Tasers and stun guns are widely used by the police for law enforcement. Since the general recognition of civil rights by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s concerning police abuse, a number of alternatives were explored to reduce the use of deadly force. In the 1990s, the Taser became the official non-lethal alternative when the baton was insufficient to subdue a perpetrator. However, in recent years, the trend of using electroshock weapons shifted from law enforcement to consumer self-defense.
Due to multiple state court rulings that these weapons fall under the Second Amendment’s right to carry firearms, the majority of people in the U.S. are legally permitted to own stun guns. Although, take note that there are different requirements and restrictions for the possession, carrying, and use of dangerous weapons of any kind, depending on your state.
This article outlines the list of states that generally allow stun guns. However, keep in mind that rules vary from state to state — and often from city to city, too. Continue reading to learn more.
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Are Stun Guns Regulated As Heavily As Firearms
Even decades after stun guns became a consumer product in the 1990s, they didn’t gain much attention from gun-rights advocates and lobbying organizations such as the National Rifle Association. This means that in some cities and states, it was easier to acquire and use a handgun than a stun gun.
This took an unusual turn when a U.S. Supreme Court decision challenged the constitutionality of bans on handheld electroshock devices such as tasers and stun guns (Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S.Ct. 1027 (2016)). In summary, the Supreme Court dismissed a Massachusetts court’s reasoning that tasers and stun guns are not included in the Second Amendment.
The Massachusetts court argued that these devices were not protected under the amendment because they were unusual — weren’t in common use when the amendment was enacted — and couldn’t be readily deployed for military use. However, the Caetano court stated that none of those reasons ruled out the Second Amendment protection. Additionally, those reasons were inconsistent with an earlier Supreme Court decision that found the Second Amendment applicable to weapons that didn’t exist in the 18th century and weren’t useful in warfare (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)).
More recently, the decision to provide ordinary law-abiding citizens the right to carry firearms in public also included stun guns. This further implies that the Second Amendment covers modern weapons that enable armed self-defense (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. (2022)). Following this, other state courts and legislatures soon adopted the Supreme Court and Caetano court decisions. For instance, in People v. Webb, 131 N.E.3d 93 (Ill. Sup. Ct. 2019), the Illinois Supreme Court determined that the state’s blanket ban on carrying tasers and stun guns in public violated the Second Amendment.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ complete restriction on civilian possession of these weapons, even inside one’s own house, was overturned by the state’s highest court for the same reason (Ramirez v. Commonwealth, 94 N.E.3d 809 (Sup. Jud. Ct. Mass. 2018)). Instead of outright banning stun guns, Massachusetts now regulates them. Courts in other states, notably New York, have done the same.
Are Stun Guns Legal In All 50 States
Despite the progressive laws and ordinances to allow the possession, carrying, and use of stun guns, some states still consider them illegal. Also, despite being permitted in 48 other states, Hawaii and Rhode Island chose to fully restrict the sale and possession of stun guns and tasers.
The ownership of firearms and dangerous weapons, such as tasers and shock guns that use conducted energy, is governed by various U.S. regulations. Although there are nuances in U.S. regulations depending on the state, stun guns are generally classified as dangerous weapons in almost all states by local laws, such as Alabama Code 13A-1-2.
The illegality of stun guns depends on multiple factors, such as:
- Legal Age (must be 18 years old)
- Permit (some states require a permit)
It is important to note that some laws that regulate the use of firearms are changing rapidly. It is best to contact your local enforcement office for more authoritative answers, or you may also access the state website managed by the agency that administers gun permits.
For more information on which states stun guns are legal and other mitigating circumstances for their use, refer to the chart below.
|State||Is it legal to have a stun gun?||Do I need a permit to own a stun gun?|
|District of Columbia||Yes||No|
|Michigan||Yes||Yes (a concealed to carry permit)|
*In Illinois, a FOID card (Firearm Owner’s Identification Card) is required to purchase a stun gun. This card is given to someone who is 21 years of age or older, or to someone with their parent sponsorship.
**In North Carolina, you can own a stun gun, but you cannot take it outside your house as concealed carry is considered illegal.
***In Wisconsin, you must apply for a concealed carry license, which has to be renewed every five years.
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