Thoughts On Pepper-Sprayed Candidate And Why He's Wrong

Colorado congressional candidate Levi Tillman doesn’t like guns. A quick look at his campaign website makes that abundantly clear. His gun platform is a dream list from every anti-gun group out there.

However, in counter to the proposal to allow teachers to carry firearms, Tillman has another idea. Arm them with pepper spray.

And, to prove just how effective it is, he took a shot right to the eyes in this campaign commercial.

Oh, it’s hilarious.

First, the claim that President Trump wants to “give” teachers guns. No, that’s not on the agenda. What is, however, is allowing teachers to bring their own firearms with them to defend their own lives. No one wants to require teachers to carry.

But Tillman doesn’t want to acknowledge that fact. No, he wants to pretend that pepper spray is Teh Bestest!

His campaign is maintaining that his antics in the video is proof of just how awesome pepper spray is for personal defense.

Commenters underneath the Facebook video pointed out that Tilleman appears to retain his ability to move and speak even after being sprayed.

On the contrary, Tilleman’s team counters, the candidate was “completely incapacitated.”

“The scene where Levi says he still can’t see anything was about 40 minutes after the initial shot,” they reply on Facebook. “He was completely incapacitated. He couldn’t even sit down without assistance — and he had a team and supplies to help him wash off the pepper spray… It’s extremely effective!”

That’s unlikely. In a real active shooter situation, pepper spray would be only “marginally effective,” Joe Eaton, director of FASTER Saves Lives told us via email. Eaton’s program trains teachers to carry firearms in schools and use them in an emergency.

“[This is] another example of someone who has not taken even the slightest amount of time to study and try to understand these events,” he said. “Schools relying totally on a ‘less-then-lethal’ solution to a lethal threat are negligent and are endangering their students and staff.”

I can’t disagree with that in the least.

There are several reasons why this is a bad idea, and so I’m going to point a few out.


Pepper spray has a fairly short effective range. It’s damn near contact distance, truth be told. If you’re a teacher and there’s a shooter roaming through the school, guess who has the advantage? Hint: It isn’t you.

Long before anyone can get close enough to a shooter to spray them, they’ll be well within the range of any firearm on the market. In fact, by the time someone gets close enough to use the spray, they’re close enough that the only way the killer is likely to miss is if he has a seizure just as he pulls the trigger.

While a handgun and a rifle may be comparable within the confines of a school, pepper spray isn’t. With a range measuring in feet, the only way to use it effectively against a killer would be to spray them by surprise.

However, that’s also not likely to happen if killers know there’s pepper spray on the premises. Which leads us too…

Too Easy To Defeat

Pepper spray can be plenty effective, but only when it works by surprise. In other words, someone’s not expecting to get sprayed in the face with a butt-load of Scoville units worth of suck.

School shooters tend to be prepared. They know what they want to do and so they take steps. They plan. They scheme. They prepare.

That means they’ll be well aware of Tillman’s plan to place pepper spray in cabinets in schools. They’d know where those cases are and have an idea of how many there were.

And they’d gear up accordingly.

A pair of goggles will do wonders for keeping it out of the eyes. A safety respirator like the kind you can find at any home improvement store can help with any fumes.

In other words, only a few dollars worth of preparation and all of Tillman’s careful plans go out the window and kids die because the only thing to defend their lives was beaten with a trip to Home Depot.

Nice job.

Doesn’t Actually Incapacitate People

If you do get to spray an active shooter in the face with your handy pepper spray, guess what? Contrary to what Tillman’s people think, it doesn’t incapacitate you.

Oh, it’s uncomfortable for most people, and you might not see a thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a lot of carnage in the meantime. Spray and pray is still a thing, after all, and that may well be all that is needed to kill the teacher who tried to spray the shooter.

It doesn’t make someone drop everything, grab at their eyes, and scream like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. It just doesn’t happen that way, especially if someone is kind of expecting it.

Since Tillman is talking about putting pepper spray in glass cases that tell you to break in case of emergency, I’m going to guess that most folks will know it’s coming.

Which leads too…

Some People Can Shrug Off Pepper Spray

Contrary to what Tillman is peddling, some people aren’t fazed by pepper spray. Others will simply condition themselves to take a blast and keep going. There are videos on how to develop a tolerance, for crying out loud.

“Oh, that’s just a myth,” someone might say.

Really, how about this one?

That guy wasn’t even fazed.

Now, I’ll say that he didn’t take a full blast to the face like Tillman did, but that leads me to another point.

Real World Isn’t Like Show-Examples

Tillman set himself up as an example, but there are real problems with that. For one thing, he was stationary and cooperative with what was about to happen. That meant he took a full blast to the face and continued to sit as still as possible until it was over.

You’re an idiot if you think that’s how it would work in the real world.

Instead, it’ll be like that video from Finland. The spray will go all over the place and the person will keep moving, making it more difficult to hit them. Oh, and since we’re talking about an armed person, guess what happens to the one with the spray? They get shot. Probably a lot.

What they won’t do is sit there, take it, then whine like crazy about how awful it was.

Pepper spray can be an effective part of a self-defense system, but it’s not a one-shop stop for all needs in all circumstances. Yes, it’s better than harsh language, but when you’re going head-to-head with an armed, vicious, and prepared attacker, the last thing in the world you want to protect your life is a can of spray.

The only thing you can count on, the only thing you can really trust to help in a case like this, are good guys with guns.

With that in mind, why can’t people see the advantages of having as many as humanly possible in as many places as possible? This isn’t rocket science.