A Guide To Pepper Spray In New York City (Laws, Is It Legal And Where To Buy)

In a city as popular and crowded as New York City, you are bound to find different kinds of people. Some good and some very bad.

Such crowding attracts petty criminals, burglars, thieves, kidnappers, etc. You’ll need to know how to protect yourself and your loved ones from people with bad intentions.

Pepper Spray


There are different ways to protect yourself, but not all are legal or safe. The point of ‘self-protection’ would be defeated if you end up doing jail time or seriously injured in the process.

For this reason, many self-defense tools are allowed and regulated by the Law. One of which is pepper spray, a popular favorite.

If you are a New York resident or visitor and want to know more about pepper sprays, where to get them, what the state laws are and how to use them, then this article is for you.

What is Pepper Spray and How Does It Work?

Pepper spray is a nonlethal spray used during self-defense to irritate the eyes of an attacker (human or animal).

As the name implies, you put pepper in the eyes of the attacker. But it’s a little more detailed than that.

Pepper spray is a lachrymatory spray that contains Oleoresin Capsicum. Oleoresin Capsicum is a compound derived from cayenne pepper, hence the name.

Here’s what lachrymatory spray does:

  • It causes the eyes to tear up.
  • It causes intense pain in the eyes.
  • It causes a burning sensation in the lungs,
  • It causes temporary blindness.

Pepper spray will also cause the attacker to produce large amounts of mucus while their nerve endings spasm, along with their larynx. These will lead to shortness of breath and difficulty in speaking.

If you’re in danger, you can use it to temporarily incapacitate the person attacking you, providing you with enough time to escape.

How long does pepper spray last

The potency of your pepper spray determines how long it will last. The average duration is between 20 to 90 minutes. Although, redness and irritation of the eyes can last for up to 24 hours.

Pepper spray is usually packaged in canisters/cans, which are small enough to be in a purse or pocket.

Sometimes, pepper spray is hidden in items like rings and bracelets. There are also various kinds such as foggers, foam, spray, and gel.

How to use Pepper Spray

How to use Pepper Spray


Pepper spray was initially created for protection against dangerous predators like wolves, mountain lions, and bears.

It’s still referred to as bear spray by some groups of people. That gives you an idea of just how effective it is.

Pepper spray is now used by law enforcement to control riots and crowds and by civilians for self-defense.  Here’s how to use yours:

  • First, check the pepper spray canister for directions and go through them slowly. Keep in mind, that instructions may vary with different brands. Some brands for instance can spray their contents from 12 feet while others stop at just 6 feet. However, the average range is about 10 feet.
  • After reading the instructions, you should test the canister by spraying it. This will give you a feel of how it works beforehand. In any case, where you need to use your pepper spray, you would need to be as fast as possible. That would be the worst time to find out that your canister is defective.
  • Hold the can in an upright position to spray.
  • If the can has a safety feature, disable it before attempting to spray.
  • Deploy the pepper spray with your thumb while holding the can firmly in your palm.
  • If an attacker approaches you, make sure you stand firm while deploying the pepper spray and aim for their face.
  • The moment you confirm that your attacker is incapacitated, move away from the area. If you stay in the vicinity for long, you might start to feel the side effects of the pepper spray (Plus, you should be trying to get away from your attacker)

Benefits of pepper spray

  • Pepper sprays are affordable and easy to use.
  • They can be used on more than one attacker at a time
  • They are nonlethal so you don’t have to worry about killing anyone.
  • Side effects from pepper spray are not permanent so even if you get affected, the effects will wear off within a day.
  • You don’t have to be in close contact with the attacker to use your pepper spray.

Pepper Spray Laws for New York City

It is legal to own and use pepper spray in New York City, but with some restrictions. These include:

  • You must be over 18 years old to use pepper spray.
  • Anyone with a criminal record is not allowed to use pepper spray.
  • You can only carry a can of pepper spray that is about the size of a standard pocket.
  • You can only buy two cans ofpepper spray at a time.
  • You can only buy pepper spray from a licensed pharmacist or arms dealer.
  • You must sign a form confirming your age and absent criminal record before you can buy pepper spray.
  • It is illegal to have pepper spray (for humans) mailed to any address in New York City. This means you should not buy pepper spray online.
  • It is legal to have pepper spray for animals mailed to an address in New York City.
  • It is illegal to use animal pepper sprays on humans.
  • It is illegal for civilians to carry pepper spray on public airplanes. This is because of the risk of the pepper spray can going off in an enclosed space, especially one as sensitive as a commercial flight. The last thing anyone wants on one of those is pandemonium.
  • If you are caught carrying pepper spray on a commercial flight, you will be asked to pay a $25,000 fine.
  • Carrying pepper spray into government structures and state establishments is also illegal and attract the same punishment as above.

Pepper Spray Laws for Manufacturers

Manufacturers are required by law to:

  • Include a how-to-use guide on their pepper spray canisters.
  • Include information on the safe and proper way to keep the canisters.
  • Include a guide on how to administer first-aid to the victim if it looks like their life might be in danger.
  • Include a toll-free number for training on self-defense, on the canister.
  • State in clear terms that it is illegal in New York to use pepper spray for reasons other than self-defense.

Where To Buy Pepper Spray In New York City

Thanks to the New York State laws, you can’t buy pepper spray (to use on humans) online. This leaves you with two options.

  1. You can bring your pepper spray in from another state, through a friend, or if you travel back and forth. If you choose to go through this route, keep in mind that carrying pepper spray on commercial airlines is not allowed. I would advise you to stick with using cars and buses.
  2. You can buy pepper spray at a store in New York. If you’re going this route, remember that you can only buy from fully licensed arms dealers or pharmacists. You also need to sign a form confirming that you’re over 18 and not a convicted felon.

Here’s a list of stores you can visit to get your pepper spray (organized by borough):

The Bronx

F&J Police Equipment

Location: 378 E 161st St Bronx, NY 10451

Phone Number: +1 718-665-4535

Pepper Spray Authorized Dealer

Location: 781 Lydig Ave, The Bronx, NY 10462

Phone Number: +1 718-822-1348


Location: 40 W 225th St #50, The Bronx, NY 10463

Phone Number: +1 718-733-7199


Esco Drug Company

Location: 687 9th Ave New York, NY 10036

Phone Number: +1 212-246-8169

New London Specialty Pharmacy

Location: 246 8th Ave Fl 2, Ste A New York, NY 10011

Phone Number: +1 212-243-4987

West Side Rifle & Pistol Range

Location: 20 W 20th St Lower-Level New York, NY 10011

Phone Number: +1 212-929-7287


New York Police Shop

Location: 6514 Metropolitan Ave Middle Village, NY 11379

Phone Number: (718) 417-6971

Russo’s Pharmacy

Location: 1909 Cornaga Ave Queens, NY 11691

Phone Number: (718) 327-7027

DICK’S Sporting Goods

Location: 73-25 Woodhaven Blvd Glendale, NY 11385

Phone Number: (347) 396-9636


Location: 8801 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11373

Phone Number: +1 718-760-5656


DF Brothers Sports Center

Location: 7919 New Utrecht Ave Brooklyn, NY 11214

Phone Number: (718) 259-4924

Ad Meyers Uniforms Corp

Location: 63 Flatbush Ave Brooklyn, NY 11217

Phone Number: (718) 855-4018


Location: 139 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Phone Number: +1 718-290-1109

Ever Ready First Aid Medical Supply

Location: 10101 Foster Ave Ste 6 Brooklyn, NY 11236

Phone Number: (718) 495-4600

Staten Island

DICK’S Sporting Goods

Location: 2505 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314

Phone Number: +1 718-982-7260


Location: 2873 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314

Phone Number: +1 917-791-5851


Location: 955 Manor Rd, Staten Island, NY 10314

Phone Number: +1 718-983-7390

Other Self-Defense Tools You Should Consider

Not a fan of pepper spray or need some extra protection? Here’s a list of other self-defense tools which are legal in the State of New York.  They can be used in place of pepper spray or to complement it.

Tactical Pens

Tactical Pens


Tactical pens are relatively new, legal in every state in the U.S., and are used by many as an alternative to tasers and guns. The ballpoint of tactical pens is a lot sharper than the ones in ordinary pens.

Tactical pens have a blunt end to break glass in emergencies and an aluminum body that makes the pens heavier than regular pens.

You can use these features in different ways to stun or incapacitate an attacker giving you time to leave the area as fast as possible.

Some tactical pens have added functionalities such as bright lights or lasers. They are also much easier to carry or conceal due to their size than other self-defense weapons.

Emergency Whistle or Siren

Emergency Whistle or Siren


Emergency sirens are perfect for stunning attackers because of how loud they are. Some whistles are as loud as 142 decibels.

For context on how loud that is, know a police siren registers at about 120 decibels while jet engines emit up to 130 decibels.

Even the sounds from fireworks have an upper range of around 140 decibels.

Sounds around 115 – 140 decibels are so loud that humans can experience hearing pain. Depending on the brand, the emergency whistle can produce loud screeching sounds that can be heard up to 2 miles away.

Anyone would easily be discouraged from attacking you with such loud sounds signaling distress.

This device is not only effective against personal attacks but also to scare off burglars or wild animals in the woods. They also do not require you to physically touch the attacker.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pepper Spray

Who invented pepper spray?

Alan Lee Litman invented pepper spray in the 1960s. The idea for the self-defense tool was brought about after one of his wife’s colleagues got robbed in Pittsburgh.

How long will my pepper spray last?

Similar to all forms of aerosol sprays, the pressure in a can of pepper spray steadily reduces until it’s gone. This usually happens about two years after the date they were produced.

Is Pepper Spray Different from Mace?

Yes. They are 2 separate self-defense tools. Mace is very similar to tear gas and causes irritation and coughing. It is not legal in all states in the United States.

This is not to be confused with the Mace Brand which manufactures pepper spray and other types of self-defense weapons.

Are there pepper sprays for animals?

Yes, there are. Animal pepper sprays are often used by hikers, mountain climbers, hunters, and farmers to temporarily disable animals that may be trying to attack.

It can even be used by people in cities if they are attacked by wild dogs or anything of the sort.

Can I use my pepper spray more than once?

Technically, yes. However, self-defense experts recommend replacing your pepper spray after using it in a real self-defense situation.

It could have been damaged or used up in such a situation. It’s best to be on the safe side, especially in matters concerning your safety and that of others.

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