel toed shoes might be the best defensive weapon possible when the fist fight starts. They come in every style from tennis shoe to biker boot, and literally nobody questions them, even when they set off the metal detectors at your favorite theme park or concert venue.

      Swift kick to the groin or knee will take the fight out of just about any-sized combatant. Plus, kicking someone when they are down makes the most sense…that’s when they are closest to your feet.

  8. If you see one of those signs or one similar it is going to take a lawyer in the jurisdiction where the sign is located to give you proper instruction. Even then, authority figures may disagree and harass you, arrest you, force you to defend yourself against a civil complaint or criminal charge and generally infringe the ever lov’n crap out of your Rights.

    Stinks, doesn’t it?

  9. I live in Michigan and although they have softened the carry restrictions for knives ( basically anything not a dirk or dagger or double edged is OK), using one in self defense against a person (from what I could find) appears to ALWAYS be illegal. You can carry one but you can’t use it to defend yourself with under any circumstance involving another human (kind of defeats the purpose, don’t you think?). Intentionally cut someone (or threaten to) with a blade depending on the when, where and why, the DA may or may not prosecute you for the crime, but it is still a crime all the same as far as I can tell.

    • The problem with a knife for self defense for a man at least, is that most places have laws pertaining to disparity of force when it comes to self defense. If you defend yourself from a man using only his fists by pulling a knife you’d better hope that the man has you by a hundred pound and is in better shape than you are. Otherwise you’ve met force with disparate force and thereby escalated the situation. And if you defend yourself with a knife against someone with a gun you’ll almost certainly end up dead, so whatever legal trouble the other guy gets into won’t matter much to you. Women on the other hand have a lot more freedom to use a blade against a man, as long as the man initiated the attack.

  10. What about sporting goods? What if I’m a big baseball fan and just like to carry a baseball bat everywhere I go?

    • 61North,

      Many states will consider your baseball bat an illegal bludgeon if you are not transporting it to/from a baseball practice/game.

      What you can carry everywhere and is almost as good as a baseball bat is a walking cane. The right kind of cane deployed properly is a serious melee weapon. Personally, I would choose a cane over a knife every time.


    U should NOT have to decide whether saving ur children is going to get u arrested by illegal laws.

    Death is permanent! U have to decide all the risk of violating even a illegal law and whether its a misdemeanor or felony or just a trespass charge or where ur just asked u to leave. Deep Concealment is a thing!

    To deny that there are not crazy deranged people in this world is to deny facts. Just look at the #Trump Derangement Syndrome,ANTI-FA in the media and tens of millions of the public and the fact we have no idea who is the million invading our border are……

    There are many Gang/Mexican drug Cartel members in America.

    All gun laws are Unconstitutional and infringements on the 2nd Amendment!

    The case of Marbury v. Madison (1803) decision concluded “a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.”

  12. Pennsylvania’s relevant statute:

    Prohibited offensive weapons – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 908
    (a) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the

    first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs,

    sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive


    (b) Exceptions.–

    (1) It is a defense under this section for the defendant

    to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed or

    dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic

    performance, or that, with the exception of a bomb, grenade

    or incendiary device, he complied with the National Firearms

    Act (26 U.S.C. § 5801 et seq.), or that he possessed it

    briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from an

    aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing any

    intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used


    (2) This section does not apply to police forensic

    firearms experts or police forensic firearms laboratories.

    Also exempt from this section are forensic firearms experts

    or forensic firearms laboratories operating in the ordinary

    course of business and engaged in lawful operation who notify

    in writing, on an annual basis, the chief or head of any

    police force or police department of a city, and, elsewhere,

    the sheriff of a county in which they are located, of the

    possession, type and use of offensive weapons.

    (3) This section shall not apply to any person who

    makes, repairs, sells or otherwise deals in, uses or

    possesses any firearm for purposes not prohibited by the laws

    of this Commonwealth.

    (c) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following

    words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this


    “Firearm.” Any weapon which is designed to or may readily be

    converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive

    or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.

    “Offensive weapons.” Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-

    off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially

    made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge,

    any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or

    cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an

    automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or

    otherwise, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic

    or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of

    serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

    (d) Exemptions.–The use and possession of blackjacks by the

    following persons in the course of their duties are exempt from

    this section:

    (1) Police officers, as defined by and who meet the

    requirements of the act of June 18, 1974 (P.L.359, No.120),

    referred to as the Municipal Police Education and Training


    (2) Police officers of first class cities who have

    successfully completed training which is substantially

    equivalent to the program under the Municipal Police

    Education and Training Law.

    (3) Pennsylvania State Police officers.

    (4) Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs of the various counties

    who have satisfactorily met the requirements of the Municipal

    Police Education and Training Law.

    (5) Police officers employed by the Commonwealth who

    have satisfactorily met the requirements of the Municipal

    Police Education and Training Law.

    (6) Deputy sheriffs with adequate training as determined

    by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

    (7) Liquor Control Board agents who have satisfactorily

    met the requirements of the Municipal Police Education and

    Training Law.

    Some things have been litigated and excluded from the class of Prohibited Offensive Weapons; nun-chucks, kitchen knives, and various other knives.

    PA has no preemption except for firearms so every municipality can have their own regulations. Philadelphia has some crazy laws on this stuff.

    • I read the laundry list of Police Carve-outs. It sounds similar to other states. Or more like something posted in an internment camp after a military occupation listing…I believe something like this was posted in NAZI Germany, Post WW2 Japan, and in other countries around the world…Where liberties and freedoms were long since lost….

    • Canes can be very, very useful weapons.

      When I lived in LA, I watched an older man get set upon by a couple of street thugs.

      In about 10 seconds, those two street thugs got the brilliant idea that they picked on the wrong old man.

      Turned out that the man’s cane was a nice, stout piece of hickory. Whappity-whap-whap. He knew how to use it, too.

      • Yes, I was reading down to see if anyone would mention.

        A cane is very useful. It certainly helps the facade to have had to use one for mobility before.

        Several life incidents in the past have forced me to walk with a cane. Besides the metal telescoping one I also have one from Afghanistan, would not want to be hit with that one.

        • Yep. I have a few clubs disguised as canes. My favorite is my “hurt walker”, a piece of porkypine chewed beetle kill, aged lodgepole pine with a hames collar brass top.
          Looks better than the poly-whatever “defense” canes and WILL crush a skull.
          Mostly, I won’t go where I will be disarmed. I do not carry at the courthouse/courtroom, but every where else is a big “I don’t give a F”. Including hospitals, malls, PO etc.
          My opinion is if the place has no visible security, like a bank guard, it’s on me to provide.
          Concealed means concealed!
          The second Amendment does not say “except for..”
          PS There is such a thing as a “Ca. legal” auto knife.

      • I’ve had to use a cane for almost twelve years now. I carry solid hickory cane made by Canemasters, a company that started some years ago as a martial arts supplier. You should check them out (this is not a paid endorsement).

  13. Flashlights and pens are good, but “Tactical” flashlights and pens are weapons. Have something that is not designed or labelled as a weapon.

  14. If it’s firearm free and not a ban on “dangerous weapons”, go with an “antique firearm” (Cap and ball) which isn’t a firearm under federal and most state laws. Of course firearms (which propel a projectile through force of expanding gas) aren’t firearms under federal law (defined as a device that propells a projectile through the energy of an explosive) but good luck getting that through a court.

  15. And if you are shot in one of these zones…please get a good lawyer to sue everyone involved for not maintaining it and enforcing it…
    That’s what needs to happen to GFZs…get enough lawsuits going when the GFZ is violated and put the places/cities/agencies out of business
    You want to put up the sign…enforce it…or pay the piper when someone gets shot because you did not

  16. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse…”

    Unless you didn’t intend to break the law, and you’re an old hag named Clinton.

  17. For some reason bear spray is has less capsicum than people spray. People spray is between 1%-3% and bear between 1%-2%. In Canada it’s just 1% . I guess Canada has nicer bears. You’re supposed to spray the ground in front of the bear to “deter” him. You can spray people in the face, tho. ( I’m creating a comedy sketch in my head about this.)

  18. If I’m somewhere I could be searched and/or arrested for carrying a gun (court house, post office, school, government building), I don’t carry a gun and rely on other means to survive in the event a situation occurs. Otherwise, ‘Gun Free Zones’ mean absolutely nothing to my wife and I. Theaters, stores, malls, doctor’s offices, etc. are all private property and in the unlikely event we are discovered (never happened yet) all they can do is ask us to leave, and if we don’t we could be charged with trespassing. If we’re discovered because we had to defend ourselves, it’s an absolutely moot point since the action will definitely trump the no guns allowed policy.

  19. And we can thank Joe Biden for the Gun free zone law. Never see any talk about it but he was the sponsor for the ban.

  20. For 39 years, every set of keys I own for whichever vehicle, has a 4″ Williams, Snap On or Craftsmen adjustable (Crescent type) wrench on the key ring. It can be used for roadside repairs (not so much with newer model cars and trucks), fast home or office repairs, and it makes a hell of a weapon. Hold the keys and use the wrench as a flail or hold the wrench and use the keys as the flail. It’s never questioned, except at TSA checkpoints. I’ve carried one into courthouses, Statehouses, Schools and every conceivable Gun Free Zone. Unlike the small defence sticks, it’s instantly recognizable as a “Tool” first and foremost. Jaws open all the way makes a hell of a gouge in flesh. Flailing the wrench or keys across an assailant’s eyes will definitely get their attention real quick. You can keep all your wood and polymer Kung Fu Who Flung Dung At Who gimmicks and toys, I’ll take that wrench over any of them any day.

  21. My favorite non legal advice:
    “Do the right thing and then face the consequences.”

    Do your own risk assessment. Better to be alive and incarcerated than legal and dead.

  22. ….In the Land of The Free…And the Home of the Brave….LOL…..MOLON LABE….You folks sure it was the French that surrendered…LOL…🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  23. TTAG excerpt:

    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
    Ahhh, I have family and friends in The People’s Republic of M Assachusetts…STUN guns and Tazers are definitely still NOT AVAILABLE to the general public…THEY the Demo-Authoritarians, OUR RINO governor, Authoritarian General. Maura Healey, and the help of UNfree newspapers like the Worcester Telegram and Gazette…ALL helped make them ” unobtainium” for lawful MA. Residents. Even Pepper Spray and MACE, which were ” Deregulated” from MA. LTC/FID licensing schemes in 2014-2015. It is still hard to find -(especially, an effective law enforcement equivalent with a good track record for stopping people…)-…Some gun stores or Sporting good stores sell Junk that “ineffective, or watered-down” for the general public…Some WON’T even sell it to YOU unless you have an “LTC/ not an FID” in violation of the law…Because, the stores are paranoid and legally overly that THEIR NOT selling a defense spray to a criminal, high school, or college kids who are going to use it for pranks in public…(We have indeed come to this here…In Lala liberal land….) Anyhow, Stun guns and Tazers are now fully available to LAW ENFORCEMENT…Those who the BAN was originally intended for…(re: 1980s Boston police were using early NOVA xr5000 handheld stun guns to torture suspected drug dealers..Electric weapons were “BANNED”…It was news around the state sometime ago…Go look it up…)

  24. Screw the laws. Ignore unjust laws. All have of these things will do is make the criminal mad.

    So tired of all these articles acting like we have to obey all laws. When laws are tyrannical, it is time to ignore them!


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