Pepper spray (also known as OC spray (from "Oleoresin Capsicum"), OC gas, capsicum spray, or oleoresin capsicum) is a lachrymatory agent (a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness) that is used in riot control, crowd control and personal self-defense, including defense against dogs and bears. It is a non-lethal agent that can be deadly in rare cases. The American Civil Liberties Union claims to have documented fourteen fatalities from the use of pepper spray. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chiles. Long-term effects of pepper spray have not been effectively researched.
The HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) method is used to measure the amount of capsaicin within pepper sprays. Scoville Heat Units (SHU) are used to measure the hotness of pepper spray.
A synthetic analogue of capsaicin, pelargonic acid vanillylamide (desmethyldihydrocapsaicin), is used in another version of pepper spray known as PAVA spray which is used in England. Another synthetic counterpart of pepper spray, pelargonic acid morpholide, was developed and is widely used in Russia. Its effectiveness compared to natural pepper spray is unclear and it has caused some injuries.
Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed in a pocket or purse. Pepper spray can also be bought concealed in items such as rings. There are also Pepper-spray projectile available, which can be fired from a paintball gun. Having been used for years against demonstrators, it is increasingly being used by police in routine interventions.
Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent as opposed to an irritant like Mace. It causes immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. The duration of its effects depend on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.
Internationally pepper spray is banned for use in war by the 1972 Biological Weapons convention but not for internal security use.
In Western Australia, it is legal for a person to carry pepper spray for lawful defense, if that person has, on reasonable grounds, a suspicion or belief that he or she will require the pepper spray to defend himself or herself. However, the person found carrying the pepper spray carries the burden of proving a "reasonable belief or suspicion" rather than the prosecution. In all other states and territories in Australia, pepper spray is considered illegal.
In Canada all products with a labels containing the words pepper spray, mace, etc, or otherwise originally produced for use on humans are classified as a restricted weapon, however, only Peace Officers, and individuals/corporations who have special government permits may legally carry or possess pepper spray. Any similar canister with the labels reading "dog spray" and/or "bear spray" may be legally carried by anyone, and if necessary one can defend himself against a human if it is a reasonable defense against a human attacker.
In Denmark possession of pepper spray is illegal for private citizens, but a trial period is currently in effect, where police officers in most metropolitan areas carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment. This trial period has been initiated following the shooting (and often killing) of a number of mentally ill citizens who have behaved violently or in a threatening manner, leaving the police force in want of a defensive, non-lethal weapon.
In the Dominican Republic, it is legal to own and purchase pepper spray at any age over the counter, CS spray is regulated and may be used only by military personnel on duty. Owning civilian grade pepper spray is endorsed by authorities as means of defense against stray dogs, also as a means of defense against human assailants as opposed to the use of a firearm.
In Finland it is classified as a device governed by the firearm act and possession of pepper spray requires a license. Licenses are issued for defensive purposes and to individuals working job where such a device is needed such as the private security sector. Government organizations such as defense forces and police are exempt. Concentrations are also limited to 5% active ingredient in OC sprays and 2%/2% in combinations sprays such as CN/OC.
In Germany privately owned pepper spray may fall into two different categories. Sprays that bear the test mark of the Material prÃƒÃƒÃ‚Â¼fungsanstalt may be owned and carried solely for the purpose of defense against animals. Such sprays are not legally considered as weapons. Sprays that do not bear this test mark are classified as prohibited weapons. It is nevertheless strictly prohibited to carry pepper spray at (or on the way to and from) demonstrations - whether it bears a test mark or not.
In Hong Kong. pepper spray is classified as "arms" under HK Laws. Chap 238 FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION ORDINANCE. Without a valid license from the Hong Kong Police Force, it is a crime and can result a fine of $100,000 and to imprisonment for 14 years.
In Israel, OC and CS spray cans may be purchased by any member of the public without restriction and carried in public. In the 1980s a firearms license was required for doing so, but since then these sprays have been deregulated.
In Italy OC it is considered a self-defence weapon and it is legal to own it when the active principle is less than 10%. Spray made with CS is illegal.
In Latvia pepper spray is classified as a self-defense weapon, and it is available to anyone over 16. Anyone over 18 can buy gas pistol loaded with pepper or tear gas cartridges for self defense.
In both Belgium and Netherlands it is classified as a prohibited weapon, and it is illegal for anyone other than police officers to carry a capsicum spray.
In Norway real pepper spray is only used by the police. The publicly available defense spray often called pepper spray is actually based on isopropyl alcohol.
In Poland pepper spray is not classified as a weapon, so it is available to anyone over 18.
In Russia pepper spray is a fully legal self-defense weapon and can be bought without license by any person over the age of 18 (passport being required for purchase). Its effect on animals is advertised as additional feature, compared with tear gas sprays. Carrying it at demonstrations is prohibited by law.
In South Africa it is not a licenced product and is freely available as an over the counter security product. Generally carried and used by private security officers and armed reaction officers as well as police and members of the public. A pepper spray projectile is also available also without licence. Anyone using pepper spray as anything but a defensive weapon can still be charged with a firearms offence.
In Sweden it is classified as an offensive weapon and possession of pepper spray requires a license. However, as of 2006, no such license has been issued.
In Spain approved pepper spray made with 5% CS is available to anyone over 18.
In the United Kingdom, "Any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing" is classed as a section 5 firearm (Firearms Act 1968). The same act covers other prohibited weapons such as automatic firearms and rocket launchers, all of which can only be possessed by permission of the Home Secretary. Although legal for police officers, recent debates have arisen whether such a weapon should be legal for civilians as means of defensive purposes only. At present a number of legal alternative dye sprays are sold in the UK which have the effect of temporarily blinding the attacker but do not constitute noxious substances and so do not contravene this act.
Laws on Pepper Spray in the United States of America differ between states.
* Washington, D.C., possession of pepper spray must be registered with the DC Metropolitan Police.
* Massachusetts, pepper spray can only be sold to holders of firearm identification cards.
* Wisconsin, pepper spray is limited to containers of 15-60 grams of 10% active ingredient without dyes or CN/CS.
* Michigan, pepper spray is legal if it has less than 2% of the active ingredient, this decreases the length of the effects but not the SHU. Sprays containing a mixture of CN/CS are also banned. Otherwise pepper spray is an over the counter purchase.
* In many (but not all) other states, pepper spray can be purchased at various stores and carried legally by anyone over 18.