Stun Gun Laws and Permit Requirements

Stun guns and Tasers are inconsistently regulated throughout the United States.

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Gavel and Scales

A stun gun is a device designed to stun or immobilize an attacker by administering an electric shock. When a stun gun is activated (usually by pulling a trigger), electricity passes between two metal prongs at the end of the weapon. Touching these electrified prongs against an attacker causes sharp pain.

A Taser is a pistol-type device that shoots a pair of wires tipped with small darts towards the target. The wires carry an electric charge; when the darts hit their target, a shock is delivered as the electric circuit is completed. Original Tasers used gunpowder to propel the darts, but because this delivery device resulted in placing the Taser within laws that regulate conventional firearms, Taser changed the delivery system to use compressed nitrogen instead. But as you will see, this does not mean that stun guns and Tasers cannot still be regulated as a weapon. Stun guns and Tasers thereafter became a consumer product, beginning in the 1990s.

How Do Stun Guns and Tasers Work?

Stun guns deliver a painful electric shock to the target at the point of contact. This causes the attacker to jerk away involuntarily from the stun gun. However, stun guns do not immobilize the attacker.

Tasers deliver a shock to the target’s muscles, temporarily disabling him. They usually stop the target with one blow or delivery; they are easy to use, and do not require close contact (their range is about fifteen feet). Fatalities resulting from Taser use are very rare. It is generally acknowledged that these devices are "nonlethal" and are used primarily for self-defense.

Are Stun Guns and Tasers Regulated as Heavily as Firearms?

The legality of owning and carrying a stun gun or Taser will depend on state law and, in many states, local ordinances as well. When looked at as a whole, however, it’s generally easier to own, carry, and use a firearm in the United States than it is to do the same with a stun gun, whose capacity to injure and kill is vastly less than that of a firearm. Why is this so?

The short answer is that there is no National Rifle Association for stun gun owners: No well-funded and politically powerful lobby protects the rights of stun gun owners to possess and use their devices; no one seriously uses the devices to hunt, and there are no emotional, historical, or familial arguments to be made in favor of stun gun owners’ rights (when was the last time you heard someone argue for the right to use his grandfather’s antique stun gun?). By contrast to many gun owners, stun gun owners and would-be owners tend to be relatively mild—they’re the people who want a defensive weapon only, not an offensive one; they may have moral qualms about using a deadly weapon, even in self-defense; and they may not want to take the chance that a gun, purchased only for self-defense, will fall into the wrong hands and result in a suicide or an accident. These folks do not have a lobby; consequently, legislative efforts to regulate stun guns do not result in public attention and hostility.

A few states have even outlawed the possession of stun guns and Tasers. See What states ban the use and possession of stun guns? for more information.

Owning, Using, and Carrying a Stun Gun or Taser

Some states and localities regulate stun guns and Tasers directly, with laws and ordinances that explicitly refer to them by name. But in other states, these devices are covered under the states’ general laws on gun permits and open and concealed carry laws. These states regulate “weapons,” “defensive weapons,” “offensive weapons,” “deadly or dangerous weapons,” or “dangerous instruments.” It sometimes takes a decision by an appellate court, or an opinion by a state Attorney General, to settle whether a stun gun or Taser belongs within these various classifications.

Here are some of the ways that stun gun and Taser ownership may be regulated, when the state has not directly legislated on the subject.

Weapons and defensive weapons. States whose regulations refer to “any weapon” will usually apply to stun guns and Tasers.

Projectile devices. Some regulations apply to devices that fire a projectile device, which covers Tasers but not stun guns.

Death, serious injury, or extreme pain. Some statutes regulate devices that can cause these injuries. In many states that define dangerous weapons as causing extreme pain, stun guns and Tasers will be included.

Weapons readily capable of causing death or serious injury. Stun guns and Tasers rarely result in death or serious injury, but juries may find differently.

Weapons capable or readily capable of causing death. Again, though stun guns and Tasers rarely cause death, some opinions of state attorneys general have concluded otherwise, and place stun guns and Tasers within this category.

Weapons likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. In some states, stun guns and Tasers are placed within this group, despite evidence to the contrary.

Unspecified dangerous weapons, deadly weapons, or offensive weapons. Many states place stun guns and Tasers within these groups.

Permits for Stun Guns or Tasers? How to Find Out

As you have seen, whether you need a permit for a stun gun or Taser, and whether (and where) you may carry one (openly or concealed), will depend on state and local law, and often on how your state’s judges and attorney general have placed the stun gun or Taser within the scheme of regulated weapons. To make matters more complicated, scores of American cities have enacted their own ordinances.

Some resources on the Internet purport to provide comprehensive, 50-state answers to the question of permissible ownership and use. These sites are generally commercial operations that also sell the devices, and are at least careful to warn users not to rely on the simplified answers they provide.

You may, however, be able to answer this question by simply contacting your local law enforcement office, or by going online and accessing the state website run by the agency that administers gun permits. Begin by going to Gun Laws, and read the article on gun permits and open and concealed carry for your state. Often, you’ll see a link to the state agency’s website. Call or write that agency. Your question is a legitimate one and should be readily answerable by someone in the know.

State Stun Gun Laws and Penalties

For information on how your state regulates stun guns, consult the chart below. For in-depth information, click the link to your state.

State Laws / Permit Requirements Penalties-At-A-Glance
Alabama Legal without major restrictions Under Alabama law, a stun gun is not considered a firearm. Rather, Alabama defines a firearm as a weapon that uses gunpowder to discharge a shot. While stun guns do not fall within the definition of a firearm, the use of a stun gun may still result in criminal liability.
Alaska Legal without major restrictions Alaska criminal law directly addresses the use of stun guns, which, when used during the commission of a crime, can result in being charged with a felony that carries a possible prison sentence.
Arizona Legal without major restrictions The use of an authorized remote stun gun or remote stun gun during the commission of a crime is among the 24 aggravating factors identified by statute that may authorize the judge to impose the maximum prison term allowed by law for defendants convicted of felonies.
Arkansas Legal without major restrictions A person who uses a stun gun to commit certain felonies is subject to an additional prison term of one to ten years if the crime is committed in front of a child.
California Legal without major restrictions In California, most people may purchase, posses, or use a stun gun, and they do not have to obtain a permit. However, you may not purchase, possess, or use a stun gun if you are a convicted felon, someone convicted of an assault under federal or any state’s laws or the laws of any country, or have a prior conviction for misusing a stun gun under Cal. Pen. Code §244.5, or addicted to any narcotic drug.
Colorado Legal without major restrictions It is a class 5 felony to use a stun gun in the commission of a crime. Penalties include a fine up to $100,000.
Connecticut Illegal to carry a stun gun in public (openly or concealed) without a permit It is a felony to possess a stun gun in public without a license. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to three years in prison, or both. The stun gun will also be forfeited.
Delaware Legal without major restrictions (some cities have banned possession) It is a Class A misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun for an unlawful purpose. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,300, up to one year in jail, or both.
D.C. Illegal to possess, carry, transfer, loan, manufacture, or sell a stun gun It is a misdemeanor to possess, carry, or sell a stun gun. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
Florida Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a stun gun for purposes other than self-defense (with greater penalties for concealed carry than for open carry).
Georgia Legal without major restrictions It is a felony for a convicted felon to possess or own a projectile stun gun; penalties include one year (and up to five years) in prison.
Hawaii Illegal to possess, sell, or carry a stun gun It is a misdemeanor to purchase, possess, or use a stun gun in Hawaii. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Idaho Legal without major restrictions It is a misdemeanor for convicted felons to possess or use a stun gun. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
Illinois Legal but most obtain a Firearm Owner's Identification card Unlawfully carrying a stun gun is a class A misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both.
Indiana Legal but most obtain a handgun license It is a Class B misdemeanor to sell or furnish a stun gun to a person who is less than eighteen years of age. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Iowa Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a concealed stun gun without a concealed weapons permit unless you are located on your own property.
Kansas Legal without major restrictions Generally, Kansas does not prohibit the possession of stun guns in public areas like courts and school grounds.
Kentucky Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a deadly weapon, unless you are on your own property or property owned by your family
Louisiana Legal without major restrictions It is a misdemeanor to possess a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a dangerous weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to 6 months in jail, or both.
Maine Legal without major restrictions It is a Class D crime (misdemeanor) to use an electronic weapon upon any other person for reasons other than self-defense. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 364 days in county jail, or both.
Maryland Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a concealed stun gun for purposes other than self-defense. It is also illegal to carry a stun gun (openly or concealed) with the intent to unlawfully injure another individual.
Massachusetts Illegal to purchase, possess, or sell It is a misdemeanor to purchase, possess, sell, or use a stun gun in Massachusetts. Penalties include a fine of $500 to $1,000, between six and 30 months in jail, or both.
Michigan Legal but a concealed pistol permit is required It is a felony to sell or possess a stun gun. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to four years in prison, or both. 
Minnesota Legal without major restrictions It is a felony to use a stun gun in the commission of a crime. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Mississippi Legal but must obtain a concealed carry license to carry outside It is a misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun for use as a deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both. 
Missouri Legal without major restrictions It is a Class D felony to carry a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as an offensive, lethal weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to four years in prison, or both.
Montana Legal without major restrictions It is a misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as an offensive, deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both.
Nebraska Legal without major restrictions It is a Class I misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Nevada Legal without major restrictions It is a Category B felony to use a stun gun on another person for purposes other than self-defense. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, one year (and up to six years) in prison, or both.
New Hampshire Legal without major restrictions It is a Class B felony to possess a stun gun outside of your residence if you are a convicted felon. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, one year (and up to seven years) in prison, or both.
New Jersey It is a crime of the fourth degree to possess or carry a stun gun Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to 18 months in prison, or both.
New Mexico Legal without major restrictions It is a petty misdemeanor to possess a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both.
New York Illegal to purchase, possess, or sell It is a Class A misdemeanor to possess an electronic dart gun or electronic stun gun. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
North Carolina Legal without major restrictions It is a Class 2 misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun in public. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
North Dakota Legal but a concealed weapons license is required It is a Class B misdemeanor to carry a concealed taser at a public gathering
Ohio Legal without major restrictions It is a first-degree misdemeanor to carry a concealed stun gun in public if the intent is to use the stun gun as a deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
Oklahoma Legal without major restrictions It is a felony to possess a stun gun while committing or attempting to commit another felony. Penalties include two years (and up to 10 years) in prison. Subsequent violations carry increased penalties.
Oregon Legal without major restrictions It is a Class C felony to carry a stun gun with the intent to use the stun gun unlawfully against another person. Penalties include a fine of up to $125,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Pennsylvania Legal without major restrictions It is a second degree felony to purchase, possess, or use a stun gun if you are a convicted felon. Penalties include a fine of at least $5,000 (and up to $25,000), up to ten years in prison, or both.
Rhode Island It is illegal to possess or use a stun gun Penalties include the confiscation of the stun gun and a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
South Carolina Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a concealed stun gun if the intended use involves committing a crime. Penalties include a fine of $200 (and up to $500) or 30 days (and up to 90 days) in jail.
South Dakota Legal without major restrictions Anyone who uses a stun gun to cause, or attempt to cause, bodily injury to another commits a Class 3 felony, punishable by a fine of up to $30,000, up to 15 years in prison, or both.
Tennessee Legal without major restrictions It is a Class E felony to carry a stun gun if it is intended to be used as a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000, one year (and up to six years) in prison, or both.
Texas Legal without major restrictions It is illegal to carry a stun gun in Texas for purposes other than self-defense. It is also a crime to attempt to take a stun gun (or other weapon) from a peace officer or other law enforcement agent.
Utah Legal without major restrictions It is a Class B misdemeanor to possess a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a dangerous weapon. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
Vermont Legal without major restrictions Anyone who carries a stun gun with the intent to injure another person commits a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $200, up to two years in prison, or both.
Virginia Legal without major restrictions It is a Class 6 felony for convicted felons and people who were convicted of certain crimes as minors to carry or use a stun gun in public. Penalties include either a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both
Washington Legal without major restrictions Anyone who, by an act of criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person through the use of an electronic shock device or projectile stun gun commits a Class C felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
West Virginia Legal without major restrictions It is a misdemeanor to possess a concealed stun gun if it is intended to be used as a deadly weapon. Penalties include a fine of $100 (and up to $1,000), up to 12 months in jail, or both.
Wisconsin Legal but a concealed weapons permit is required It is a Class H felony to carry, sell, transport, manufacture, or possesses a stun gun. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to six years in prison, or both.
Wyoming Legal without major restrictions It is a felony to possess, manufacture, transport, repair, or sell a stun gun with the intent to threaten another, commit assault, or inflict bodily injury on another. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

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