Pepper spray is the most popular self-defense weapon, but it is not legal in all states. At the time of publication of this writing, common pepper spray law was that you are allowed to carry it in all states.
In California, the largest can of pepper spray you are legally allowed to carry is 2.5 oz.
In Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Hawaii, pepper spray law says you are allowed carry it. There are, however, concentration limits and other restrictions. If you live in one of these states or plan to visit, be sure to carry a pepper spray that is sold as “Michigan Formula,” “Wisconsin Legal Pepper Spray,” and so on.
If you live in or plan on visiting Massachusetts and you want to carry pepper spray legally, their pepper spray law says you must get a FID (Firearms Identification Card). All you do is go to your local Massachusetts police station, show two forms of ID, fill out a form, pay $2, and wait a week. When you get your FID, keep it on your person (and of course, to make the FID useful, keep your pepper spray on your person as well).
Pepper Spray Litigation
From time to time, civilians and law enforcement officers have managed to use pepper spray excessively or irresponsibly. Even though pepper spray is non-lethal, it does hurt to go through getting sprayed with pepper spray. If you feel you have been unfairly attacked with pepper spray, you can force litigation.
Concerned citizens across the country have also noted that police offers have been known to use pepper spray on people when use of it was clearly gratuitous. Litigation has been pressed, and the media have touched on the subject to a small extent. As a result, the Justice Department commissioned a report about the benefits and dangers of pepper spray, resulting in a more education law enforcement system.
Pepper spray is a generic term for all self-defense sprays that contain oleoresin capsicum, a carrier, and a propellant. Oleoresin capsicum is the active ingredient in pepper spray, harvested or derived from cayenne peppers or other peppers. Its effects are physically incapacitating rather than painfully irritating; this makes it ideal for self-defense sprays that are intended for use on assailants who are immune to pain (psychotics, those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or just “tough guys”).
Tear gas, on the other hand, is commonly made of one of two chemical compounds: CS (orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile) or CN (choroacetophenone). These compounds, when sprayed into the face of an assailant, work to irritate eyes, skin, and respiratory system. They work on the pain principle, and so are not effective against those who are impervious to pain.
Mace is a brand name that used to offer only tear gas. Now, Mace offers several different types of self-defense spray, including:
Mace Triple Action is pepper spray, tear gas, and Ultra-Violet dye. The pepper spray physically incapacitates the assailant by forcing his eyes shut and tightening his bronchial tubes, making it impossible for him to see and very difficult for him to breathe. The tear gas irritates the bronchial tubes, causing him to cough. The UV dye brands the assailant with a purple mess, making him easily identifiable.
Pepper Mace uses a 10-percent oleoresin capsicum solution and UV dye. The OC solution is a particularly strong one; it doesn’t kick in as quickly as a smaller concentration like 1-5 percent, but the effects are longer, sometimes up to 45 minutes.
Pepper foam is the same as pepper Mace, but it sprays as foam rather than a liquid.
So as you can see, it is not a question of mace vs. pepper spray, since Mace is simply a brand name. The question is really one of Tear Gas vs. Pepper Spray. The winner? Pepper spray, hands down.