Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Self-defense is a crime

American gun-control advocates praise Australia's gun laws. But it doesn't stop there. From what I've read, Australian authorities are so obsessed with the offensive potential of certain weapons or articles that they completely disregard their defensive potential. They don't allow you to protect yourself. You have to hope that an assailant will be considerate enough to assault you in a police station. 

Notice how these laws infantilize the general public. Look at the arbitrary nature of Austrilian knife laws:

Many knives and even pepper spray are illegal:

Can I carry capsicum or pepper spray to protect myself or for purposes of self defence?

No. It is not legal to carry any article designed or adapted to discharge an offensive, noxious or irritant liquid, powder, gas or chemical so as to cause disability, incapacity or harm to another person. Capsicum spray, pepper spray or any other similar articles are prohibited weapons and are inappropriate for general possession without a Governor in Council Exemption Order or a Chief Commissioner Approval. Self protection or self defence is not a lawful excuse to be able to possess these articles. Alternative options are to carry personal alarm devices such as whistles or personal protection alarms.

See the Community Safety page for further information on ways you can be prepared and reduce your chance of being a victim of crime.
What is a credit card knife?

The credit card knife folds into the shape and size of a credit card and is designed to be concealed inside a wallet or pocket. Please be advised that persons found to be in possession of a credit card knife risk being charged with possession of a prohibited weapon as there is no lawful excuse to carry this item.

But if you are thinking about arming yourself with pepper spray in Australia, you may want to reconsider that approach. In most states and territories, including NSW, it is illegal to carry or possess pepper spray or mace. These items are classed as prohibited weapons. The only exception is in Western Australia, where pepper spray and mace are defined as controlled weapons, meaning that ownership of them is legal, but is restricted.

This article will outline the legality of carrying these items, and the possible legal consequences of possessing or using them.

Can I carry pepper spray or mace?

In NSW, Section 7 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 states that it is an offence to possess or use a prohibited weapon unless authorised with a permit. Permits authorise the use of a prohibited weapon for sporting, training or instructing purposes, or for educational, historical or commemorative-type purposes. Permits are usually not issued to people wanting to carry items for personal security or recreational purposes.

Schedule 1 of the Act lists items classed as prohibited weapons. Included in that list is mace and any device designed or intended as a defence or anti-personnel spray that is capable of discharging by any means any irritant matter comprising or containing in liquid, powder, gas or chemical form oleoresin capsicum, known as OC. OC is generally the main ingredient used in pepper spray.

So the short answer is no, you cannot carry pepper spray or mace to protect yourself in NSW. This list also covers many more items that you are not permitted to carry to protect yourself. For example, flick knives, kung-fu sticks, batons, Tasers, and even light-emitting anti-personnel devices that are designed to cause temporary incapacity are also classed as prohibited weapons.

It is worth noting that police officers are permitted to carry pepper spray and mace. However, they must use these devices reasonably and appropriately in the right circumstances, or they may face an internal investigation and reprimand.

Using pepper spray or mace

To be in possession of these items is an offence. Using them is also an offence, and can give rise not only to breaching the Act, but also to being charged with additional criminal offences.

For example, if you are in a situation where you are carrying pepper spray, and you are attacked and use it to defend yourself, you may still be charged for possession and use of a prohibited weapon.

You may also possibly be charged for assault, or assault occasioning actual bodily harm. You could have your lawyer raise the argument that you acted in self-defence, which the prosecution would have to negate by showing your actions were not a reasonable response. But even if you are successful in this defence, you are being put through quite an ordeal with being charged by police and facing the stress, time and expense of a court process. The penalties for using pepper spray against someone can be severe.

The penalties for using pepper spray or mace

Unauthorised possession or use of pepper spray or mace is a serious offence. It can be prosecuted on indictment, which means you can face a jury trial in the district court. If you are charged on indictment, then the maximum penalty is up to 14 years in prison.


  1. "Alternative options are to carry personal alarm devices such as whistles"

    This is barbaric. I was once attacked by a local Austarlian gang known as the Toot Sweets. You can watch some of their mayhem here: https://youtu.be/PX_HljAELcA?t=28s.

    My ears were ringing for a good fifteen minutes being assaulted. And the government wants me to sink to the thug's level and whistle back at them? Time to evolve. Outlaw whistles!

  2. People on both sides of the debate in the US should stop referring to Australia. We (I am Australian) have a completely different history, culture, laws and a different police force. This isn't a gospel issue, let us do our own thing (with our own set of pros and cons) and you Americans do your own thing.

    1. I agree on the merits. Since, however, gun-control advocates keep pointing to Australia as the standard of comparison, it's appropriate to respond to them on their own terms.

      And the fact that something isn't a gospel issue doesn't mean it's off-limits.