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Stun guns illegally used by crooks
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As should have been expected when stun guns (also known as tasers) were made available several years ago, some criminals are now using stun guns to commit crimes by momentarily incapacitating or threatening their victims during robberies, home invasions and in the conduct of other criminal acts. According to the California Penal Code Section 244.5 (a): "...stun gun means any item, except a taser, used or intended to be used as either an offensive or defensive weapon that is capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge."

Citizens may legally purchase and posses stun guns so long as the individual has no felony convictions or any criminal history involving an assault. Drug addicts cannot possess stun guns. Persons under 18 years of age may possess them with written parental consent.

The laws pertaining to stun guns are straightforward. There are, however, possible consequences regarding the use of stun guns in a threating manner or actually using one without legal justification. Consider the fact that a stun gun is designed to completely incapacitate the person upon whom it is used. They are unable to run, incapable of defending themselves to fight back and unable to communicate verbally as the electricity temporarily shuts down all nervous system function. A person facing a stun gun threat may be able to assert that once incapacitated, they are in every way defenseless and subject to robbery, a serious beating or otherwise might be mortally injured. Therefore, the threat of being electrically shocked by a stun gun (by someone other than a bona fide law enforcement officer or other licensed security person) could be seen as a situation that could justify deadly force in self defense - even though a stun gun is not a deadly weapon by design.

The use of a stun gun to carry out any crime in which victim intimidation or incapacitation is part of the plan, may give that victim legal cause for using deadly force to protect him or herself. Any thoughts that substituting a stun gun for an actual firearm or other deadly weapon will lead to lesser consequences is simple foolishness.

In the case of law enforcement officers, it is their highest priority to ensure that their weapons, vehicle and other dangerous equipment does not fall into the hands of criminals. Therefore, an officer confronted with or attacked by a person with a stun gun or "taser" may well be justified in using deadly force to protect himself or herself as well as protect the lives of citizens. Keep in mind that a stun gun attack on a law enforcement officer can lead to felony charges. Firefighters are also given this extra level of legal protection from stun guns, so an attack on one of them will also lead to felony charges.

Stun guns have a definite place in personal protection and for law enforcement personnel. The fact that they are non-lethal devices can easily lead to their misuse. It is critical that the community understand that unintended consequences can be deadly for the persons using them. Be sure to know what circumstances may justify the legal use of stun guns and never, under any circumstances, point or otherwise display one of these devices when in the presence of a law enforcement officer.