Electronic Weapons Ban Being Challenged In New York

The subject of using less than lethal or non-lethal weapons is one worth exploring. As firearm owners, trainers, students, etc., we focus a lot on “the gun.” That being said, there is a whole host of non-lethal and less-than-lethal options out there for self-defense. Some people just are not interested in firearms, or perhaps there are certain restrictions in sensitive areas or draconian jurisdictions. A good option could be stun guns or tasers.

Stun guns and tasers had fallen under different levels of scrutiny over the years, presumably due to abuse of use (you ponder by whom and under what circumstances). Because of that, many states or jurisdictions have outlawed the ownership, use, and possession of electronic arms. Since the Caetano v. Massachusetts case in 2016, several lawsuits have forced states and jurisdictions to repeal prohibitions on stun guns and tasers. Caetano was vacated by the Supreme Court of The United States with specific instructions to the lower court, basically ordering them to reverse the decision.

One of the holdouts prohibiting such electronic arms is the State and City of New York. On October 5, 2021, the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition launched a lawsuit against the City of New York in Calce, et.al. v. City of New York, et. al. From a press release:

“The Second Amendment Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit challenging New York state and municipal laws prohibiting private citizens from possessing and using stun guns and tasers, noting in its complaint, “Most courts have found that bans on stun guns and tasers violate the Second Amendment and are unconstitutional.”

Joining SAF are the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., and three private citizens, Nunzio Calce, Shaya Greenfield and Raymond Pezzoli. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Plaintiffs are represented by attorney David Jensen of Beacon, N.Y.”

This suit is a big step in toppling the onerous and draconian laws in New York. With the Caetano case having been settled in 2016, this has been a long time in coming. With every bit of luck, New York will have both the right to carry firearms and electronic arms restored in due time.

From the complaint:

“While states and localities have some ability to regulate the keeping and bearing of arms, the Second Amendment prohibits states and localities from flatly prohibiting lawabiding citizens from keeping bearable arms, and particularly arms that are in common use for the purpose of self-defense.

Stun guns and tasers are bearable arms, and further, they are in common use for the purpose of self-defense. Indeed, the Superintendent of the New York State Police stipulated in litigation that hundreds of thousands of tasers and millions of stun guns are owned by private citizens in the United States. Those numbers undoubtedly have increased since that stipulation was made. Electric arms such as stun guns and tasers are legal for private citizens to possess in the vast majority of the states. See Avitabile, 368 F. Supp.3d at 412 (“[F]orty-seven states now permit the use and possession of electric arms with or without some form of attendant regulation.”).”

The complaint cuts to the core of what the Second Amendment is all about, prohibiting states from keeping the people from being able to carry bearable arms. Electronic arms such as stun guns and tasers all fall into this category of bearable. With only three remaining states that restrict the possession of such items, it’s time to hang it up and concede defeat.

More from the press release on the filing:

“’As we explain in our complaint, states and localities have some ability to regulate the keeping and bearing of arms,’ noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. ‘However, the Second Amendment prevents states and localities from flatly prohibiting law-abiding citizens from keeping bearable arms, and particularly arms that are in common use for the purpose of self-defense.’

As noted in the 10-page federal complaint, all four of the individual citizens participating in this legal action reside in neighborhoods within the City of New York.

‘New York City has traditionally labored to keep its honest citizens defenseless,’ Gottlieb observed, ‘with its extremist gun control laws and by enforcing a prohibition on non-lethal defensive weapons as well. What are people to do when they are prevented by the government from having the tools necessary to fight back against violent attackers?’

‘After all,’ he added, ‘it is bad enough for citizens to face having to fight criminals, but it is worse when they have to fight their own government just to exercise their right of self-defense. Good people should not fear being prosecuted for simply having a defensive tool for personal protection. But the law does not allow it, and this must be challenged.’”

Both the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition and the individual plaintiffs need to be commended on taking New York to task.

As noted, less-than-lethal and non-lethal options are tools that everyone should be able to have in their toolbox when it comes to one’s self-defense. New York should be ashamed of themselves for this policy, as these options can be lifesaving if used and deployed correctly. And really, why would any jurisdiction be against people wanting to use less than lethal or non-lethal options? That is something to think about at night.

John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and USCCA certified instructor, NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on Twitter at @johnpetrolino, and on Instagram @jpetrolinoiii