Michigan House tries again to legalize stun gun use

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan House has voted a second time to legalize the possession and use of stun guns for people over the age of 18.

Lawmakers approved the bill 78-32 Wednesday. The legislation moves for possible approval to the Senate, where it stalled out in 2020. 

The legislation, also passed by lawmakers last January, would lift part of the state's ban on the use of portable electric devices designed to incapacitate, injure or kill. 

In this Sept. 25, 2012, file photo, Cherry Hill Township Police Officer Patrick Higgins takes part in a stun gun training session at the Gloucester Township, N.J., Police Training Facility. A

Current law allows some people, including law enforcement and those with concealed pistol licenses, to use a Taser, the brand name for a device that shoots two prongs up to 15 feet to disrupt the signal between the brain and muscle to incapacitate a person temporarily. 

A stun gun requires physical contact for up to three to five seconds to create enough pain to incapacitate someone temporarily. After their prongs are deployed, Tasers can be used as a stun gun.

If approved, Hoitenga's bill would only allow people to use a stun gun in self-defense. 

"Although I personally carry a firearm, some would prefer a less lethal option and are simply asking for their right to another form of self-protection," Hoitenga told lawmakers last month.

Recent state and federal court decisions have held that a complete ban on a Taser or stun gun is a violation of the Second Amendment, but a 2019 decision from a federal district judge found some restrictions on possession or use are permissible.

Michigan State Police argue the state's stun gun restriction does not violate the Second Amendment because it is not a complete ban on such devices, given the allowance for some people to possess and use a Taser, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill.

Under the proposed legislation, someone who used a stun gun against another person when it is not in self-defense would be guilty of a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to two years in jail or a $2,000 fine. The penalty is the same for the improper use of a Taser.

The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners supported the bill, but the Michigan Sheriffs' Association opposed it.