Can You Own a Stun Gun for Self-defense?
The Legality of Stun Guns and How to Defend Yourself Without One
A stun gun, also known colloquially as a taser, is a weapon meant to incapacitate a potential assailant by delivering a targeted electric shock to disable their muscles. They are widely considered to be a non-lethal means of subduing an attacker, by using it as a self-defense weapon. Stun guns are known to inflict a significant degree of pain, but generally do not lead to permanent injuries or death. Depending on the state, they are legal and have become widely commercially available. One can even get compact versions of the weapon for the purpose of a concealed carry, though the legality of this varies.
Research Your State Laws
The fastest way to find out whether or not a stun gun is legal in your area is to look up your state regulations online or to call your local authority to see what laws do and do not apply in your jurisdiction. While a stun gun may be legal to possess in your area, your ability to defend yourself with it may not be.
Depending on the state, you may have rights under Castle Doctrine or various Stand Your Ground laws. In states that do not have these provisions, you do have what is called a duty to retreat. This means that you are legally responsible to do anything that a reasonable person would do to remove yourself from an altercation prior to partaking in any measure of self-defense – especially with a weapon. Bear in mind that laws can differ even between municipalities in the same state, so read up on your local regulations and be prepared.
Stun Guns Aren’t the Only Way
In five states (RI, NY, HI, NJ, and MA), it is illegal to buy, sell, use, or possess a stun gun for any reason. Doing so carries strict criminal penalties, regardless of the situation that compelled their use. You do not need to be defenseless in these states though. Alternatives do exist. Individuals who feel the need to defend themselves in these states can take martial arts classes, carry their keys as an improvised weapon, and apply for a concealed firearm carry permit where the laws permit. Where the laws do allow so, individuals can also elect to carry a small pocket knife, although one has to be exceedingly careful with this option, and should only use it as an absolute last resort due to its ineffectiveness. Alternatively, a can of pepper spray or bear spray could be used as a substitute. Be sure to read up on your local laws before carrying any sort of weapon.