Staying safe amid crime waves is a major concern for many today, especially for people in America’s big cities.

Given recent reports of violent crime, having self-defense tools on hand and knowing how to use them properly could prevent an unwanted encounter or injury.

Some of the most common non-lethal self-defense tools on the market include stun guns, pepper spray and other gadgets — but it’s critical to understand how to use them safely and legally, experts say.

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While different states (and often cities as well) have specific legal guidance and parameters regarding these weapons, here is some information to start about self-defense tools. As always, make sure to know the relevant laws in your area regarding the possession and use of any of these, as there can be strict regulations regarding their use. 

All tools should be obtained, maintained and used only in accordance with applicable law and following appropriate training. 

With the important caveat of making sure they are possessed and/or used legally — (for example, a license to carry a stun gun is required in Connecticut and Florida) — stun guns and TASER devices can be helpful tools in terms of warding off potential attackers, according to experts. 

As of 2024, TASER devices are legal in all U.S. states except Rhode Island. They are also legal in the city of Chicago, Illinois, according to TASER.com. (In Canada, tasers are illegal for civilians to carry as self-defense weapons.)

In Hawaii, local laws may require TASER owners to be trained at the time of device purchase, but owning one is legal as of 2022.

While stun guns and TASERs are grouped into the same family of tools, a TASER is a registered trademark of Axon International and is the No. 1 “electronic immobilization device used by law enforcement,” according to David Nance, CEO of SABRE, a seller of self-defense products based in Chicago.

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The key difference in the tools is their range, SABRE noted on its website.

TASER devices can be deployed at a distance, but a stun gun must come in direct contact with its target.

The personal safety device company has seen a “significant” increase in sales recently, Nance said in an interview with Fox News Digital.

SABRE does not ship stun guns to the following locations due to legal restrictions: Chicago; Crawford Country, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; Hawaii; Long Island, New York; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; Newark; Delaware; New Jersey; New York City; Rhode Island; Staten Island, New York; Wilmington, Delaware; and Wisconsin. 

Stun guns cannot be sold to minors in Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire or Philadelphia, according to SABRE.

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A license to carry a stun gun is required in Connecticut and Florida. Illinois residents must possess a FOID (Firearm Owner’s Identification) card to carry a stun gun — but the device is illegal in the city of Chicago.

Again, consumers should check all applicable laws in their particular areas regarding possession and use.

Most U.S. states dictate that these tools are used only for self-defense purposes by people without a felony record, according to the legal information website Lawrina.

Pepper spray might be the “most practical and commonly used less lethal” safety product, according to Nance.

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“It provides protection at a distance,” he said. “A good spray will contain upwards of 10 seconds of spray time, which allows protection against multiple threats.”

In 42% of cases, there are multiple assailants involved in an attack, which makes pepper spray a good option to “defend yourself at a distance,” Nance noted.

While pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, specific parameters apply, according to SABRE.

Several states have restrictions on selling pepper sprays and gels to minors, while others restrict canister sizes.

As an example, pepper spray canisters in New York cannot contain more than .75 ounces.

Pepper gel is a “more modern” version of pepper spray, Nance said, since it prevents “blow back” from sprays.

“Gel typically will spray a little bit further,” he said. “It sticks to the individual and pretty much eliminates that wind blow back, and it’s ideal for use outdoors.”

Nance also mentioned the use of personal alarms, which can be “quite helpful” for drawing attention but don’t offer the ability for self-defense.

With this in mind, SABRE released a two-in-one personal alarm and pepper gel product in April. The item directs consumers to specific pepper spray laws and regulations.

Custom “striking” keychains, which are equipped with self-defense tools, have become trendy on social media.

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Add-ons include expandable batons, kubotans, folding and concealed knives, and metal knuckles.

Self Defense Keychain Store, based in New York City, reported in a statement to Fox News Digital that it has seen a “large uptick in the demand for self-defense products lately.”

“We have also seen an increase in the number of wholesalers looking to partner with us to sell our self-defense tools,” an SDK Store spokesperson said.

Some keychain additions should be considered with caution, they added.

Certain types of keychain knives may be prohibited in some states due to blade length.

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In Massachusetts, knives with a blade longer than 1.5 inches are restricted and considered “dangerous weapons,” according to the American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI).

It’s unlawful to carry knives other than general pocketknives in North Carolina, AKTI reports, while the concealed carry of knives without a license is prohibited in North Dakota.

Keychain kubotans are legal in all 50 states as of 2024, with some restrictions on length and material, according to the Home Security Superstore.

Expandable batons are illegal in the state of California, while in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C., it is illegal to carry batons outside the home.

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Brass knuckles, which are weapons worn around the knuckles to be used in hand-to-hand combat, are illegal in multiple states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to Spodek Law.

Other states, like Indiana, Minnesota and Tennessee, have partial bans in effect.

Nance of SABRE shared his opinion on these keychain weapons, noting that self-defense from a distance is always the best option.

“Why go hands-on when the attacker could be faster, stronger and more skilled than you?” he asked. 

“And then you have to be mentally prepared to want to actually stab somebody. It has to escalate to that level, and there could be fallout repercussions of that as well.”

Self-defense expert Rener Gracie, CEO and head instructor at Gracie University of Jiu-Jitsu in Torrance, California, stressed the importance of knowing how to use these tools.

“Every tool that is on the market, whether it’s a taser, a pepper spray or an edged weapon, is effective when used as intended,” he said in an interview with Fox News Digital.

Gracie emphasized that these tools should be ready to deploy at any moment, even when an attack isn’t suspected.

“When deployed as intended, they may temporarily blind a subject or cause extreme pain to make them reconsider their attack,” he said.

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“It’s all about time to respond. So you pepper spray a subject, they’re dealing with their eyes — you now have the time to get to safety, get help and ultimately save yourself from that potential assault.”

Gracie is an advocate for all tools that have “extreme benefits,” and urges people to get training to “use them effectively.”

“Chances of accessing that tool that is not in your hand already during the middle of an assault is very, very low,” he said.

“The second the assault begins, there are other imminent threats that you have to address and concern yourself with.”

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Nance agreed that having a “safety mindset” and anticipating how an attack could play out would be helpful in a real-world situation.

“Having a personal safety product that you keep accessible … and being mentally prepared to use it and visualizing how you’re going to use it will go a long way toward keeping you safe,” he added.

Once a violent attack is underway, the only tools that can be relied upon are skills committed to muscle memory through self-defense modes such as Jiu-Jitsu, according to Gracie.

“Jiu Jitsu is highly sought after, because it only takes weeks to develop the core skills that can keep you safe in a violent physical encounter for men, women or children,” he said.

Courses on using self-defense weapons are accessible through select institutions, including SABRE, which offers classes with instructors around the world, as well as instructional videos online.

Gracie University also offers various self-defense and Jiu-Jitsu courses online for people at all levels. 

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