Stun guns are legal in 49 out of 50 US states in 2022. The only holdout is currently Rhode Island. The legal system has struck down complete bans on consumers carrying this self-defense tool, especially since it is less lethal than a firearm.
Most states have codes that designate a stun gun as a dangerous or “less-lethal” weapon. That means you cannot point one at a peace officer.
Is There a Difference Between Stun Guns and Tasers?
Stun guns and tasers have similarities, but they are two different handheld devices that provide self-defense options. Each temporarily incapacitates a target with an electric charge when used correctly.
- Tasers are shaped like a pistol, shooting small probes at an attacker that stay attached to thin and flexible wires. When these contacts hit their target, electricity gets delivered through the wires. Pulses pass between the probes, creating incapacity by causing disruptions to the person’s neuromuscular system. Multiple cycles can be given, and the maximum range is 15 feet.
- Stun guns deliver an electric shock when the prongs on the device are pressed into an attacker and a trigger pulled. Electricity passes between each prong, offering a painful shock. The goal is to stun or incapacitate someone at closer quarters to provide an opportunity to get away.
Stun gun laws incorporate several names into the legislation governing their use. If you see information about electronic control devices, electric guns, or similar terminology, you know that they’re referencing this self-defense weapon.
Some laws use “stun gun” to refer to both types of self-defense options.
What Are the Laws on Carrying or Owning Stun Guns
Some states and cities have specific stun gun regulations. These rules may supersede others that would grant permission to carry or not carry the weapon.
You might need a permit to carry a stun gun in some localities since each community has the right to set local rules. In some situations, you can bring this self-defense tool without a problem, but you might need permission to have a taser.
Some stun gun laws are grouped into the rules governing firearm carrying and use. It all depends on how your local rules define this self-defense option.
You can find four basic classifications in the state laws when reviewing your right to carry a stun gun. Here are the definitions to watch for when reading through those regulations.
- Projectile Devices. Some laws only apply to devices that fire a projectile, which exempts a stun gun from those rules.
- Defensive Weapons. A few states use the terminology “any weapon” when referring to self-defense needs, so those rules would typically apply to a stun gun.
- Extreme Pain. Some states define a dangerous weapon as something that causes serious injury, death, or extreme pain. Unless stun guns are specifically exempted from the rules, it’s better to assume that stun guns are included in this grouping.
- Less Lethal Weapons. The courts have sometimes interpreted the idea that stun guns are “readily capable” of causing a serious injury or death. When there isn’t specificity in the statute for stun guns, it’s safer to assume they’re in this category and follow whatever laws apply.
Some states have started developing “Red Flag Laws” that allows the courts to order a person who is considered a risk of committing violence to surrender their firearms and ammunition. Although stun guns aren’t typically included in these orders, Oregon has prohibited the possession of dangerous weapons.
That means those rules could potentially apply to stun guns.
Do I Need a Permit for My Stun Gun?
Most states allow you to purchase a stun gun without a permit. Rhode Island is the one place where it is not currently permitted to own one at all.
The laws you’ll find across the United States are like a patchwork quilt, but they’re similar to what you’ll find in Washington State. Residents there can buy a taser or a stun gun without a permit, but there could be restrictions on how you use it.
Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota require anyone who wants to own a taser to go through a background check. If you live in Chicago, you must receive permission from law enforcement to carry one.
If you live in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, West Virginia, or Wisconsin, you’ll need a permit to carry a taser. Verify locally if the terminology is ambiguous enough to apply to a stun gun to ensure you comply with local rules.
Baltimore and Philadelphia used to ban the use of stun guns, but those cities reversed their stances in 2017.
Most states require stun gun owners to be 18 years of age or older.
What If I Have a Felony Conviction?
If you have a felony conviction, it may not be possible to purchase or own a stun gun. This rule depends on how your local laws classify the self-defense tool.
When the language says that it is a “dangerous weapon,” it is unlikely that you’ll be able to own or carry one legally.
Can I Ship a Stun Gun to My Address?
The stun gun laws may or may not allow you to purchase this self-defense tool and ship it to your home. In Hawaii, you can legally own a stun gun if you bought it in the state and attend a certified training class.
Other states don’t have restrictions on the sale and shipping of stun guns.
Since these rules can change at any time, you’ll want to verify the information found here with local law enforcement. They can help you apply for a concealed carry permit or what classes are necessary. A stun gun is an essential part of your self-defense portfolio. It comes in several shapes and sizes, is easy to keep in a purse or a pocket, and gives you a chance to get away from an attacker. If your local laws permit ownership, it’s an affordable way to stay safe.