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Michigan may join states that allow carrying of stun guns
Updated 12/1/2011 1:15 PM ET
A measure working its way through the Michigan Legislature would make the state the nation's 45th to allow residents to carry stun guns as a means of self-defense. Wisconsin became the 44th on Nov. 1.

Stun guns, which shoot prongs carrying an electrical charge to temporarily incapacitate the person they strike, have been blamed in lawsuits for some deaths, but proponents insist they are far less dangerous than handguns.

"You could use it when you could use a gun, and you must have all the training that goes into a concealed pistol license," said state Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from west Michigan, who introduced the legislation. "I think it's just common sense that someone would rather use electricity than a gun when they can."

The Michigan Senate, where Republicans hold a 26-12 advantage, approved the measure 35-3 in October. The House, which has a 63-47 Republican edge, has referred it to a judiciary committee. Jones said he doesn't foresee organized opposition to it in the House or from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Sara Wurfel, Snyder's spokeswoman, says he has not reviewed the proposed law.

The measure would make it legal for people who hold a valid concealed pistol license to buy and carry stun guns, subject to the same restrictions placed on handgun carrying.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island are the other states that make it illegal for residents to possess stun guns, along with Washington, D.C., according to Taser International, which has more than 95% of the market in stun guns in the USA.

"Taking down a ban is very difficult and very challenging," said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International. "That's why it's significant that Wisconsin did it."

Some strongly oppose the legalization. "We feel a great number of questions need to be answered," said Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the Michigan Civil Liberties Union. "We are concerned about these devices, period."

Most states ban them from schools and courts, and some have other restrictions such as limiting their use to homes and businesses or requiring a permit to carry one in public. All 50 states allow law enforcement to carry them, Tuttle said.

Law enforcement and the military buy about two-thirds of the Tasers sold, Tuttle said, and the rest go to consumers. A typical consumer model sells for about $450. The devices discharge confetti marked with serial numbers that can be used to trace where the cartridge was purchased and by whom. Jones said that feature prevents people from using them carelessly.

LeeAnna Rocha, 35, of Lansing, Mich., said she hopes Michigan approves them. She has five children under the age of 15 in her home, which was burglarized three times over the summer. "I am reluctant to have a gun in the home," she said. "I would much rather have something like a Taser that's not lethal."

Contributing: Wisely reports for the Detroit Free Press

Posted 11/30/2011 6:41 PM ET
Updated 12/1/2011 1:15 PM ET
A California Highway Patrol officer carries a Taser X26 stun gun.
By Danny Moloshok, AP
A California Highway Patrol officer carries a Taser X26 stun gun.