Washington State doesn’t directly regulate the purchase or possession of stun guns and Tasers. However, some restrictions on dangerous weapons in the state could apply to these devices. Read on for details.
What Are Stun Guns and Tasers?
The terms stun gun and Taser are often used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between these devices. Stun guns have prongs that deliver a painful shock on direct contact. Tasers (the common brand name for devices sometimes called projectile stun guns) work from a distance by shooting small probes attached to thin wires that deliver the electrical charge. Both stun guns and Tasers can temporarily immobilize or incapacitate someone, but Tasers actually disrupt the the body's neuromuscular system.
It’s a misdemeanor in Washington to carry, display, or draw any weapon that’s “apparently capable of producing bodily harm” in an intimidating way or under circumstances that would make others fear for their safety, unless you are:
Also, it’s a felony to use a weapon, or any other instrument that’s likely to produce bodily harm, to injure someone with criminal negligence. Neither of these provisions specifically refers to stun guns or Tasers, but the laws could apply when someone uses one of these devices to hurt or intimidate others, other than in self-defense. Electronic incapacitation devices—especially Tasers—sometimes cause injury or even death. It would ultimately be up to courts (or juries) in individual cases to decide whether stun guns or Tasers are able or likely to produce bodily harm. (Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9.41.270, 9A.36.031(1)(d) (2019).)
Washington law does specifically outlaw using a projectile stun gun (Taser) to assault a police officer. This crime is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. (Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.36.031(1)(g), 9A.20.021 (2019).)
Washington prohibits carrying stun guns and Tasers onto public or private K-12 school property, buses, or facilities, if the devices are meant to be used as weapons to injure someone. The law doesn’t apply to police or school security officers, or to adult nonstudents who keep stun guns or Tasers in their cars while they're conducting legitimate business at the school. (Wash. Rev. Code § 9.41.280 (2019).)
Look Out for Legal Changes
States can change their laws at any time, so you may want to check the current Washington codes using this search tool.
There may be local regulations on stun guns and Tasers that are stricter than state law. 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 lawyer. But if you’re facing charges for a crime that involved the use of a stun gun or Taser, you should strongly consider consulting with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.