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Knock, Spray, Zap

Less-than-Lethal Weapons

SWAT member wearing a belt with non-lethal weapons

An article based on the Safety Member Certification training module "Basic Use of Force Laws" and the Church Security Guide article "Self Defense Laws, Your Rights and Use of Force."[1][2][3]

From the Bible

And the Lord said unto [Moses], "What is that in thine hand?" And he said, "A rod" (Exodus 4:2).

Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes (Psalm 89:32).

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back (Proverbs 26:3).


If a situation requires a defense beyond the use of hands but not enough to justify lethal force, we can rely on less-than-lethal (or less lethal) weapons. Most of these may be categorized as striking devices, defensive sprays, and electrical discharge devices. To put it another way, they can knock, spray, or zap an assailant. Another non-lethal defensive device, the BolaWrap (an adaptation of the bola), is currently available only to law enforcement agencies.[4]

On the Web

Cleveland, Ohio, August 21, 2023 - Mace® Security International, Inc. (the makers of the first widely-used personal defensive spray) announced that they were partnering with U.S. LawShield to provide training in self-defense. This would be nationwide. Training will be available both online and in person.

Mace, which originally produced personal-sized CN tear gas spray, is now a major maker of pepper spray, which has become the leading personal defense item. The goal of training is to reduce misuse, which could lead to injuries and legal consequences. Courses will cover situational awareness and the use of non-lethal devices, including defensive sprays and electric discharge devices.[5]

California, August 2019 - At the time of the writing of an August 7, 2019 article in Concealed Carry Law, carrying a kubaton would have been illegal in California for all except police officers, even though not specifically named. Being small enough to fit in a hand, kubatons were still covered in a ban on blackjacks and batons. Meanwhile, they were legal in several other states. Since they are often sold as weights for key chains, it would have been terribly easy for a person to break the law without realizing it.[6]

*This article illustrates the importance of knowing the weapons laws of the state where you live, visit, or travel through.

Michigan, 2010, updated 2018 - In Michigan, pepper spray is legal. However, there are maximum allowed amounts of key ingredients. For instance, only 18% of the ingredients can be oleoresin capsicum (OC), and the maximum strength (MC) is 1.4%. Also, the user should be over age 18 with no felonies, and it can be used only in defense.[7]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 1, 2015 - An insect, the bombardier beetle, uses an irritant spray for self-defense. A researcher at MIT found out how the spray is produced and used. Therefore, God is the inventor of defensive spray.[8]

London, England, U.K., April 2003 - A study on the effects of CS gas (2-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile), the most commonly used tear gas, was published by the Royal Society of Medicine in the United Kingdom. Both short-term and long-term effects were recorded. The study was based on an incident where 34 persons on a bus were exposed to tear gas used by law enforcement officers. They had varying degrees of exposure. The chart in the article noted how long certain effects lasted and when they started. Although this study is not definitely conclusive, it could spur further studies. It does say that CS was implicated in one death in the U.S.A.[9]

Southern Pennsylvania, and Des Moines, Iowa, 2024 - In its reporting on laws and regulations in various nations, the World Population Review includes laws covering pepper spray in the United States in 2024. It is simply legal in 34 states plus DC and "legal with restrictions" in 16.[10][11]

Saint Petersburg, Florida, June 4, 2020 - While discussing the types of tear gas that are in use, Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute reported that, according to official records, the use of pepper spray instead of tear gas reduced the numbers of injuries and complaints of police brutality.[12]

USA, September 16, 2021 and November 28, 2022 - In a blog article, "Stun Gun Laws by State: A Comprehensive Guide for 2022," Ulrich Faircloth reported that US Supreme Court decisions in two 2nd Amendment cases led to electric discharge devices (stun guns and Tasers) becoming legal in most states. He gives a timeline of the moves by states to conform to the SCOTUS ruling.[13]

In a later article in CriminalDefenseLawyer, E.A. Gjelten describes stun guns and Tasers and states that although they are legal, many states regulate their use, beginning with minimum ages.[14]

Defensive Tools

When people say, "weapons," most usually mean devices that are primarily instruments of deadly force. In this category are firearms, other projectile launchers (bows, slingshots, crossbows), edged weapons (knives, machetes, swords, throwing stars), piercing weapons, and impact devices (clubs, maces, and cudgels). But what about that heavy key fob? What about the cane that's not mandatory for walking? What about the pepper spray in the pocket? What about the key fob or tactical flashlight with a built-in stunner? "Oh," someone might say, "That's just a defensive tool."

Legally, any defensive or offensive tool is a weapon if it can cause injury. That's why several of these "defensive tools" are addressed in state laws and local ordinances. Therefore it is important to know what the laws are before carrying them. This is not just in the state where you live and work, but also the ones you pass through or visit. As an example, until about a year ago, a pocketknife in your pocket could have been considered a "concealed weapon" in Ohio.

Currently, all weapons are classified by degrees of lethality: non-lethal (or less than lethal), less lethal, and lethal. The first two degrees include striking devices, defensive sprays, and electric discharge devices (electroshock weapons) - those that are used to knock, spray, and zap assailants. Another type, entangling/binding devices, is not covered, since (1) lassos are too bulky for effective defense, and (2) the boleadora-type BolaWrap is not available to the general public.


Hitting is the oldest defense against an attacker. Anything the victim had in his hand would be his defensive weapon, whether a stick or a rock. Clubs and rods soon followed. Today, a common striking weapon used by law enforcement is the baton. Originally a wooden rod, there are now telescoping batons with a whip-like final portion. Because of the potential bodily damage, batons are regulated. In many places only police officers can carry them. However, a person who uses a cane to walk can also use it in defense - that is if they know how and are physically able to wield it.

The kubaton (named after its inventor, Kubota) is a small rod fitted with a key ring at one end. Usually 5.5 inches or less in length and about a half inch thick, it is made of a hard plastic (some may be metal). Long grooves make it easy to hold. A defender can hold it in one hand and jab the attacker. Serious injury is rare unless the thrust is to an eye or the throat. Kubatons have been in a gray area of weapons laws which regulate weapons used by gangs, such as blackjacks and switchblades (as was the case in California[6]). They may also be considered by some as short batons. A kubaton certainly does not have the same impact of a baton or a baseball bat. However, if you have a kubaton keychain in your pocket, check on its legality in your area.

Closely related are weight bars which are held in one's fist to lend more heft to a punch. A $10 roll of quarters could serve this purpose and might not raise an officer's eyebrow if found in your pocket.


As noted in a Sci News article, bombardier beetles make and use a defensive spray.[8] In the 1960s, CN tear gas in an aerosol spray can for personal defense was developed by Alan Littman after an associate of his wife was robbed. The current formulation has replaced most or all of the toxic CN with OC (pepper oil). One of the concerns about pepper spray is the damage it may inflict when sprayed directly into the eyes.

Pepper sprays are now popular devices for self-defense. Although legal across the nation, there are regulations in several states. First, some jurisdictions (such as Michigan) regulate the ingredients, what can go into it and at what percentages.[7]

The spray can be liquid, foam, or gel. Gel has a more focused coverage and is effective at a longer distance. Liquid sprays tend to be wide and can be blown back on the user in a contrary wind. Foam is effective at close quarters, but not at any distance.

Sabre (one of the sources of data for the World Population Review report on pepper spray laws),[10] has a pepper gel spray with UV marking dye (SABRE Pepper Gel). It is in the Sheepdog Church Security store on Amazon.[15]


Electric discharge devices (also called "electroshock weapons") use small batteries and capacitors to build up a charge which will be released when its electrodes make contact with a conducting body. The charge is great enough to temporarily incapacitate most persons (though there are some persons resistant to the shock). There are two basic types.

Stun guns come in several forms. Some are embedded in key chain fobs, tactical flashlights, and tactical pens. Even tiny ones can pack a nasty punch.

One concern about stun guns was their potential effect on the heart and on pacemakers. One urban legend is that someone used a stun gun as a defibrillator, a deed very highly unlikely to succeed. The Taser Guide says it cannot be used that way.[16]

Electroshock devices have been more regulated than defensive sprays. SCOTUS decisions on the Second Amendment have triggered revisions of state laws. The previous default was to limit their possession and use to law enforcement officers. As of now, there is still a crazy quilt of regulation for stun guns and Tasers. One common restraint is to use them only for defense. Before you even get a stun gun or Taser, check state and local laws.


Know what less lethal or non-lethal self-protection devices are available, how to use them, and your state and local laws on their possession and use.

Training Notes

All church safety team members should be trained and certified. Safety Member Certification has eight training modules (classes), including "Basic Use of Force Laws." Training is available in three formats:

Online Events Schedule






Training Module


Mar 24

Sep 8

Nov 3

Safety Team Fundamentals


Apr 7

Sep 15

Nov 10

Active Shooter Response


Apr 14

Sep 22

Nov 17

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Apr 21

Sep 29

Nov 24

Protecting Children from Abuse


Apr 28

Oct 6

Dec 15

Basic Use of Force Laws


May 5

Oct 13

Jan 5

Arson and Fire Safety


May 19

Oct 20

Jan 12

Storms and Disasters


Jun 2

Oct 27

Jan 19

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Other sources of learning about the use of force and how laws apply are the Church Security Guide article "Self Defense Laws, Your Rights and Use of Force," and the Sheepdog Article "Self Defense Laws, Your Rights and Use of Force" on the Safety Ministry Training site.[17][18]


  1. Kris Moloney, "Basic Use of Force Laws," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [] .
  2. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2018 [] .
  3. Kris Moloney, "Self Defense Laws, Your Rights and Use of Force," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [] .
  4. Police1 Staff, "5 things to know about the BolaWRAP," Police1, March 31, 2021 [] .
  5. Staff, "Mace® Turns to U.S. LawShield® to Provide Its Customers with Self-Defense Training and the Answers They Need," Mace Corporate, Mace® Security International, Inc., August 21, 2023 [] .
  6. Cameron Williams, "The Legality of Kubatons in California," Concealed Carry Law, August 7, 2019 [] .
  7. Staff, "Michigan State Pepper Spray Laws," Pepper Spray Store, no date listed, but after 2018 [] .
  8. News Staff, "New Study Shows How Bombardier Beetles Produce Defensive Spray," Sci News, May 1, 2015 [] .
  9. Y.G. Karagama, J.R. Newton, and C.J.R. Newbegin, "Short-term and long-term physical effects of exposure to CS spray," Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (J R Soc Med.), 2003 Apr; 96(4): 172-174, doi: 10.1258/jrsm.96.4.172; Accessed on National Library of Medicine [] .
  10. Staff and members, using data from Zarc International and Sabre, "Pepper Spray Laws by State 2024," World Population Review, accessed March 3, 2024 [] .
  11. Ben Kaplan, "Pepper Spray Laws by State," WiseVoter, no date [] .
  12. Al Tompkins, "There are many types of ‘tear gas.' Here's how to tell the difference," Poynter Institute, June 4, 2020 [] .
  13. Ulrich Faircloth, "Stun Gun Laws by State: A Comprehensive Guide for 2022," Stun & Run Self Defense, LLC, September 16, 2021 [] .
  14. E.A. Gjelten, "Stun Gun Laws and Permit Requirements," CriminalDefenseLawyer, Updated November 28, 2022 [] .
  15. "SABRE Pepper Gel with Attachment Clip," Recommended Equipment for Safety Ministries, Amazon [] .
  16. Staff, "Can a Taser Be Used as a Defibrillator?" Taser Guide [] .
  17. Sheepdog Articles, Safety Ministry Training [] .
  18. Kris Moloney, "Self Defense Laws, Your Rights and Use of Force," Sheepdog Articles, Safety Ministry Training, January 24, 2024 [] .