Pepper spray: Legal and accessible, but not allowed at many colleges

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HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Purchasing pepper spray is both easy and affordable. It’s an investment you hope you will never have to use. Whether you like to jog in your neighborhood or hike in the woods, pepper spray can provide an extra element of safety.

A firearms identification card used to be required to purchase and carry pepper spray, but that changed in 2014. Now, it’s available at most sporting goods stores and gun shops.

At Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters in Hadley, they sell a variety of pepper spray products made by a company called Mace. One wards off dog attacks, some are marketed toward women, others target joggers. A gel mace can stick to someone’s face and hunters can use certain varieties to ward off bear attacks.

Using pepper spray is easy. Keep it handy, flip the safety top, grip it firm, point and press. The active ingredient is capsaicin, which comes from chili peppers. It causes a burning sensation that should disorient your attacker.

“If it’s a windy day, pepper spray can be blown back upon you. If you are indoors, even though it’s not windy you are in a confined area. Pepper spray will affect you also,” said Chris Murray, the Assistant Manager of Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters.

While pepper spray is legal under state law, UMass Amherst and other local colleges still classify it as a weapon. It’s banned from campus.

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“If I was in a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable, I’d want to have pepper spray or something else to protect myself,” said Rosemary Priest, who was visiting UMass Amherst from North Carolina.

UMass, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Amherst and Hampshire College said pepper spray is not allowed. Also, be sure to check with your airline to see if it’s allowed in your luggage.This story originally appeared on

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