Washington D.C. is rightly regarded as infamous for its draconian restrictions on firearms and general otherness compared to the laws elsewhere in the land throughout the United States.
It is perhaps surprising then that D.C. is so permissive when it comes to civilian possession and use of pepper sprays, at least compared to their firearms and knife laws.
D.C. does have a strict interpretation of what constitutes an allowed self-defense spray and, based on the wording of the statute in question, only aerosol or mist sprays are legal for civilians.
Other than this, there does not appear to be any restriction on capacity or carry of self-defense sprays, though as you might expect there is a long list of places where you won’t be able to carry it throughout the district.
We will tell you everything you need to know below and we have also included a selection of the most pertinent statutes at the end of this article.
- Washington D.C. allows citizens to carry typical defensive spray formulas of OC pepper spray as well as the common formulations of tear gas, both CN and CS. Blends are also allowed.
- It should be noted that based on a strict reading of Washington D.C. statute 7-2502.13 only aerosol or mist defensive sprays are permitted for civilian use. Foams or gels are restricted.
- Washington D.C. has no capacity restriction for civilian self-defense sprays, though any such spray must be labeled with or accompanied by instructions and stamped with an expiry date.
- Despite Washington D.C.’s general permissiveness for civilian ownership of self-defense sprays, there are many places you are not allowed to carry them. Always make sure to check whether or not self-defense sprays are permitted before carrying into sensitive or secured areas.
As mentioned above Washington D.C. might be a surprisingly permissive environment when it comes to civilians possessing self-defense sprays, but it is far from the laissez-faire standard set by other, freer places in the Union.
The good news is that D.C. allows citizens to carry whatever formulation of defensive spray they prefer, from legit pepper spray to any common formulation of tear gas, be it CN or CS.
Before you ask, yes, blends of any of the above are permitted if you so desire, though as always the watchword for defensive sprays is that they inflict no serious injury and make for no lasting harm.
So what’s the bad news? The bad news is that according to one of Washington D.C.’s statutes, specifically 7-2502.13 “Possession of self-defense sprays” any person who possesses a self-defense spray for the purposes of self-defense is only permitted to carry one with any of the agents listed above propelled from an aerosol container. That seems to describe the majority of self-defense sprays on the market, so what is the big deal?
The big deal is, based strictly on the exact wording of the statute, only self-defense sprays that emit a fine mist in action (an aerosol) are permissible. Arguably solid stream dispensers might be questionable, but this certainly rules out foams and gels of any kind. Bit of a bummer, that.
But other than that, things are still pretty good for users of pepper spray in Washington D.C. Citizens may carry any quantity of any legal spray and formula that they desire, though they will need to be on the lookout for the many restricted areas that they cannot carry such sprays into. Any citizen carrying anything more threatening than a nail file should be used to this treatment in D.C. by now.
It is also worth noting that D.C. mandates any self-defense spray be sold with either a set of instructions for safe use or have printed instructions on the dispenser, and the dispenser must also be stamped or otherwise marked with the manufacturer’s recommended use-by date.
Washington D.C. is not as restrictive as you might be thinking when it comes to the use of self-defense sprays, and it does allow citizens to choose any formulation they desire so long as it is an aerosol or mist dispersal pattern.
Foams, gels and other delivery systems are strictly forbidden from civilian possession. On the other hand, citizens may carry any quantity of self-defense spray they desire so long as it meets these regulations, though you will always have to be on the lookout for restricted areas.
Washington D.C. gets a passable grade from us concerning civilian use and possession of self-defense sprays.
Relevant State Statutes
7–2502.12. Definition of self-defense sprays.
For the purposes of §§ 7-2502.12 through 7-2502.14, the term:
“Self-defense spray” means a mixture of a lacrimator including chloroacetophenone, alphacloracetophenone, phenylchloromethylketone, orthochlorobenazalm-alononitrile or oleoresin capsicum.
7–2502.13. Possession of self-defense sprays.
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of § 7-2501.01(7)(C), a person may possess and use a self-defense spray in the exercise of reasonable force in defense of the person or the person’s property only if it is propelled from an aerosol container, labeled with or accompanied by clearly written instructions as to its use, and dated to indicate its anticipated useful life.
(b) No person shall possess a self-defense spray which is of a type other than that specified in §§ 7-2502.12 to 7-2502.14.
As used in this unit the term:
(7) “Destructive device” means:
(A) An explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, mine, or similar device;
(B) Any device by whatever name known which will, or is designed or redesigned, or may be readily converted or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant through a smooth bore barrel, except a shotgun;
(C) Any device containing tear gas or a chemically similar lacrimator or sternutator by whatever name known;
(E) Any combination of parts designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device; or from which a destructive device may be readily assembled; provided, that the term shall not include:
22–4502. Additional penalty for committing crime when armed.
(a) Any person who commits a crime of violence, or a dangerous crime in the District of Columbia when armed with or having readily available any pistol or other firearm (or imitation thereof) or other dangerous or deadly weapon (including a sawed-off shotgun, shotgun, machine gun, rifle, stun gun, dirk, bowie knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, razor, blackjack, billy, or metallic or other false knuckles):
(1) May, if such person is convicted for the first time of having so committed a crime of violence, or a dangerous crime in the District of Columbia, be sentenced, in addition to the penalty provided for such crime, to a period of imprisonment which may be up to, and including, 30 years for all offenses except first degree murder while armed, second degree murder while armed, first degree sexual abuse while armed, and first degree child sexual abuse while armed, and shall, if convicted of such offenses while armed with any pistol or firearm, be imprisoned for a mandatory-minimum term of not less than 5 years; and
(2) Shall, if such person is convicted more than once of having so committed a crime of violence, or a dangerous crime in the District of Columbia, or an offense in any other jurisdiction that would constitute a crime of violence or dangerous crime if committed in the District of Columbia, be sentenced, in addition to the penalty provided for such crime, to a period of imprisonment of not less than 5 years and, except for first degree murder while armed, second degree murder while armed, first degree sexual abuse while armed and first degree child sexual abuse while armed, not more than 30 years, and shall, if convicted of such second offense while armed with any pistol or firearm, be imprisoned for a mandatory-minimum term of not less than 10 years.
(3) Shall, if such person is convicted of first degree murder while armed, second degree murder while armed, first degree sexual abuse while armed, or first degree child sexual abuse while armed, be sentenced, in addition to the penalty provided for such crime, to a period of imprisonment of not less than the minimum and mandatory minimum sentences required by subsections (a)(1), (a)(2), (c) and (e) of this section and § 22-2104, and not more than life imprisonment or life imprisonment without possibility of release as authorized by § 24-403.01(b-2); § 22-2104; § 22-2104.01; and §§ 22-3002, 22-3008, and 22-3020.
(4) For purposes of imprisonment following revocation of release authorized by § 24-403.01(b)(7), the offenses defined by this section are Class A felonies.
(c) Any person sentenced pursuant to paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subsection (a) above for a conviction of a crime of violence or a dangerous crime while armed with any pistol or firearm, shall serve a mandatory-minimum term of 5 years, if sentenced pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this section, or 10 years, if sentenced pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this section, and such person shall not be released, granted probation, or granted suspension of sentence, prior to serving such mandatory-minimum sentence.
(e)(1) Subchapter I of Chapter 9 of Title 24 shall not apply with respect to any person sentenced under paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this section or to any person convicted more than once of having committed a crime of violence or a dangerous crime in the District of Columbia sentenced under subsection (a)(3) of this section.
(2) The execution or imposition of any term of imprisonment imposed under paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (a) of this section may not be suspended and probation may not be granted.
(e-1) In addition to any other penalty provided under this section, a person may be fined an amount not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01.
(f) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed as reducing any sentence otherwise imposed or authorized to be imposed.
(g) No conviction with respect to which a person has been pardoned on the ground of innocence shall be taken into account in applying this section.
22–403. Assault with intent to commit any other offense.
Whoever assaults another with intent to commit any other offense which may be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years. In addition to any other penalty provided under this section, a person may be fined an amount not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01.
22–404. Assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner; stalking.
(a)(1) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or be imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both.
(2) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes significant bodily injury to another shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or be imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “significant bodily injury” means an injury that requires hospitalization or immediate medical attention.
22–404.01. Aggravated assault.
(a) A person commits the offense of aggravated assault if:
(1) By any means, that person knowingly or purposely causes serious bodily injury to another person; or
(2) Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, that person intentionally or knowingly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious bodily injury to another person, and thereby causes serious bodily injury.
(b) Any person convicted of aggravated assault shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or be imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.
(c) Any person convicted of attempted aggravated assault shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.
22–402. Assault with intent to commit mayhem or with dangerous weapon.
Every person convicted of an assault with intent to commit mayhem, or of an assault with a dangerous weapon, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 10 years. In addition to any other penalty provided under this section, a person may be fined an amount not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01.
22–407. Threats to do bodily harm.
Whoever is convicted in the District of threats to do bodily harm shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, in addition thereto, or in lieu thereof, may be required to give bond to keep the peace for a period not exceeding 1 year.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.