Owning a stun gun is a crime in seven states and several cities. Carrying irritant sprays—such as pepper spray or Mace—is probably illegal in several jurisdictions. Even possessing irritant sprays at home is illegal in Massachusetts if you’re not a citizen, and in several states if you’re under eighteen (even if you’re sixteen or seventeen).

Yet in most of these jurisdictions, people are free to possess guns in the same situations where stun guns or irritant sprays are illegal. So deadly devices are fine. But say you have religious, ethical, or emotional objections to killing, or don’t want to risk accidentally killing an innocent bystander, or don’t want your children to potentially have access to a deadly weapon. Not wanting to kill, and knowing that stun guns and irritant sprays pose at most a very small risk of death, you get a stun gun (which over 198,000 civilians have apparently done) or an irritant spray. Then you’re a criminal.

In public places within some other jurisdictions, stun guns, irritant sprays, and firearms are equally banned. People there are entirely barred from defending themselves with any of the devices that are most effective for self-defense. That’s the rule in many Illinois towns, in Milwaukee as to concealed carrying, for foreign citizens in Massachusetts, and probably for eighteen- to twenty-year-olds outside the home in Connecticut and Memphis…


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