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Michigan House passes bill to legalize stun guns

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Anyone 18 years and older would be allowed to possess and use a stun gun for self-defense in Michigan under legislation that passed this week in the House by a vote of 78-32.

The bill (HB 4029) now moves to the Senate where a similar bill died in committee last year.

Stun guns are devices that need to be held in direct contact with a person. They use an electrical current to create enough pain to temporarily disable an assailant.

Under the bill, stun guns could only be used when physical force is legally justified.

State Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton), sponsor of the bill, spoke before the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committe in March.

"Although I personally carry a firearm," said Hoitenga, "some would prefer a less lethal option and are simply asking for their right to another form of self-protection."

While possession of stun guns is currently illegal in Michigan, Tasers can be used for self defense by individuals who have a concealed pistol license.

Hoitenga said her bill would not change the requirements for Tasers.

The Michigan Sheriff's Association opposes the bill because it does not include a training requirement.

"To carry a firearm concealed in the state of Michigan, you have to have training," said Matthew Saxton, executive director of the Michigan Sheriff's Association. "And we feel that training still needs to be available and required in this instance as well."

Stun guns are different from Tasers, a specific brand manufactured by Axon. The civilian Taser model fires two prongs as projectiles up to 15 feet from the target. Tasers temporarily disable a target by disrupting the signals between the brain and the muscles.

According to the House Fiscal Agency, supporters of legalizing stun guns say that court cases protect defensive devices that use an electric current under the Second Amendment and therefore total bans of all such devices are unconstitutional. But opponents of legalizing stun guns argue that Michigan does not have a total ban because an exception was carved out to allow Tasers for individuals with a concealed pistol license.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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