Pepper Spray Laws – Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a state of contrasts when it comes to pepper sprays. On the one hand, there are copious restrictions regarding who can sell it, under what circumstances it can be bought, and who can be in possession of it with regards to criminal background and other factors.

On the other hand, Massachusetts levies no restrictions on the quantity or the type of spray that may be carried. Additionally, pepper spray intended for defense against humans may not be shipped into the state, though pepper spray intended for defense against animals may be.

Massachusetts flag

Some of these laws are seemingly contradictory, and they will definitely make you scratch your head, but they are not difficult to understand. We will give you the rest of the story regarding Massachusetts pepper spray laws in the rest of this article.

Fast Facts

  • Massachusetts has many disqualifiers to defensive spray ownership, including any felony record, a misdemeanor conviction that could have resulted in 2+ years’ incarceration, being adjudicated mentally defective and institutionalized, and being designated as a juvenile offender.
  • Defensive spray may only be sold by properly licensed dealers. Do not sell or transfer defensive spray to another if you are not a licensed dealer! See state statutes below.
  • Defensive spray intended for use on humans may not be shipped into the state direct-to-user; however, defensive spray intended for use on animals may be.
  • Civilians may own and carry defensive sprays of any size and using any formulation, including OC and CN or CS tear gasses.

Overview

Massachusetts is something of a curious state when it comes to defensive sprays and civilians. On the one hand, civilians can carry any sort of chemical agent they want for self-defense and in any size that they feel is appropriate to their needs, so long as the chemical used is non-lethal and not intended to inflict any serious bodily harm or lasting injury.

And on the other hand, the state has significant restrictions on how pepper spray is acquired, bought, sold, and who can be in possession of it based on any criminal record or other charges.

In short, convicted felons may not be in possession of pepper spray, nor can any person convicted of a misdemeanor that carried with it the possibility of two years or more of incarceration.

Anyone who has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence cannot be in possession of pepper spray nor can anyone who has been designated a juvenile offender or anyone who has been committed to a mental institution or otherwise medically incarcerated.

Also of note the only people who may legally sell pepper spray and other self-defense sprays in the state are those who are also licensed to sell firearms. This means you should not sell or transfer pepper spray to anyone else.

Additionally, people between the ages of 15 and 18 may also be in possession of pepper spray, but they must have a firearm ID card to possess or to purchase.

Also, another curiosity, pepper sprays and self-defense sprays intended for use against humans may not be shipped directly to you in the state, though you can order defensive sprays intended for use against animals and have them sent straight to your home.

In short, so long as you are legally able to own pepper spray make sure you acquire it from the proper dealer in the state and you should not have any issues.

Conclusion

Massachusetts is a state of contrasts when it comes to defensive sprays. The state has have considerably more restrictions on who is allowed to sell it, who is allowed to possess it and how an individual can purchase it but at the same time they have virtually no restrictions on the type of spray or the quantity that you are allowed to carry for self-defense.

So long as you’re not a felon or have any other questionable criminal record you shouldn’t have any problems in Massachusetts.

Relevant State Statutes

Section 122b – Sale of Ammunition; License; Fees; Rules and Regulations; Refusal, Suspension or Revocation of License; Judicial Review; Penalties

Section 122B. No person shall sell ammunition in the commonwealth unless duly licensed. The chief of police or the board or officer having control of the police in a city or town, or persons authorized by them, may, after an investigation into the criminal history of the applicant to determine eligibility to be licensed under this section, grant a license to any person, except an alien, a minor, a person who has been adjudicated a youthful offender, as defined in section fifty-two of chapter one hundred and nineteen, including those who have not received an adult sentence or a person who has been convicted of a felony in any state or federal jurisdiction, or of the unlawful use, possession or sale of narcotic or harmful drugs, to sell ammunition. Every license shall specify the street and number, if any, of the building where the business is to be carried on. The licensing authority to whom such application is made shall cause one copy of the application to be forwarded to the commissioner of the department of criminal justice information services, who shall within a reasonable time thereafter advise such authority in writing of any criminal record disqualifying the applicant. The fee for an application for a license to sell ammunition shall be $100, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain $25 of the fee; $50 of the fee shall be deposited into the general fund of the commonwealth; and $25 of the fee shall be deposited in the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund. The licensing authority to whom such application is made shall cause one copy of any approved application to be forwarded to the commissioner of the department of criminal justice information services.

Any lawfully incorporated sporting or shooting club shall, upon application, be licensed to sell or supply ammunition for regulated shooting on their premises, as for skeet, target or trap shooting; provided, however, that such club license shall, in behalf of said club, be issued to and exercised by an officer or duly authorized member of the club who himself possesses a firearm identification card or a license to carry a firearm and who would not be disqualified to receive a license to sell ammunition in his own right. The licensing authority may revoke or suspend a license to sell ammunition for violation of any provision of this chapter.

The secretary of the executive office of public safety may establish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary to carry out the provisions of this section.

Any person refused a license under this section or once issued a license under this section has had said license suspended or revoked may obtain a judicial review of such refusal, suspension or revocation by filing within thirty days of such refusal, suspension or revocation a petition for review thereof in the district court having jurisdiction in the city or town in which the applicant filed for such license, and a justice of said court, after a hearing, may direct that a license be issued the applicant if satisfied there was no reasonable ground for refusing such license and that the applicant was not prohibited by law from holding the same.

Whoever not being licensed, as hereinbefore provided, sells ammunition within the commonwealth shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than two years.


Section 122c – Illegal Sale or Possession of Self-Defense Spray; Penalty for Violation

(a) As used in this section and section 122D, ”self-defense spray” shall mean chemical mace, pepper spray or any device or instrument which contains, propels or emits a liquid, gas, powder or other substance designed to incapacitate.

(b) Whoever, not being licensed as provided in section 122B, sells self-defense spray shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2 years.

(c) Whoever sells self-defense spray to a person younger than 18 years of age, if the person younger than 18 years of age does not have a firearms identification card, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $300.

(d) A person under 18 years of age who possesses self-defense spray and who does not have a firearms identification card shall be punished by a fine of not more than $300.


Section 122d – Persons Prohibited From Purchase or Possession of Self-Defense Spray; Penalty for Violation

Section 122D. No person shall purchase or possess self-defense spray who:

(i) in a court of the commonwealth, has been convicted or adjudicated a youthful offender or delinquent child as defined in section 52 of chapter 119 for the commission of: (A) a felony; (B) a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than 2 years; (C) a violent crime as defined in section 121; (D) a violation of a law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed; or (E) a violation of a law regulating the use, possession or sale of a controlled substance as defined in section 1 of chapter 94C including, but not limited to, a violation under said chapter 94C; provided, however, that except for the commission of a violent crime or a crime involving the trafficking of controlled substances, if the person has been so convicted or adjudicated or released from confinement, probation or parole supervision for such conviction or adjudication, whichever occurs last, for 5 or more years immediately preceding the purchase or possession, that person may purchase or possess self-defense spray;

(ii) in another state or federal jurisdiction, has been convicted or adjudicated a youthful offender or delinquent child for the commission of: (A) a felony; (B) a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than 2 years; (C) a violent crime as defined in section 121; (D) a violation of a law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed; or (E) a violation of a law regulating the use, possession or sale of a controlled substance as defined in section 1 of chapter 94C; provided, however, that, except for the commission of a violent crime or a crime involving the trafficking of weapons or controlled substances, if the person has been so convicted or adjudicated or released from confinement, probation or parole supervision for such conviction or adjudication, whichever occurs last, for 5 or more years immediately preceding the purchase or possession and that applicant’s right or ability to possess a rifle or shotgun has been fully restored in the jurisdiction wherein the subject conviction or adjudication was entered, then that person may purchase or possess self-defense spray;

(iii) has been committed to any hospital or institution for mental illness unless the person obtains, prior to purchase or possession, an affidavit of a licensed physician or clinical psychologist attesting that such physician or psychologist is familiar with the applicant’s mental illness and that in the physician’s or psychologist’s opinion the applicant is not disabled by such an illness in a manner that shall prevent the applicant from possessing self-defense spray;

(iv) is or has been in recovery from or committed based upon a finding that the person is a person with an alcohol use disorder or a substance use disorder or both unless a licensed physician or clinical psychologist deems such person to be in recovery from such condition, in which case, such person may purchase or possess self-defense spray after 5 years from the date of such confinement or recovery; provided, however, that prior to such purchase or possession of self-defense spray, the applicant shall submit an affidavit issued by a licensed physician or clinical psychologist attesting that such physician or psychologist knows the person’s history of treatment and that in that physician’s or psychologist’s opinion the applicant is in recovery;

(v) at the time of the application, is younger than 15 years of age;

(vi) at the time of the application, is at least 15 years of age but less than 18 years of age unless the applicant submits with the application a certificate from the applicant’s parent or guardian granting the applicant permission to apply for a card;

(vii) is an alien who does not maintain lawful permanent residency or is an alien not residing under a visa pursuant to 8 U.S.C § 1101(a)(15)(U), or is an alien not residing under a visa pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1154(a)(1)(B)(ii)(I) or is an alien not residing under a visa pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(T)(i)(I)–(IV);

(viii) is currently subject to: (1) an order for suspension or surrender issued pursuant to section 3B or 3C of chapter 209A or section 7 of chapter 258E; or (2) a permanent or temporary protection order issued pursuant to chapter 209A or section 7 of chapter 258E; or

(ix) is currently the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant in any state or federal jurisdiction.

Whoever purchases or possesses self-defense spray in violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2 years or both such fine and imprisonment.

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