The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Stun guns being decriminalized


As I noted in 2009, stun guns—both Tasers, which shoot projectiles, and contact electric weapons—are banned in various places. Back then, stun guns were totally banned in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, D.C., the Virgin Islands, various cities and counties in the Annapolis/Baltimore area, New Orleans, Overland Park (the second largest city in Kansas), Philadelphia, Tacoma and Wilmington, Del., plus some smaller towns; and they were heavily regulated (e.g., with total bans on carrying in most places outside the home) in some other places.

I'm glad to say, though, that since 2009 several places have legalized stun guns, and I hope still more do so in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016), which held that stun guns are presumptively protected by the Second Amendment. (The Court didn't squarely hold that stun gun bans are unconstitutional—it left open the door that the presumption might be rebutted by some strong enough showing of public safety need—but the decision is certainly a boost for stun gun rights; see also People v. Yanna (Mich. Ct. App. 2012), striking down the Michigan stun gun ban.) In particular,

  • In 2011, Wisconsin legalized stun gun possession by people who had a license to carry concealed handguns, a license that Wisconsin law made broadly available.
  • Michigan did the same in 2012; the bill was introduced even before the Yanna decision.
  • Anne Arundel County and Harford County, Md., repealed their stun gun bans in 2013 and 2014 for anyone 18 or older who can pass a background check.
  • Overland Park repealed its stun gun ban in 2014.

And just this year,

  • The Virgin Islands repealed its stun gun ban; the repealing bill was proposed before Caetano but enacted after.
  • The county attorney of Baltimore County has concluded, in the wake of Caetano, that the Baltimore County ban was unconstitutional, athough the Baltimore city attorney's office has not yet opined on this.
  • Effective July 1, it is no longer illegal for Georgia university students age 18 or older to carry stun guns on campus.

I think these are very good developments, for reasons I discuss in this article.

[UPDATE: I originally accidentally omitted the "Georgia" in the last item—very sorry for the error, and thanks to commenter Jeff Walden for pointing this out.]