Age Restrictions on Self-Defense Items

by Abigail Cardenas

Currently in Texas, it is illegal to carry self-defense items such as pepper spray and mace unless you are older than 18 years old. This law poses a threat for vulnerable young women around the state, as pepper spray is one of the most common and useful non-lethal self-defense items. In the summer of 2021 alone, 28 teenage girls have gone missing in the state of Texas, some of which could have been avoided with the carriage of a non-lethal self-defense item. 

It is only legal to carry pepper spray and mace for self-defense purposes if an individual is of age, and these items can be helpful if somebody is utilizing unlawful force against another person. This law, however, needs to extend to the younger population, as younger teenage girls are statistically one of the most often targeted groups by kidnappers, sex traffickers and similar threats. In 2020, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 4.9 million women had been victims of sexual assault in their lives, nine out of every ten of these attacks being commited by men.

This is not only a statewide issue, but an issue within schools as well. Many underage students feel safer when carrying self-defense items around with them, especially with the new surge of popularity for self-defense keychains and social media advocating for these issues. While there is nothing in the school handbook that specifies the district’s regulations on carrying these items, many nearby schools ban this possession when on school grounds, and state laws on age restrictions are still enforced.

Knowing that more than 460,000 children get abducted or go missing annually, most of these victims being 12-17 year old girls, it is fully necessary that teenagers are not only permitted to carry pepper spray and mace, but are encouraged to. This simple addition to a student’s key chain can be the difference between life and death and can simply make an individual feel safer and less vulnerable. 

If these items are ever used inappropriately or unjustly, then it is rightful that punishment should occur, however, there should be no penalties for simply carrying these around as a precautionary measure.

Young women especially should be inclined to push for the lowering of this age restriction law and encourage one another to educate themselves on these products. While all genders should be cautious and take measures to protect themselves, it is statistically proven that females are at an increased risk of being targeted. In a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 1 million women reported having been stalked in their lifetime, many of which reference physical assault. 

On the other hand, Texas schools need to do a better job at educating their students on how to protect themselves and utilize these products. This would not only be beneficial for teenagers to protect themselves, but to emphasize the issue of abuse and ultimately raise awareness to reduce the severity of this problem. Self defense lessons should be provided and accessible for at least each year of high school, and health courses should do a better job covering these issues. 

While this age restriction was put in place to protect younger demographics from possible weapons, it may be doing more harm than good. A minor’s inability to possess these tools places them in an even more vulnerable spot than they were initially in with the concerningly high statistics of teenage abduction.

The age requirement for owning pepper spray and mace needs to be lowered for the safety of vulnerable teenagers. Alongside this, education about self-defense needs to be extended further into high school curriculum to increase both awareness and safety.