New York lawsuit aims to apply the Second Amendment to Tasers

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The Firearms Policy Foundation and Matthew Avitabile are suing New York state over a regulation that outlaws the possession of electronic weapons including stun guns and Tasers. Avitabile happens to be the mayor of Middleburgh, New York, and he wants to buy a Taser or stun gun for his home, according to court documents filed over the weekend. His lawyers argue that the New York ban on owning stun guns is unconstitutional, violating the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

New York is one of five states that prohibits the possession of stun guns and tasers — the remaining four are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island. A handful of cities and towns across the US also have bans in place. In 45 states, electronic weapons are legal for use in the home, and in most states it’s also legal carry a stun gun in public. New York Penal Law § 265.01 disagrees with this approach, making it a criminal misdemeanor to "possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun [or] electronic stun gun."

Avitabile’s lawyers cite the Second Amendment ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 US Supreme Court case that overturned a ban on handgun possession in the home and made it legal to store weapons so they can be readily deployed for self-defense.

"Given the decision in Heller, Defendants may not completely ban the keeping and bearing of arms for self-defense that are not unusually dangerous, deny individuals the right to carry arms in non-sensitive places, deprive individuals of the right to keep or carry arms in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or impose regulations on the right to keep and carry arms that are inconsistent with the Second Amendment," the New York lawsuit argues.

New York isn’t the only state dealing with constitutional challenges to stun gun laws. Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court rejected a Massachusetts high court ruling that upheld a stung gun ban, noting that this move violated the Second Amendment. This didn’t make Taser bans illegal, but it gave Second Amendment activists leeway to fight these laws in court. Most recently, in November (and in response to the Massachusetts ruling), New Jersey’s attorney general admitted that the state’s stun gun ban violated the Second Amendment.