Concealed Carry / My Experience / Personal Defense

Self-Defense Pretty Much Illegal in Washington, DC

As a follow-up to my previous post on my post-Paris attack trip to Washington, DC, I have been exploring possible avenues for protecting myself while there. Obviously, guns are off the table in DC. No bug out bag with a Glock 17 and takedown 10/22 (not that I have such a bag).

I was surprised to learn that one of my old standbys, the Spyderco kerambit, may also be illegal to carry in DC.


At least according to the interpretation of DC law on the KnifeUp website, any knife that does not have “utility purposes” is illegal to carry. And self-defense is apparently not a utility purpose.

Washington DC Knife Laws

What about pepper spray? Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a terrorist more than the threat of being pepper sprayed, right? Well, according to the Metropolitan Police Department web site, pepper spray — well, certain pepper sprays — ARE LEGAL in the city!

DC Pepper Spray Law

Though it is interesting to note that if I buy a self-defense spray in the District, I have to REGISTER IT with the MPD Firearms Registration Section. OMG. WTF. LOL. I feel so much safer with this registration requirement on the books.

The odds are that I will not need to defend myself during this trip to Washington, which is a good thing because the city government doesn’t give me many options to do so anyway.

UPDATE: Comment by Exurban Kevin reminded me of this apparently legal (even in DC) option. Thanks!


11 thoughts on “Self-Defense Pretty Much Illegal in Washington, DC

  1. I traveled up to Canada a few years ago, and the knife laws there are probably as onerous as the laws in DC. I carried a 2xAA cell flashlight with me of at least 150 lumens. It was bright enough to disorient and distract somebody at night, and hefty enough that it would make an impression on somebody who got to close.


  2. Pingback: Self-Defense Pretty Much Illegal in Washington, DC | Rifleman III Journal

  3. ‘Tis an unholy shame that one must sacrifice the most basic of human rights when venturing out on the dangerous streets of the District.


  4. That knife looks to me what you’d use to open a box. However, the cops and prosecutors might disagree.

    I think the suggestion on the flashlight is a good one. A tactical pen or even a stainless steel Sharpie would be good.


  5. Pingback: Attending the 2015 American Society of Criminology Annual Meetings | Gun Culture 2.0

  6. You misread the DC website’s rules on registering pepper spray–it’s inly registered by the vendor, not you. And if you bring in a legal pepper spray from outside DC, no registration is required.

    Also, handguns are allowed in DC, as the handgun ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. The Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment acknowledges and guarantees the right of the individual to possess and carry firearms, and therefore D.C.’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional.


    • DC’S handgun ban was ruled unconstitutional. Does not mean I am allowed to possess a handgun in DC. Emily Miller’s book on the topic, Emily Gets Her Gun, documents this extensively.


  7. Emily gets her gun was written in 2003. Has no bearing on the Supreme Court ruling in 2008. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), is a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held in a 5–4 decision that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Heller v. District of Columbia.[3][4] The Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional, determined that handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment, found that the Regulations Act was an unconstitutional ban, and struck down the portion of the Regulations Act that requires all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock”.


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