Many women ask me my opinions on weapons in self-defense.
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO.
*The below answers are for Canadians, and there may also be differences province-to-province. Always check before you buy or carry a weapon.
Firstly, and most importantly, many weapons that people think are legal to carry are, in fact, illegal:
- Mace/Pepper Spray - Illegal - In Canada, any product with a label containing the words 'pepper spray', 'mace' etc. or are otherwise originally produced for use on humans are classified as a prohibited weapon. Only law enforcement officers may legally carry or possess pepper spray.
- Dog Spray/Bear Spray - Illegal - these chemicals are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act. While it is legal to be carried by anyone, it is against the law if its use causes "a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person" or harming the environment. It carries a penalty of up to a $500 000 fine, as well as a max. jail time of 3 years.
- Switchblades - Illegal - In Canada, switchblades are illegal to sell, buy, trade, carry or otherwise possess. The Canadian Criminal Code defines the switchblade as, "A knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife." Different subsections of the code describe possession offenses and penalties. Belt-buckle daggers, push-daggers, finger-ring blades, and innocuously concealed blades are also Prohibited Weapons in Canada under SOR/98-462 Part 3. If you are found to be in possession of a switchblade, you can get up to 5 years in jail, and your weapon seized.
- Knives - Legal - There is no length restriction on carrying knives within the Criminal Code of Canada; the only restriction is for concealed carry. Every person commits an offence who carries a weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition concealed, unless the person is authorised under the Firearms Act to carry it concealed. The general rule is that if your knife is regarded as a tool (i.e. Swiss Army knife), police are generally ok with it; however, if they feel that the knife is for self-defense or for fighting, they will take it from you and charge you with possessing a dangerous weapon.
- Nunchaku (homemade or store-bought), shuriken, brass knuckles - Illegal
- Fixed blades - machetes, khukuris, swords, bayonets - Legal
- Tasers and stun guns - Illegal
Now that we understand what weapons are legal, and which are not, let me advise you to NOT carry a weapon. Keep in mind that if you introduce a weapon to an altercation, it has the potential to be used against you, particularly if you are no adept at wielding said weapon (...and even if you are!).
Secondly, if you introduce a weapon into an altercation, there are legal implications (including the possibility of losing the ability of claiming self-defense).
If you are keen to carry some sort of protection device, I'm going to be writing about improvised weapons next week.