Pepper Spray Bills

5/21/14 Update: Yesterday the Senate released their version of the pepper spray bill.  It is unnecessarily convoluted and confusing.

While we are grateful to be moving forward in a positive direction, we are disappointed that a simple trip from point A to point B has become a route full of obstructions, detours and re-writes.

The good news is that the Senate bill, passed yesterday changes pepper spray/mace so that it is no longer classified as ammunition.

The bad news is that it needlessly creates a new category, "defensive sprays" (will they include wasp/hornet spray in the same category?)  This gives universities etc... the ability to ban it categorically and needlessly.  The bill also includes needless language making the sale of pepper spray/mace illegal, unless it is via a licensed firearms/ammunition dealer.

GOAL would like to remind everyone that pepper spray/mace can be legally purchased and possessed without any special license or permit in EVERY state in the country except Massachusetts.  Pepper spray/mace should be sold the same way as any common insect repellent, making it any more difficult than that is needless nanny-state intervention.

We hope the legislature takes note and fixes this legislation before sending it to the governors desk.



4/4/13 Update, Pepper Spray Bill Hearing.

On Thursday, April 4, 2013 H. 2145 An Act Relative to Non-lethal Self Defense Sprays was heard before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. H. 2145 was filed on behalf of GOAL by State Representative Kim Ferguson of Holden, MA.

The bill seeks to do away with the licensing requirement for defensive sprays in the Commonwealth. It would do so by removing these sprays from the legal definition of “ammunition” and creating a new legal definition for: “Defensive Spray” shall mean tear gas cartridges, chemical mace or any device or instrument which contains or emits a liquid, gas, powder or any other substance designed to incapacitate.”

The legislation then creates a very brief section of new law: Section 129E. Notwithstanding and special law or regulation to the contrary it shall be lawful for residents or non-residents aged 18 years of age or older to purchase, possess, carry, transport Defensive Sprays as defined in Section 121 of Chapter 140.

The bill has a very diverse coalition of sponsors that can be viewed by clicking on the “Miscellaneous” tab on the bill’s webpage listed above.

GOAL would encourage our members to reach out to the members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and urge them to release H.2145 with a favorable report.


Since the infamous Gun Control Act of 1998, Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation to license pepper spray. I am not sure who came up with the idea, but why we are wasting time licensing what amounts to a spice is beyond me. Most certainly it is a law that most non-residents working and going to school in the state are not even aware of. The legal problem is that “pepper spray” is legally defined as ammunition in Chapter 140, Section 121. The penalty for unlicensed possession is outlined in Chapter 269, Section 10(h)(1). How many people in Massachusetts even know they can receive two years in jail for carrying pepper spray without a license? Not many I would bet.

Chapter 140, Section 121: “Ammunition”, cartridges or cartridge cases, primers (igniter), bullets or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm, rifle or shotgun. The term “ammunition” shall also mean tear gas cartridges, chemical mace or any device or instrument which contains or emits a liquid, gas, powder or any other substance designed to incapacitate.

Chapter 269, Section 10(h)(1) Whoever owns, possesses or transfers a firearm, rifle, shotgun or ammunition without complying with the provisions of section 129C of chapter 140 shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 2 years or by a fine of not more than $500. Whoever commits a second or subsequent violation of this paragraph shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2 years or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. Any officer authorized to make arrests may arrest without a warrant any person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has violated this paragraph.

A major problem for non-resident possession is the cost. A resident can get a restricted Firearm Identification Card (FID) valid for six years at a reduced rate of $25. The issue for non-residents is that there is no such thing as a non-resident FID card. In order to legally possess defensive sprays, a non-resident must obtain a License to Carry under Chapter 140, Section 131F. This license will cost the person $100 and is only valid for one year.

For several legislative sessions, a growing number of legislators have been filing bills to do away with the licensing requirements for defensive sprays. Both Democrats and Republicans from all over the state are seeking to get rid of these foolish laws. So far in this legislative session we have found five bills. In last year’s session we finally had a bill come out of committee, but it was not passed into law. Hopefully in this session we can fix it.

H.2403 An Act Relative to Nonlethal Defensive Sprays (Rep. Jones)

S.1226 An Act to Remove Pepper Spray from Firearms Identification (Senator Ross)

S.1236 An Act to Allow Citizens Possession of Non-lethal Protection (Senator Timilty)

H.1578 An Act Relative to Increasing Accessibility to Non-lethal Self Defense Sprays (Rep. Toomey)

H.658 An Act Relative to Peppers Spray (Rep. Sannicandro)




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