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America considers itself to be a free market, and aside from some obvious things like drugs, bombs, and people, you can pretty much buy whatever you want. Even incredibly harmful products like cigarettes, Tasers, and, yes, cars are available for purchase with a few restrictions.
But there are a few products you'd probably be surprised to learn are illegal to buy in our fair country. (Or at least illegal to buy in certain states or on your own.) Here's a list of five things that are surprisingly illegal to buy in the good ol' U.S. of A.
Not for most of us, mind you, but for residents of Alabama and Texas, sex toys are strictly taboo. The Yellowhammer State's Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act specifically bans the possession of any "device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" and first time offenders are looking at a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. (Good to know that there are exemptions "bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purposes," so congressmen, cops, and judges are off the hook.)
Sure, you can have your Splendas, Equals, and Sweet & Lows (Sweets & Low?) but the most popular artificial sweetener in the world? That's been banned since the '60s. Sodium cyclamate is a synthetic artificial sweetener that is 50 times sweeter than sugar, and although the FDA won't let you buy it here, it's approved in 55 other countries that love the sugar out of it.
Sure you can pay for gas anywhere, but there are two states that won't let you pump it yourself. Oregon and New Jersey have strict self-service bans on gasoline, over concerns that mere mortals (as opposed to those gods among us known as gas station owners and attendants) weren't fit to handle flammable liquids. Test your luck at an Oregon pump and you're looking at a $500 fine.
Not all guns, obviously, but certainly some of the least harmful. While cities and states have found it difficult if not impossible to ban semiautomatic rifles, many have been successful in prohibiting possession of their imitation, bb- or pellet-firing counterparts: Airsoft guns. Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and even parts of Michigan outlaw Airsoft guns entirely, while their sale is limited to adults 18 and older nationwide.
OK, maybe the surprising part about this ban is its necessity in the first place. But a 1984 law makes it illegal to purchase kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, pancreases, corneas, eyes, skin, and bones.
If you're not sure if something is legal to own where you live, you might want to contact a criminal defense attorney in your area before buying.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.