Adults in Maryland can buy stun guns and Tasers without a permit, unless they've been convicted of certain crimes. But state laws on carrying and using dangerous weapons could apply to these electronic weapons. Read on for details.
Maryland law uses the term "electronic control device" to refer to any portable weapon that can injure, immobilize, or inflict pain on someone with an electrical current (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-109 (2019)). This definition would apply to both stun guns and Tasers, despite their differences. Stun guns give a painful shock on direct contact, while Tasers (a brand name that has become the popular term for these devices) shoot darts attached to wires that transmit an electrical current, which disrupts the target's neuromuscular system.
If you're 18 or older, you may possess a stun gun or Taser in Maryland unless you've been convicted of a violent crime (such as rape, murder, and certain assaults) or one of the state's laws on controlled dangerous drugs. Because of these restrictions, a criminal background check is required before anyone sells you one of these weapons.
Generally, illegal possession of stun gun or Taser is a misdemeanor; however, you can be charged with a separate felony if have one illegally while committing a violent crime. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-109 (2019).)
Under Maryland's weapon laws, it's illegal to carry a dangerous weapon unless you:
Although the law does not specifically mention electronic control devices, they could be considered dangerous weapons. Maryland courts have found that restrictions on dangerous weapons could apply to devices not listed in the statute, if they could be used in a deadly or dangerous manner. Similarly, Maryland's ban on carrying deadly weapons on public school property could potentially apply to Tasers, depending on how courts interpret the law. (Md. Code, Crim. Law §§ 4-101, 4-102; Handy v. State, 745 A.2d 1107 (Md. Ct. App. 2000).)
Look Out for Legal Changes
Because states can change their laws at any time, it's always a good idea to check the current statute. You can find the current Maryland codes through the Maryland State Law Library.
There may be local regulations on stun guns and Tasers that are stricter than state law. For instance, although the City of Baltimore reversed its previous ban on these weapons in 2017, it still prohibits possession of electronic control devices in certain places (such as public schools and buildings) and by certain people, including anyone who's subject to a protective order or who has a psychiatric disorder along with a history of violent behavior.
If you have any questions about your legal right to own, carry, or use one of these weapons where you live, check with your local law enforcement agency or a local criminal defense lawyer. But if you're facing charges for a crime that involved the use of a stun gun or Taser, you should promptly speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer who can explain how the law applies to your situation and any legal defenses that might be available to you.