You can buy a stun gun or Taser in Ohio without a permit, and you can probably carry it anywhere in the state. But state laws on deadly weapons could potentially apply to Tasers, and there may be local regulations on both types of devices. Read on for details.
The Difference Between Stun Guns and Tasers
Many people (and even some state laws) use the terms stun gun and Taser interchangeably, and both types of weapon can temporarily incapacitate someone by delivering an electrical charge. But there are significant differences. A stun gun has prongs that deliver a painful shock when it touches the target. Taser is a brand name for devices that shoot small darts (or probes) from a distance. The electrical charge, transmitted through thin wires attached to the darts, actually disrupts the body's neuromuscular system. Consumer models of Tasers are somewhat different than the Tasers used by law enforcement; for one thing, they have a shorter range (you must be within 15 feet of the target).
Ohio's laws on the purchase, possession, and use of guns don't specifically mention stun guns, Tasers, or any other weapons that use electricity. The state does impose certain restrictions on where and how people may carry deadly weapons. Among these restrictions, you're not allowed to carry a concealed deadly weapon outside of your home unless you have it for self-defense under circumstances that give you reason to fear a criminal attack. The law defines a deadly weapon as any device “capable of inflicting death,” if it's designed, possessed, carried, or used as a weapon (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2923.11, 2923.12 (2019)).
Do stun guns or Tasers meet that definition? It may be up to the courts to answer that question. In a 2018 newspaper article about this issue, the deputy chief counsel for the Ohio Attorney General was quoted as saying, “There is a dispute about whether stun guns are capable of inflicting death.” It's not clear whether he meant to include Tasers in that statement. People can die after being “tased,” usually by cardiac arrest (although most of the reports on Taser-related deaths have addressed police use of these “less-lethal” weapons).
Look Out for Legal Changes
States can change their laws at any time, so it's always a good idea to check the current Ohio statutes by using this search tool.
Even if stun guns and Tasers are not considered deadly weapons in Ohio, you could be charged with the crime if you use one of these devices against someone for a reason other than self-defense— for example, while committing assault or kidnapping.
Some cities have their own restrictions on stun guns or Tasers. If you aren't sure whether you may legally carry or use one of these devices, it might be a good idea to ask a local criminal defense lawyer or your local law enforcement agency. But if you're facing charges for a crime that involved a stun gun or Taser, you should speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.