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UNT student petitions to lower legal age to buy pepper spray

UNT student petitions to lower legal age to buy pepper spray

UNT student petitions to lower legal age to buy pepper spray
September 21
11:00 2018

From a young age, children are taught to walk with a buddy or clutch a set of keys in their hand if they are alone.

But when it comes to actually having some kind of self defense weapon, many girls and women resort to carrying pepper spray. However, the state of Texas requires that anyone trying to purchase pepper spray or mace must be 18 or older.

Social work junior Megan Mickels is working to change that.

On Aug. 30, she created an online petition in an attempt to lower the legal age to buy pepper spray to 16 years old.

“I was tired of seeing, every time I go on Facebook or Twitter, posts about girls going missing,” Mickels said. “I go to the grocery store and see bulletin boards filled with missing girls’ flyers. It seemed like it was everywhere.”

Seeing these kinds of things frequently made Mickels think about the steps being taken to reduce these missing cases. From there, she started thinking about what she could personally do to help and decided to use social media to her advantage.

“I made a video, I made a couple posts and then I realized I wasn’t the only one that felt this way, so I started the petition,” Mickels said.

When Mickels was 16 years old, she worked as a waitress. As an employee, she was required to park far away from the building. She said she would get off work late at night and have to walk the distance back in the dark.

“I had to have one of my [coworkers] end up buying [pepper spray] for me because I tried to go buy it, but I couldn’t,” Mickels said. “That comes to say, not everyone has parents that are going to buy it for you.”

Though she has not been in a situation where she has needed it, Mickels felt safer carrying it around.

“There’s definitely power in numbers [versus walking alone], but [assault or abduction] can happen to anybody [and] it can happen anywhere,” Mickels said. “Just like on campus the other day, two people were attacked. I think it’s important to have something on you to protect yourself that is non-lethal.”

Mickels knew she wasn’t an expert when it came to making legal changes, so she reached out to one of her friends who plans to attend law school, English senior Reagan Labarr, for assistance.

“I want to actually do something to change policy,” Labarr said. “I also am a feminist and believe in helping women, but on a deeper level, I care for Megan and want her to succeed. She has a real passion for this project and I think it could help so many young women.”

Labarr helped organize Mickels’ efforts by researching organizations on and off campus that would support the petition. She also helped Mickels write a letter to state representatives. 

Brenda Veronica, one of Mickels friends from high school and a close friend of Labarr’s, helped gather attention on social media.

“When [I was told] about [the petition], I was interested and backed [Mickels] up 100 percent,” Veronica said.

Though she has never used it, Veronica said she has been in situations where pepper spray could have helped.

“I have been in multiple situations where men, that I knew and had been close with, tried to take advantage of me,” Veronica said. “I’m 5-foot-4 and weigh barely over a hundred pounds. If that’s what men I knew would do, I can’t imagine being in a situation where someone I don’t know would try to do something, which is why I carry pepper spray around.”

Veronica also has three younger sisters, one of who recently turned 16.

“I don’t ever want them to be in a situation in which they can’t fend for themselves or have access to pepper spray that would potentially save them from someone trying to harm them,” Veronica said.

While there are a variety of self defense weapons to carry, Mickels prefers the idea of pepper spray because while it helps the victim make an escape, it is not lethal to the attacker.

“I feel like it’s a safer way to protect yourself than to have a knife or a gun or something that’s ridiculous for a 16-year-old to get,” Mickels said. “If I were ever in a situation where I needed to use [a knife], I don’t think I’d be able to use it just because I know that could kill somebody. I know in an attack situation, it’s about survival, but I don’t think I’d be able to bring myself to do that.”

As of Sept. 18, Mickels’ petition had 702 signatures — 298 signatures short of her goal. In efforts to get more people on board, she has placed flyers around campus with a QR code, asking students to scan it on Snapchat. Those interested in signing the petition can visit Change.org and search “Let’s Lower the Legal Age to Purchase Pepper Spray to 16.”

Featured Image: UNT junior Megan Mickles is fighting to lower the legal age limit to purchase pepper spray. Dimmaigo Escobedo

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Rebecca Najera

Rebecca Najera

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1 Comment

  1. Mrs. Ford
    Mrs. Ford November 26, 19:02

    Good idea..as a parent I would want pepper spray to b available to my son..These days children are not exempt from evil.

    Reply to this comment

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