The stun gun is generally accepted as a non-lethal, acceptable alternative to deadly force, and they are advertised as an excellent home and personal protection device. However, many places have banned the ownership or use of these devices - even by law enforcement professionals. Other locales severely regulate their sale and use, and enforce stiff penalties for all infractions.
The reason for the regulation of stun guns is the potential for misuse inherent in these weapons. Some governments discovered their potential as an instrument of torture, and this has led to tight restrictions in many countries, including but not confined to: Australia, Japan, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom and India (where they are restricted to police use only).
They are also banned in the following states: Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Hawaii. The District of Columbia, Philadelphia, Chicago and various cities / counties in Maryland also have rigid stun gun laws.
"You don't see people roaming the streets, openly waving their guns and creating mayhem ... You don't need to legislate common sense. You can trust people."
- Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, 1995
Possibly the stringent laws in certain areas of the US are rooted in the negative media surrounding stun gun use by law enforcement. One particularly tragic incident unfolded in New York City, as a police lieutenant ordered an officer to stun a combative, mentally unbalanced man standing on a ledge. The stunned man fell to his death, and the lieutenant committed suicide shortly thereafter.
Organizations like Amnesty International continually lobby for stronger stun gun laws, pointing to a rise in stun gun related deaths in recent years. Law enforcement agencies counter by pointing to the even larger number of incidents in which deadly force would have been used if stun guns had not been available. This indicates that stun guns save many more lives than they take, since without the option of using a TASER deadly force is often the only recourse.
Civilian purchase or use of stun guns is more rigorously overseen due to the potential for irresponsible use. Many states have stun gun laws which allow ownership, but prohibit the carrying of stunning devices in public venues. Most buildings that ban guns also ban stunning devices except when carried by law enforcement.
Another reason for stun gun laws restricting civilian purchase and ownership pertains to a number of child abuse cases where stun guns were used on toddlers and children either in professed disciplinary settings or as a form of abuse. In some cases, the children stunned have died or suffered irreparable harm.
Stun gun laws governing the purchase, sale, transfer and use of such devices can change at any time, and should be checked before a purchase attempt is made. If you live in a state or city where they are prohibited you will be unable to complete a purchase.
Possession or sale of a stun gun in an area under a ban will result in heavy fines and or imprisonment, and may be classed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the local laws. Use of a stun gun without due cause is generally considered assault with a deadly weapon, and treated accordingly.
Stun gun laws exist for a reason, and compliance is recommended. Even though stun guns are billed as ’non-lethal’, this applies to use under appropriate circumstances on a healthy individual. Any stunning device can cause death if applied recklessly, and their capabilities should never be taken lightly.