Stun Gun Laws in Massachusetts

Learn about the stun gun law in Massachusetts, which was ruled unconstitutional by the state's highest court.

A stun gun (popularly also known as a Taser, the main maker of stun guns) is a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam may be directed, and which is designed to temporarily incapacitate, injure, or kill.

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131J.)

This article describes Massachusetts state law regarding who may not have a stun gun, and the circumstances or situations when carrying a stun gun is illegal in the state.

Massachusetts Law in Limbo

Until April 17, 2018, Massachusetts law on stun guns, explained below, was stable. On that date, however, the state's highest court issued an opinion that declared the underlying statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131J, unconstitutional in its entirety. (Ramirez v. Commonwealth, 2018 WL 1801917 (2018).) However, the court delayed its opinion for 60 days, giving the state legislature time to rewrite the law in a manner that would not run afoul of the Constitution.

The Ramirez court based its holding on its conclusion that a stun gun is an "arm," as that term is understood within the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a state may not entirely prohibit an individual from owning a gun, another type of "arm," though a state may reasonably regulate the kinds of persons who may not possess guns, and the places where they cannot be brought. (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).)

As you will see below, the Massachusetts law explained there makes gun ownership illegal by anyone not a peace officer or a merchant selling to a government agency. The state's high court concluded that this sweeping ban is not in keeping with the Heller decision. When the 60-day stay expires, the statute will be invalid unless the Legislature has rewritten it to avoid the Heller problem.

To learn more about how stun guns work, and how permitting laws vary by state, see States Requiring a Stun Gun Permit.

People Who May Not Carry a Stun Gun in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, one may not purchase, possess (openly or concealed), sell, or use a stun gun unless he or she is:

  • a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duty, or
  • a merchant selling stun guns to a federal or state law enforcement agency.

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131J.)

Situations or Circumstances Where Carrying a Stun Gun is Illegal

It is illegal to enter or attempt to enter a secure area of an airport while possessing a concealed stun gun.

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 12F.)

Penalties for Stun Gun Carry Violations

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.

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131J.)

It is a felony to enter or attempt to enter a secure area of an airport while possessing a concealed stun gun. Penalties include a fine up to $5,000, up to 30 months in jail or five years in prison, or both.

(Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131J.)

Getting Legal Help

If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to purchase, carry, or use a gun in Massachusetts, or if you are facing charges for a stun gun violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.

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