Tasers are a brand of stun gun made by Taser International. The laws regulating their possession or use refer to them as stun guns. Federal law prohibits the possession of Tasers on commercial airlines. Other stun gun laws are state-specific. The laws below are subject to change and not exhaustive. Before purchasing or using a stun gun, check the laws regulating them in your area.
In many states, Tasers are illegal to own or carry in public. In some of these states, firearm statutes outlaw Tasers outright. In other states, stun gun possession and use are legal only for those individuals licensed to possess or use guns. Tasers are prohibited in Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Massachussetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Tasers are also prohibited in Denison and Crawford counties of Iowa; Annapolis, Baltimore and Howard counties of Maryland; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Some states do not outlaw Tasers altogether but have passed laws regulating their possession and use. Connecticut residents are only permitted to possess stun guns on their own property. Alaska, California, Georgia and other states prohibit the possession of Tasers on school grounds. In Virginia, possession of a Taser is illegal for felons. In Minnesota, stun guns must be labelled with dangers and instructions for use. In Colorado, Tasers are legal to possess, but it is a felony to use one in the commission of a crime.
Countries outside the United States also have various laws regarding Tasers. In India, stun guns can only be used by licensed police officers. Possession of a stun gun is illegal in the United Kingdom. There are also laws prohibiting or regulating the possession or use of Tasers in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Individuals considering purchasing a Taser on the Internet should determine the legal status of stun guns in their municipality. Some online shops will mail a Taser to you despite laws in the area restricting their possession or use. It is the consumer's responsibility to ensure that he is not breaking the law by ordering a Taser by mail.
Tasers are used by law enforcement as an alternative to using firearms on uncooperative subjects. While the Taser is not designed to kill, there have been several cases where police use of Tasers has resulted in death. Surviving family members have filed lawsuits against the police or Taser International. In June of 2008, Taser International lost the first lawsuit claiming that police use of Tasers was responsible for the death of a 40-year-old man in San Jose, California. In August 2009, the Charlotte, North Carolina, police department settled out of court for £406,250 following the Taser-related death of a 17-year-old boy.