In 2019, a federal court struck down a New York law that made it illegal for civilians for possess stun guns or Tasers anywhere and for any reason. The court left open the possibility that certain restrictions on these weapons could pass constitutional muster. But until the state changes its laws, New Yorkers are free to buy, keep, and use stun guns—as long as they don’t use them to commit other crimes.
New York laws apply to two types of weapons that use an electric charge to temporarily stun or paralyze the target:
To fit in New York’s legal definition for either of these weapons, they must be intended to stun, knock out, or paralyze the target temporarily. Many other states use the blanket term stun gun for both types of these weapons. (N.Y. Penal Law § 265.00 (2019).)
Until 2019, it was a misdemeanor in New York to possess an electronic stun or dart gun. The only exceptions were for law enforcement, authorized military servicemembers, and certain defense contractors. (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.01,265.20 (2019).) However, a U.S. District Court ruled that the state’s “sweeping,” complete ban on possession or use of these weapons by civilians, even for self-defense in their own homes, violated the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The court relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), which found that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and use them for lawful purposes, even weapons that weren’t in existence when the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution. (Avitabile v. Beach, __ F.Supp.3d __ (N.D.N.Y. 2019).)
The Avitabile court explicitly left open the possibility that some restrictions on the possession and/or use of stun guns and Tasers would be constitutional. So it’s up to the New York legislators to change their laws if they want to impose restrictions, like permit requirements, similar to stun gun laws in some other states.
While we regularly update this information, states can change their laws at any time. But you can find the current version of New York State laws through the New York Courts website.
Even if a complete ban on civilian use of stun guns isn’t constitutional, that doesn’t mean New Yorkers can use the weapons for illegal purposes. For instance, criminal stalking becomes a Class E felony if the perpetrator displayed, possessed, or threatened to use a stun gun or Taser during the crime. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a prison term of at least a year and up to 15 years. (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.55, 70.00.)
If you’re facing charges for weapons violations in New York, including any restrictions related to the use or possession of stun or dart guns, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.