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The city of Tacoma Washington looks likely to do away with its ban on electric weapons. The Supreme Court decision in per curiam decision in Caetano v. Massachusetts (pdf) is the reason for the change. From Caetano:

The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010).

Caetano was directly about electronic weapons. Lawsuits against bans on electronic weapons have seen success in New Jersey, New Orleans, the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland. Ongoing lawsuits are being pursued in New York State, Massachusetts, and Annapolis.


In Tacoma, private citizens can’t legally buy, sell, own, make or carry a stun gun like a Taser. That might soon change.

City attorney Bill Fosbre last week wrote a memo to the city manager and City Council recommending that such weapons be decriminalized, saying that having or using them for self-defense is likely protected by the U.S. Constitution. A vote on a proposed repeal could come in June.

A gun-rights advocacy group prodded the city last month with a letter saying that Tacoma’s prohibition on Tasers and other stun guns violates the Second Amendment. The Firearms Policy Coalition threatened to sue if it wasn’t repealed.

The Tacom city ordinance also bans ball flails, “any knife that consists of three or more blades radiating from a central hub or handle,” (Swiss army knives, anyone?), nunchaku, and throwing stars. In the municipal code all “dangerous knives” and “fighting knives” are  banned, then in the next section of the code, certain exceptions are made for “dangerous knives.  “Fighting knives,” include balisong knives, switchblades, and sword-canes. Here are the relevant sections:

8.66.080 Unlawful use of weapons.

A. Violations. It is unlawful for a person:

1. To sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, or carry any blackjack, sandclub, slungshot, metal knuckles, switchblade knife, fighting knife, martial arts weapon, ball flail, or electroshock device; or

2. Except as otherwise provided in Section 8.66.090 hereof, to carry on his or her person or in any vehicle any dangerous knife or deadly weapon; or to sell or give away to any person under 18 years of age any dangerous knife or deadly weapon; or for any such person to purchase or possess any such dangerous knife or deadly weapon.

There are a number of exceptions in the next section of the municipal code. They allow most knives to be possessed, but only carried outside the home in extremely limited circumstances.

8.66.090 Exemptions – Dangerous knives.

The proscriptions of Section 8.66.080.A.2, relating to dangerous knives, shall not apply to: Tacoma Municipal Code City Clerk’s Office 8-157 (Revised 6/2016)

A. Individual licensed hunters, boaters, fishermen, and scuba divers while on a hunting, camping, boating, fishing, or scuba-diving trip; or

B. Any person carrying such knife in a secure wrapper or in a tool box while traveling from or to the place of purchase or a place of repair, from or to such person’s home or place of business, or in moving from one place of abode or business to another, or while in such person’s place of abode or fixed place of business; or

C. Any person who, by virtue of his or her public office or public employment, is vested by law with a duty to preserve public safety, maintain public order, or to make arrests for offenses while in the performance of such duty; or

D. Any person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments; or

E. Any person, while in his or her place of abode or fixed place of business, except that this subsection is not a defense to selling or giving away any dangerous knife or deadly weapon to any person under 18 years of age.

The maximum penalty is a thousand dollar fine and 90 days in jail. Given the Caetano precedent, Tacoma should be looking at repealing their knife ban ordinance as well as their ban on electric weapons.

In 2016, the Washington State Supreme Court issued an opinion in City of Seattle v. Evans that indicated the ban on the carry of dangerous knives and the possession of “fighting knives” is likely unconstitutional under the Second Amendment and the Washington State constitution.

From the Volokh Conspiracy in the Washington Post:

The court’s analysis interprets both the Second Amendment and the Washington Constitution’s right to bear arms provision, and also says it’s consistent with Oregon and Connecticut caselaw, which views “arms” as covering switchblades, dirks, billy clubs and police batons. The court doesn’t discuss whether the protection would extend to concealed carrying, but it reaffirmed that the right to bear arms includes a “right to carry a weapon” in some way, presumably including carrying in most public places.

Knives are clearly “arms” and, by any reading, are protected by the Second Amendment and the Washington State Constitution. The question now is whether Tacoma’s city fathers will recognize that fact.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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  1. So why hasn’t the State of Washington repealed the prohibition on switchblades and other knives or is it waiting to be sued before it does? I notice that there is the usual cutout for LEO’S……

  2. Read the opening of the SCOTUS decision (linked in the photo caption above.) It sounds as if the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts didn’t even bother to READ Heller. Of course they did read Heller, they knew full well what it required, but like so many other activist courts these days, they rolled their dice, and took their chances that SCOTUS would not take the case. They have nothing to lose getting it wrong, and when they do gamble right, they continue to chip away at the constitution one case at a time.

    Not a good way to run a country.

    • You’re right, of course tfred. Some sort of meritocracy ought to prevail: overturned on appeal too many times or under the wrong circumstances equals prima facia evidence of unsuitability or incapability to perform the role, and thus a review to determine if the judge should be removed. Want to go further? How about; deny civil rights under the wrong circumstances, go to prison for the crime. Of course, this would end judicial activism instantly and permanently, and result in courts erroring on the side of civil rights…Wait, those aren’t bad things!

      Extending this, charges for denial of civil rights under color of law ought to be quite commonplace considering the laws on the books. If in doubt, don’t make the damn law. Until tissue is the norm, these fights will continue ad infinitum.

  3. “To sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, or carry any blackjack, sandclub, slungshot, metal knuckles, switchblade knife, fighting knife, martial arts weapon, ball flail, or electroshock device…

    So… it’s illegal to, say, take Karate and possess the weapons you might train with for Karate? A Karambit and a ton of other knives are illegal to even have in your house? Ditto a sap or palm sap?

    Jesus, statists just gotta state.

  4. Most of these things are banned in California as well, although the courts, after much litigation, finally conceded that a “switch blade” does not include knives such as the Kershaw “safe action” knives, and that a gravity knife is not one that opens when some monstrously strong officer flips the handle hard enough to cause the inertia of the spring to be overcome by the force applied. Swords (except sword canes) are legal,as are openly carried fixed blade knives–except in Los Angeles (unless you are in a movie). LA also bans all pocket knives with blades linger than 3″. I wonder if these local ordinances will ever fall. Fighting sticks, throwing stars, saps, and ballisongs are all definitely off limits, probably due to white legislators fearful of “foreigners.”

  5. I dont get how I have a license that legally allows me to carry any gun I can conceivably hide on my person, but I cant legally carry a switch blade, double edged knife, any knife over 4 inches, a taser or pepper spray. They’ll let me carry a gun, but pepper spray and tasers are pushing it too far? Ive always wanted a taser. Its probably the least dignified way to get arrested or subdued, 2nd only to being forcibly removed from somewhere while drunk.

  6. About the only thing that I have seen that has ANY impact on the wanton disregard for prohibitions on government ignoring their limitations (and that includes ALL levels of government) is the fairly new practice of making each and every government official PERSONALLY liable for overstepping their boundaries.
    Local Floridian governments and entities totally ignored the state’s preemption mandate on passing and enforcing gun laws/ordinances/regulations. UNTIL the state finally put teeth into the law allowing those individuals to be sued, fined (and prohibiting the miscreants from using public funds to defend themselves or to pay the fines) and removed from office. THEN the wailing and gnashing of teeth began. You would have thought that making our public servants OBEY THE LAW themselves was going to be the fall of the republic. It was music to my tired old ears.
    You can bet that the threat of impeachment is not a deterrent. Especially since the miscreants can use public funds to defend themselves and the clowns have to almost commit murder before impeachment proceedings are begun, and even then the actual conviction would be very much in doubt. (they were just misunderstood and should be give another chance to screw the people)

  7. For as much as the Left bleats incessantly on the evil of guns, you would think a far less lethal alternative like a zapper would be something they would warmly embrace.

    Then I realize they don’t, since any type of implement of self-defense makes the public less dependent on the only ones they want, the government, providing that public protection…

    • “To my knowledge, stun guns, including Tasers, are prohibited in New Jersey.”

      It appears that will soon no longer be the case:

      “N.J. agrees to lift stun gun ban after lawsuit”

      “TRENTON — New Jersey’s attorney general has formally agreed to lift the state’s ban on stun guns as part of a legal settlement with a group of gun rights advocates.

      A federal judge on Tuesday filed a consent order closing the suit and directing the state to create new regulations “consistent with public safety and the Second Amendment” within 180 days.

      Under current regulations, only police officers are permitted to carry conducted energy devices, commonly known as stun guns or Tasers. A New Jersey man, Mark Cheeseman, and the New Jersey Second Amendment Society challenged the law last year, claiming it violated his right to bear arms.

      New Jersey is among a handful of states with laws on the books banning civilians from owning stun guns.

      State Attorney General Christopher Porrino conceded in court filings last year the law “would likely not pass constitutional muster” in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw out a similar law in Massachusetts.”

  8. It’s a good step, but don’t think that it will lead to knives being decriminalized. Knives are crappy defensive weapons but good offensive weapons (i.e. you can use one much more effectively against an unsuspecting or passive target). Plus people see cops tasing people who then walk away later on.

    I know that the legal argument that they count as arms is totally valid. I’m just saying that a court will find a reason NOT to accept that.

    • I would argue that a sharp, pointy thing is an almost idea way to keep someone from getting so close as to strike or grapple a person, and one of the better ways of convincing or inducing an attacker to let go in the event a grapple has occured. Also, thousands of years of blade culture strongly disagree with the idea that knives make poor defensive weapons. By your argument, all weapons make poor defensive weapons, since using them on an unsuspecting person is almost certain to be more effective than using them on someone prepared to defend against it. Don’t believe me? Let someone put rifle plates on and try out your ‘defensive’ handgun on them. I’ll bet it doesn’t work as well as if they were unprepared.

      Did you skip your coffee this morning?

  9. MASSACHUSETTS!!! Bwhaaaaa ! Stun guns , and tasers are still unavailable to ” civilians/Citizens/peasants in MA. …Took it years for Self-defense sprays (mace, and pepper spray.) from being removed from The state licensing requirements with multiple local/state police permissions….[meaning any MA. Resident would be “jerked ” around by their no so friend left-wing Stasi PD / local licensing authority….Which prefers to intimidate its residents…Since, a MA. Resident can’t purchase/posses/own/ or carry anything without the blessing of the Local PD, and it’s chief of police….] But, the Liberal Progressive Socialist utopian Politicians granted ” Police Carve-Outs” for “Trained Local/State police to use Tasers against the MA. citizenry! But, NOT for the MA. residents for the Common Defense…Nope, Always the old Soviet moniker here in this part of New England….”C.C.C.P. = The only entities that have unmitigated access to keep and bear arms are…Criminals, Cops, Companies, and Politicians…For these are the folks with the Special Privileges…. “

  10. Furthermore, the original intent of the ” so called Electronic weapons ban in Massachusetts” was aimed originally at Law enforcement…According to my Father, during the 80’s, Massachusetts police had access to early Electric weapons and used them in a number of high profile police brutality events reported by the news…The Massachusetts police departments had “Tortured” a number of restrained Drug dealers with the 1st available contact stun gun ; Nova XR 5000…

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