The New Jersey Revised Statutes treats the Bill of Rights like a baby treats a diaper. So it’s not surprising that possession of nonlethal stun guns by New Jersey residents was banned…until last week, that is. Under pressure from litigation brought from the New Jersey Second Amendment Society (never give up the fight, guys,) the Garden State’s Attorney General decided that “an outright ban on the possession of electronic arms within the state…would likely not pass constitutional muster” in light of a bevy of cases on stun guns and the Second Amendment going all the way back to Heller.
As a result, both parties signed a consent decree that states, in part:
1. The Second Amendment guarantees individuals a fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self defense…. Further, ‘the Second Amendment extends…to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not inexistence at the time of the founding….”
2. [T]o the extent this statute outright prohibits…individuals from possessing electronic arms, [it] is declared unconstitutional in that it violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and shall not be enforced.
3. [The statute] shall not be enforced to the extent [it] prohibits, under criminal penalty, the sale or shipment of Tasers(r) or other electronic arms….
The consent decree will not go into effect for another 180 days, giving the state time to revise “existing controlling legal authorities.” For its part, the New Jersey Second Amendment Society will be able to recoup reasonable court costs.
New Jersey State Assemblyman Raj Mukherji was dismayed by the civil rights victory. “I don’t know why anyone other than law enforcement officers need to have stun guns…. I think that our philosophy, our regulations when it comes to stun guns should be similar to our approach to gun [control] overall, which is as restrictive as possible.”
The New Jersey Second Amendment Society dismissed Mukerji’s comment, vowing to fight any “upcoming revenge legislation” in the State Legislature. “They will be paying our legal fees (again) as well when they lose… again.”
There was also a victory for citizens’ right to keep and bear nonlethal weapons in New Orleans. The Big Easy reversed its stun gun ban last week pursuant to a December 2016 agreement with John Ford, a resident who had been pursuing litigation claiming for the violation of his civil rights.
Under the terms of their agreement, Ford gave the city time to revise its ordinances to remove the ban and resolve the litigation; in return, the city agreed that Ford would be able to own and possess stun guns in the city in the meantime. Because the terms of the Order applied only to Ford, he was the only person (not in the police or military, of course,) able to legally do so in NOLA until the new ordinance went into effect last week.
It’s confusing why people want to ban stun guns with apparently more vigor than they want to ban firearms at times. It could simply be that existing codes were often written with the assumption that “armed” equates to “firearm”, but that’s simply not the case. The Second Amendment exists to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and it doesn’t single out firearms which the founders could easily have done.
In fact, the First Amendment is slightly more anachronistic than the Second, because it talks of freedom of the “press”, suggesting that it’s talking about people operating printing presses, a piece of equipment that many news organizations (fake or otherwise) in the nation today specifically do not use. It is good to see these laws being rolled back. But, as always: faster, please.
(See Professor Eugene Volokh’s article, Nonlethal Self Defense, (Almost Entirely) Nonlethal Weapons, and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Defend Life, published in the Stanford Law Review if you’re really interested in this line of law.)