Massachusetts: "Police, women's advocates criticize excessive mace fee"


July 13, 2003, 09:09 PM
from the Berkshire Eagle,1413,101~7514~1510059,00.htmlPolice, women's advocates criticize excessive mace fee

By Ellen G. Lahr
Berkshire Eagle Staff

People who want to buy mace or pepper spray in Massachusetts will now have to pay $100, not the previous $25, for the initial permit required for the purchase.
The one-time fee is required for a firearms identification card because the state defines chemical substances such as mace as "ammunition."

Though there's no fee for a four-year renewal permit required after four years, police and advocates for women say the new fee is excessive.

Massachusetts is one of only two states that requires permits for mace and pepper spray, which are typically purchased for self-protection by joggers, college students and women who believe they may be at risk of assault.

David Benham, owner of Dave's Sporting Goods in Pittsfield, said there's a modest but steady demand for the chemical sprays, which he sells in his shop. Customers are about equally divided among men and women, he said.

"We sell a couple of packages a week," he said.

Pittsfield Police Capt. John T. O'Neil said the fee hike is excessive, and "ridiculous."

There are a number of college-bound students who purchase mace or pepper spray for self-defense, as well as joggers who may be concerned about being accosted by either a person or a dog, he said.

"People feel more secure with it," he said. "My daughter's got it, my son's got it."

He noted that, since police routinely began carrying pepper spray about 10 years ago, the injury rate for police has been cut dramatically.

Joyce Tirrell, site supervisor for the Elizabeth Freeman Center office in North Adams, said that only a handful of women served by the agency are looking for such permits.

"But for someone who would like it, the cost makes it prohibitive," she said. "They're looking for income to cover their housing and food and everyday costs. For someone to have to spend that kind of money on some form of protection, they wouldn't even consider it."

A can of mace or pepper spray costs around $10 or $12.

The fee increase came about when Gov. Mitt Romney hiked the fees for FID cards from $25 to $100.

While FID permits for guns also carry a $100 renewal fee every four years, the renewal fee doesn't apply to permits for pepper spray or mace.

In North Adams, a college town, it's mainly young women who come in seeking FID cards for the purchases, according to police.

"Usually in September, when college students come back, some of the freshman class will come over," said Sgt. James Burdick at the North Adams Police Department. "The older students already have a permit."

He noted, however, that police have never received a report that pepper spray or mace was put to use by a college student.

Burdick said he objects to the fee hike because it isn't being used in any manner to educate people, particularly young people, about gun use and gun safety.

"Sportsmen wouldn't object if it were being used for gun education."

The fee hikes are expected to raise another $3.6 million for the state's cash-strapped coffers, and are among dozens of statewide fees for various permits and state agency transactions that have been hiked as well.

The Associated Press reported last week that about 80,000 state residents have FID cards, about 12,000 of which are restricted to the purchase of chemical sprays. Another 190,000 are licensed to carry handguns.

Lee Police Chief Ronald Glidden, who is also chairman of the state's Gun Control Advisory Board, said a gradual fee increase would have been "easier to take, particularly in tough economic times."

People who were previously considering chemical sprays as a precautionary measure now won't buy it, he said.

He said a few people in Lee, including some elderly people, have permits for chemical sprays.

Mace and pepper spray, when sprayed in the face of an attacker, produce a sudden stinging, watering pain in the eyes and mucous membranes, usually subduing an assailant.

O'Neil noted that there are college campuses, such as Northeastern University in Boston, that ban students from carrying pepper spray or mace, even though it's legal, with a permit.

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July 13, 2003, 09:43 PM
*anti mode on*

If we didn't license the posession of mace then people would be misusing it all the time. I don't trust myself to have it and therefore I don't trust you. Furthermore being sprayed with mace is painfull and nobody deserves to suffer, especially the poor victims of society who are forced to commit crime because of economic inequality. I'm hoping to see all weapons outlawed because violence is bad period.

*anti mode off*

I don't think carrying oven spray is illegal.

July 13, 2003, 09:49 PM
He noted, however, that police have never received a report that pepper spray or mace was put to use by a college student.

Emphasis added.

Local police department also denies routinely breaking up fights with serious injuries at the AXP frat house.


July 14, 2003, 12:55 AM Do what?

You have to have a permit to buy/carry pepper spray in Massachusetts??? Are you serious?

What kind of...?

Who the hell...?

How on earth...?

:scrutiny: Y'all need to do some serious housecleaning in y'alls state Gov't, I'm here to tell you.


Mike Irwin
July 14, 2003, 01:41 AM



I guess the fee's OK, though, if a woman has the temerity to want to defend herself with a firearm.

Mike Irwin
July 14, 2003, 01:43 AM
Hey Dog,

At one time Mace/Pepper sprays were flat out ILLEGAL in the People's Republic of Columbia.

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