Guidelines proposed for legalization of stun guns
Hawaii’s law tightly restricting possession of electric “stun guns” is being challenged in court as an alleged infringement on people’s Second Amendment rights.
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Hawaii’s law tightly restricting possession of electric “stun guns” is being challenged in court as an alleged infringement on people’s Second Amendment rights, and state Attorney General Clare Connors is now proposing lawmakers strike it from the law books and adopt a new system to regulate privately owned electric guns such as Tasers.
It is unclear whether the new law would allow the owners of stun guns to carry them in public. Krishna Jayaram, special assistant to Connors, said in a written statement that the Attorney General’s Office will work with state lawmakers to decide that issue.
House Bill 2292 and Senate Bill 2848 are an attempt to bring Hawaii law into compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016 called Caetano v. Massachusetts.
In that case the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that upheld Massachusetts’ ban on private ownership of stun guns. The Massachusetts court later struck down the Massachusetts stun-gun ownership ban entirely.
According to the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Caetano “raised the question of the constitutionality of a complete ban on electric guns,” and a Hawaii case called Roberts v. Ballard is now pending in U.S. District Court and seeks to strike down the Hawaii law.
In that case Andrew Namiki Roberts is suing the state, claiming that Hawaii’s law restricting ownership of stun guns to law enforcement officers, the military and weapons dealers violates Roberts’ constitutional rights.
Roberts, a citizen of the United Kingdom, is a photographer and director of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition, and says he wants to acquire a stun gun or Taser and carry it for self-defense.
According to a motion in the case filed in August, Roberts said he routinely carries thousands of dollars’ worth of camera gear for his job, which takes him to remote areas where there are no police to protect him.
The lawsuit alleges Hawaii’s ban on private electric gun ownership is a violation of Roberts’ rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, meanwhile, has argued that electric guns such as Tasers can be banned because they are “dangerous and unusual weapons.” The Caetano case was a narrow decision that does not invalidate the Hawaii law, according to lawyers for the state.
But the bill introduced by Connors suggests that Gov. David Ige’s administration is not entirely confident the federal courts will agree.
The proposed new law would lift the blanket
stun-gun ban and allow members of the public to buy electric guns for self-defense.
Minors, convicted felons and people with significant mental health disorders would be prohibited from owning stun guns, and it would be a separate felony offense for anyone to carry or use an electric gun while committing a misdemeanor or felony, according to the bill.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads said that if the state law is struck down by the courts and the state has no regulatory structure in place, anyone could claim the right to own a stun gun. The state has the right to impose reasonable regulations on people’s constitutional rights, he said.
As for the issue of people carrying a Taser in public, Rhoads said he believes lawmakers are more likely to adopt a looser standard for carrying electric guns in public than for firearms because electric guns are less lethal.
However, Hawaii’s strict limitations that prohibit almost anyone from carrying firearms in public are also being challenged in federal court.