Crime and Safety

It’s crazy that New Yorkers can use but not buy pepper spray for self defense.

In New York, there is a truly idiotic law: it is forbidden to transport pepper spray. But owning it or using it in certain cases of self-defense is not illegal.

I’m writing to legislators, as well as Mayor Adams and Governor Hohul, it’s time to give voters easy access to basic self-defense tools.

I know this firsthand as a young woman living in Manhattan. Last May, I wrote about meeting a formidable man who stalked and threatened me. I managed to scare him away by brandishing a shiny pepper chain I had to buy in New Jersey.

Less than a year after that incident, I was targeted again.

While walking in Greenwich Village at 6:00 pm this weekend, I found myself looking down at a threatening man who started yelling at me. I tried to cross the street, but he blocked my path and continued to follow me in a moving vehicle.

My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in and I took off running. He managed to slap me from behind when I ran past.

I didn’t have to use the pepper spray I had in my hand. But if the situation went awry, my only hope would be to fight back against a much larger opponent.

It’s crazy that New Yorkers can use but not buy pepper spray for self defense.
Schlott said it was illogical that you could mail-order a machete in New York but not pepper spray.
Stephen Young

I am thankful that pepper spray was included in both of my terrible encounters. I wish every vulnerable New Yorker could carry a canister with them.

In 2023, New Yorkers will be able to get just about anything through Amazon, including axes and some very sharp Japanese knives. Even a machete can be ordered with next day delivery.

But in our state, you can’t buy pepper spray online and have it delivered here. And finding him live is exceptionally difficult; due to restrictions, only a few pharmacies sell it. Desperate townspeople are even exchanging banknotes online, trying to find where it’s in stock.

Blinded Pepper Spray
The author’s father regularly brings pepper spray from New Jersey to New York for her friends.
Stephen Young

My friends send pepper spray to my dad’s home in New Jersey, and he visits me regularly with packages addressed to 20-year-olds who crave a sense of safety on the streets.

SABER, the maker of pepper spray worn by NYPD officers, is facing a huge increase in demand from New Yorkers, according to SABER CEO David Nance. But the company can’t ship them here or to Massachusetts.

“At the end of the day, they just want personal security,” Nancy told The Post of potential clients. “Pepper spray allows them to protect themselves at a safe distance, which means they don’t have to make contact with an intruder.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Schlott is urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to rally New York state lawmakers on this issue.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Mayor Eric Adams
A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams said “Guarantees are currently in place in state law to ensure delivery of the mace will prevent criminals from purchasing these weapons online.”
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Meanwhile in New York, we’re seeing a huge surge in crime, including a 15-year violent crime record and an 18 percent surge in serious assaults. The number of violent crimes against the elderly in New York has been on the rise for many years. And the Asian American community was shocked by a 900 percent increase in hate crimes from 2019 to 2020.

Community activist and Chinatown Block Watch founder Carlene Chan heard from many desperate Asian Americans who couldn’t get their hands on pepper spray. So he has taken matters into his own hands and has distributed more than 6,000 donated canisters to vulnerable New Yorkers since the start of the pandemic. Six people have already told him that they used it to defend against attacks.

Chan told The Post that the law is “ridiculous” and agrees that it should be repealed: “There is fear in the city and people need to feel safe somehow. Legal to own, have and use, but illegal to send? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Pepper spray line in Manhattan's Chinatown
In April 2022, the group distributed 550 pepper spray cans to women and the elderly in Chinatown in a block-by-block lineup.

For the safety of New Yorkers, this law needs be repealed, and I urge New York legislators to do so. These are low hanging fruits. This is not a partisan issue.

As a woman, Governor Kathy Hochul must know how scary it can be to be alone on the street sometimes. And as a former crime-fighting police captain, Mayor Eric Adams must make helping New Yorkers protect themselves his number one priority.

I contacted the mayor and his spokesman, Fabien Levy, told me, “While New Yorkers may purchase and carry the mace, safeguards are currently in place in state law to ensure that delivery of the mace will prevent criminals from purchasing these weapons online. and use it to further commit their crimes against innocent New Yorkers.”

It is true that pepper spray is sometimes used to commit crimes, such as in December when a mother and her toddler were sprayed on a subway platform. But such cases happen, despite this rule. Law abiding citizens should not be punished and left defenseless because of freaks.

Ricky Schlott
Schlott said she was grateful that her pepper spray was always on hand during scary encounters, even when she didn’t have to use it.
Stephen Young

In addition, there are 48 states in the US that serve as a testament to the fact that allowing citizens to buy pepper spray online does not result in criminals running around spraying unfortunate victims left and right.

And one more thing: you can have your machete delivered right to your doorstep!

As crime continues to rise, Adams must seriously rethink his position and help fight this state law. We New Yorkers don’t feel safe. The least we deserve is the right to fight back with non-lethal weapons.

This is the second time in this column that I have called on legislators to change this law. I may sound like a broken record, but that’s exactly what you get harassed on the streets twice in less than a year.

If you agree, you can contact your representative, a member of the State Assembly, or a state senator. And call Hochul and Adams’ office and tell them you need easy access to pepper spray right now.

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