Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Tacoma Lifts Ban On Tasers, Stun Guns

"TASER" by cea + is licensed under CC by 2.0
A Taser electroshock weapon

Tacoma City Council members voted Tuesday to lift an 11-year ban on electroshock weapons, including stun guns and Tasers.

The policy change came amid pressure from a gun rights group and doubts about whether the city's ban would hold up in court.

The devices are now legal to buy, sell, own, and carry in Tacoma. Seattle had no such ban in place. 

Tacoma was one of just a handful of cities in the nation to regulate electroshock weapons, city officials said.

Leaders of the Firearms Policy Coalition wrote to Tacoma officials in April, calling the city's ban unconstitutional and threatening to sue.

The group, based in Sacramento, Calif., has fought to overturn similar laws across the country.

Attorneys for the city said they reviewed federal and state case law, and grew doubtful about whether the ban would survive a legal challenge.

"We reviewed the case law," City Attorney Bill Fosbre said before Tuesday's vote. "We looked at our own state constitution and made a determinate that, as written in our code, it would not sustain a challenge." 

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the City Council's decision to lift the ban is based entirely on legal considerations.

"We are not promoting Tasers or the use of them," she said. "We're simply aligning our local law with federal and state case law." 

Tacoma's attorneys cited a Supreme Court decision last year that raised doubts about whether a Massachusetts stun gun ban is legal under the Second Amendment.

Officials with the Port of Tacoma and the University of Washington also reached out to city leaders in recent months seeking permission for their security guards to carry electroshock weapons, city officials said. 

Leaders of the Firearms Policy Coalition celebrated the vote in a news release. 

“I think it’s obvious the city knew they would lose any court challenge and they wisely chose to repeal this law,” said Philip Watson, the group's Northwest lobbyist. “We’re not done taking on bans on arms protected by the Second Amendment.”

Similar laws across the country have been repealed or struck down in recent months, including a statewide ban in New Jersey