“In some states, you can walk into a store and buy a handgun or assault rifle without so much as a background check,” ibtimes.com reports. Wait. What? What states would those be? *crickets chirping* “But a Taser?” they ask. “Totally illegal. This is true, for instance, in New Orleans, where Tasers are prohibited but buyers can purchase as many handguns as they like.” OK, we’re back on solid ground here; New Orleans does have a stun gun ban despite state preemption on firearms laws. But it’s odd that International Business Times doesn’t name names stun gun ban-wise. So let’s do it . . .
According to defenseproducts101.com, CEWs are banned in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Many states define conducted electronic weapons (CEWs) as a “dangerous weapon” requiring a firearms permit, and ban CEWs from legally defined “gun free zones.” Connecticut allows firearms permit holders to own CEWs, but only for home defense.
Wondering why there’s so little love for CEWs, ibtimes.com turned to the Washington Post‘s in-house gun rights guy for an answer.
“You try to regulate guns, and the NRA gets upset,” says Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Whereas, you try to regulate [stun guns], there’s nobody to speak up for them. … Nobody has fond memories of going out and stun-gunning deer with their grandfather in the woods.”
Professor James Jacobs, a legal scholar at New York University who has researched gun legislation for more than three decades, agrees.
“The obvious answer to me, or at least the one that comes to mind, is that there’s such a strong lobby for guns and for firearms. It’s so mobilized that any proposed regulation is vetted and litigated and argued against, whereas you don’t have that kind of lobby when it comes to some legislature putting in a bill to regulate the less-fatal, less-deadly weapons. There’s no lobby there,” he said.
TASER International is the largest company with a dog in the fight. In 2014, they spent $3.4 million on consulting and lobbying. It’s doubtful any of that went towards rolling back laws that prohibit or restrict CEW use. Doing so would risk alienating their core constituency.
In 2014, private citizen purchases of Tasers accounted for just $3.7 million, compared to $43.5 million worth of Tasers sold to law enforcement, military and corrections professionals, company financials show. Steve Tuttle, a representative for the company, confirmed in an interview that “our bread and butter is police” and the company does not have any particular plans to lobby the states and local jurisdictions that ban Tasers. Still, he added, “it doesn’t make any sense at all that those states don’t allow it.”
That calculus may be about to change. TASER is launching its new TASER Pulse, a light and laser-equipped CEW that looks like a sub-compact firearm and shocks bad guys for a full 30 seconds — giving potential victims time to escape (TASER replaces the gun for free upon production of a police report).
The TASER Pulse is the perfect self-defense weapon for gun-averse Americans…provided they’re not facing multiple bad guys. Anyway, TASER could well sell millions of them to the civilian market, creating a large and determined constituency for CEW law reform.
While the above mentioned states are unlikely to soften their anti-gun rights stance unless or until the U.S. Supreme Court forces them to abandon their unconstitutional gun laws, the TASER Pulse and its inevitable imitators will trigger a simple thought process in CEW-restricted states (one that’s very familiar to gun rights advocates): why can’t I just buy one of these and carry it?
This will be especially true for colleges, where Americans too young or gun-averse to carry a firearm will want this extremely effective non-lethal form of self-defense. And once Pulse owners get used to carrying a “gun” it will be that much easier for them to transition to a “proper” firearm.
That’s why the NRA, SAF and other gun rights groups should take up the cause of CEW law reform. They should lobby for their sale without a background check with a sensible age limit, as CEWs are also protected by the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. And CEWs are a gateway to gun ownership, which is a good thing, not a bad thing.