The Michigan House passed a bill that would allow possession and "reasonable use" of stun guns for anyone age 18 and older.
Bill sponsor Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R- Manton, said HB 4020 would allow Michigan residents to protect themselves.
“Many people are uncomfortable carrying firearms and would prefer to instead carry a stun gun for self-defense,” Hoitenga said in a statement. “Stun guns are a good, non-lethal way for people to protect themselves from violence – and there’s absolutely no reason to continue banning them in Michigan.”
The Michigan Court of Appeals in 2012 struck down a state ban on stun gun possession in People v. Yanna, ruling the law violated the Michigan Constitution and the Second Amendment.
State law now requires a concealed pistol license to possess a Taser or stun gun for those age 21 and older.
Stun guns require direct contact to stun another person, according to Taser’s website, while Tasers use compressed gas to shoot barbed electrical probes reaching about 15 feet that cause neuromuscular incapacitation.
“The safety of our residents is not a partisan issue,” Hoitenga said. “It’s time to give our residents access to this effective and non-lethal option for defending themselves.”
The Tuesday vote in the House was 84-24
Executive Director of The Michigan Sheriff’s Association Blaine A. Koops told The Center Square in an email the organization is opposed to the bill.
The bill “appears to be an easy avenue toward abuse of the proposed piece of equipment,” Koops wrote, which they “believe would be particularly true for the young person who may take this to school or events where students are participating.”
Koops said stun guns require direct contact, which leaves “the opportunity for an attacker to disable a victim if the device is commandeered.”
Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA Law School, filed an amicus brief in People v. Yanna on behalf of Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment (AWARE), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit.
Volokh told The Center Square that people have good reasons to use stun guns, such as ethical or moral reasons against killing or an 18-year-old woman who just moved to college and wants to be able to defend herself.
“Many people don’t want to carry deadly weapons, but do want to carry non-deadly weapons, although some want to carry both, so they have the option,” Volokh said.
Volokh wrote that people own stun guns and firearms for the same reasons police carry both; “so that they can opt for a nonlethal response whenever possible, and for a lethal one when absolutely necessary.”
Stun guns, like most devices, can be used for criminal purposes, Volokh said, but if someone is going to use a stun gun to rob people, they obviously aren’t deterred by the law against robbery.
Stun guns are currently more regulated than handguns in Michigan, Volokh said, because the law requires a CPL permit to possess a stun gun anywhere, including in a person's home.
“It used to be that you could have a gun in your home, you could have a gun in public and carry it with you around all you want, except in some certain places, but if you want a stun gun instead, a less-lethal device, that’s a crime,” Volokh said.
Tasers are deadly in less than 0.01 percent of all cases, Volokh wrote, compared to an estimated 20 percent death rate from gunshot wounds and an estimated 2 percent death rate from knife wounds.
House Bill 4020 now moves to the Senate for consideration.