Recently I have been asked by several community members, are "stun guns" legal? This is a simple but complex answer at the same time. The short answer is no, but there is a provision for someone to carry a "Taser," under certain requirements.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I cover the possession of "stun guns" and electro-muscular defense devices in Michigan.

WHAT IS A STUN GUN?

You see them on the internet, at flea markets and in catalogs ... "stun guns." In short, a "stun gun" gives a painful shock when it directly touches a person. They appear to be an easy to use, less-lethal device that you could carry in your pocket or purse as a self defense weapon. The only problem is they are not legal.

MCL 750.224a(1) states:

"... a person shall not sell, offer for sale, or possess in this state a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave, or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave, or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure, or kill.

... (4) A person who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both."

"Stun guns" are often confused with "Tasers," and some people mistakenly use the terms interchangeably. But "stun guns" and Tasers are not the same thing. The 'primary' difference between the two is that a Taser can be used from a distance, while a "stun gun" requires direct contact. But the law mandates other requirements for the possession of a Taser.

THE TASER EXCEPTION

As Taser's have been allowed for law enforcement for many years, it has only been in the past decade that they were allowed for civilian use. I remember taking my first law enforcement Taser training in 2003. I remember getting hit with the Taser for the first time and it definitely was effective. So, let's first talk about the specifics.

In 2012, the law slightly changed allowing the possession of a "stun gun" type device which provided a clear definition of what type of device that is.

MCL 750.224a(7)(a) states:

"A device that uses electro-muscular disruption technology" means a device to which both of the following apply:

(i) The device is capable of creating an electro-muscular disruption and is used or intended to be used as a defensive device capable of temporarily incapacitating or immobilizing a person by the direction or emission of conducted energy.

(ii) The device contains an identification and tracking system that, when the device is initially used, dispenses coded material traceable to the purchaser through records kept by the manufacturer, and the manufacturer of the device has a policy of providing that identification and tracking information to a police agency upon written request by that agency."

So in simple terms, a "stun gun" does not 'dispense coded material' or provide 'tracking information' when it is used. Those are the two main requirements. Coded material would include paper type confetti that is dispensed when the device is used. Tracking information would be an internal recording of when the device was used or deployed. At this time, a Taser is the only device on the market which meets these requirements.

So what is a Taser? A Taser, is a brand name device that shoots darts attached to wires which carry an electrical charge and temporarily disrupt the body’s electro-muscular system. The cartridge can also be removed and used for direct contact to the body, similar to a "stun gun."

However there is also a third requirement.

YOU MUST HAVE A CPL

The law does not allow just anyone to carry a Taser. You must also have a Concealed Pistol License (CPL).

MCL 750.224a(2)(b) states:

"The possession and reasonable use of a device that uses electro-muscular disruption technology by an individual who holds a valid license to carry a concealed pistol under section 5b of 1927 PA 372, MCL 28.425, and who has been trained under subsection (5) in the use, effects, and risks of the device."

So, you must have a CPL and also have training in addition to the CPL for the 'use, effects and risks of the device.' This additional training is usually provided by a video by the dealer you are purchasing the Taser from.

This is where the law had good intention, but really made no sense. For example, most people who would want to carry a Taser do not want to carry a gun or take a gun course to obtain a CPL.

(Note: There was legislation introduced in the early part of 2020 to change the CPL requirement, but as of the date of this article, it was passed by the state house, but has not moved any further in the legislature.)

IN SUMMARY

• Possession of a "stun gun" in Michigan is a felony.

• Only the Taser brand electro-muscular device is legal to possess.

• To be in possession of a Taser you must be a CPL holder.

• Additional training is also required, usually conducted by the dealer.

Remember a Taser can only be used for self-defense. In short, an approved electro-muscular device is ONLY to be used to protect yourself — when you can reasonably articulate that you had no other option to defend yourself against an attack. Also, just because you can order something off the internet doesn't mean it is legal in the state you are ordering it from or where it is shipped to.

— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. Topics covered are for educational and informational purposes only. As needed, excepts from other articles are used for reference and/or content. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.