The random and brutal attack of a 25-year-old woman on Sep. 30 has generated a great deal of conversation in the Lethbridge community about personal safety.
But what can someone legally carry for personal protection? The answer to what qualifies as a prohibited weapon is complicated.
Legal trouble can arise from carrying “Any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing, or otherwise incapacitating any person,” said Lethbridge lawyer Greg White.
White deals with the circumstances surrounding prohibited weapons quite frequently in defence cases.
“I’ve had situations where people have been arrested for having bear spray in their motor vehicle,” White said. “And they were nowhere near a national park and they were actually involved, or allegedly involved in illegal activities.”
Sprays such as mace, dog spray, or bear spray, are not allowed to be carried.
However, certain styles of knives are allowed.
“People are allowed to carry knives,” said White. “Just not knives that can be opened with centrifugal force. Switch blades, and those sorts of things… But be aware if you carry a knife there are risks associated with that. Even if it was innocent, the police erring on the side of caution, may arrest you.”
Though some of them can’t be carried, local stores carry many items for personal protection. Tactical lights, batons, and knives can all be purchased, but just about all of them can be seen as a weapon.
“It doesn’t matter what it is,” White said. “Whether it’s a knife, or a rifle, or a bottle of bear spray, that’s obviously bear spray. If you’re carrying something like that in a public place, where there’s no reason for that to be there, there’s going to be problems.”
If someone happens to attack you, the law allows you to fight back — to a certain extent.
“We are allowed to defend ourselves, and we are allowed to use proportionate force to the threat that’s being given against you,” White said. “You can’t go overboard. If someone attacks you and they’re hitting you, you can’t stab them 600 times.”
But when possible, calling police for assistance in matters of personal safety is best.
Global News reached out to the Lethbridge Police Service for a comment on this story, but they declined.