Last summer, a 70 year old veteran by the name of William Wingate, was arrested by the Seattle Police Department for obstruction and harassment. What did he do to deserve this? He was stopped by a police officer for carrying a golf club, which he had been using as a cane for the last 20 years without incident. When he decided not to follow the orders of the police officer by dropping the club, he was cuffed and taken to jail.
Aside from ridiculousness of the situation, the whole incident has got me thinking about the state of self defense laws in America today. Every state has a very specific list of items that you cannot carry with you in public, or use as a weapon. But there are also certain items that fall into a grey area, and some of these items can be pretty benign, such as a golf club or a baseball bat. Despite not being designed for combat, they have gained a reputation for being improvised weapons, and can still get you into trouble.
Your intent can also make for a tricky situation, should you be dragged into court for defending yourself. Let’s say you fight off an attacker with an ordinary wooden cane. It’s clear that you defended yourself with a weapon of last resort. But what if you were using a “tactical” cane made entirely out of aluminum, which is advertised as a self defense weapon? An overzealous prosecutor might argue that you intended to hurt someone. Why else would you be walking around with a “weapon?”
So if you’re looking to defend yourself without raising the ire of the law, take a look at these five ordinary objects I’ve listed below. After sifting through the LAPD’s extensive list of disguised and improvised weapons, I’m pretty confident that none of these objects will raise any eyebrows, should you choose to carry them. Still, this article isn’t legal advice, so make sure you research your local laws before carrying any sort of weapon.
It’s light, it’s portable, and it looks completely innocuous. It’s also potentially lethal in the right hands, because carabiners also make great knuckledusters. Just make sure to get a carabiner with a locking mechanism so you can maintain a good grip. And try to avoid the really cheap ones that can only be used as key chains. You want something that is somewhat heavy and durable, and will stand up to a lot of abuse.
There are some great tactical pens on the market today, but even a cheap plastic pen can be potentially lethal. Unfortunately, they are liable to break during any self defense situation, but an ordinary stainless steel pen can get the job done as well.
Canes actually have a very long history of use in self defense. During the late 19th century there was even a school of martial arts built around the cane called bartitsu, which was quite popular in Victorian Britain. This school was itself a descendant from an earlier French martial art known as canne de combat.
There should be no doubt as to why 19th century gentleman were so enamored with cane fighting. The weight of a walking stick is both light enough to swing, but still heavy enough to deal lethal blows, and also puts distance between you and your opponent. I’d recommend something made out of oak, which compared to other wooden materials, is a great compromise between weight and hardness.
Of all the items on this list, I don’t think any of them look more harmless than a stainless steel water bottle. It has no reputation for being used as a weapon, despite having a lot of potential. Granted, when it’s empty it’s not going to be very effective as a bludgeoning weapon. But if it’s filled with water or some other fluid, you can do some serious damage with that thing. And if the bottle cap has a plastic ring, feel free to run a lanyard through it so you can swing the bottle at your opponent.
If you happen to be traveling at night consider taking a hefty flashlight with you, like the one pictured above. There’s a good reason why these are often carried by bouncers, security guards, and cops, and it has little to do with the light they provide. Though they are bright enough to temporarily blind someone at night, they can also be easily used as a baton.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a society that doesn’t allow us to defend ourselves with whatever tools are available. Whenever any object is used in a crime, they are quick to demonize and outlaw it, leaving everyone else scrambling to find an alternative way to protect themselves. The fact that I have to write this article, is proof that our legislators have gone off the deep end. But rest assured that no matter what tool or weapon is banned next, almost anything can be used to protect yourself.