By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service
LANSING — A group that advocates for the safety of women and the elderly is pushing to legalize stun guns in Michigan for people who are at least 21.
Damsel in Defense, an Idaho-based international organization, wants to give them a non-lethal line of defense.
Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R- Manton, recently introduced a bill to allow stun guns to be available for sale, possession, and use to the public 21 and older.
Tasers have been legal in Michigan since 2012. But stun guns are different from tasers. Unlike a taser, a stun gun is only effective when it comes in contact with the skin, so it can only be used when in close proximity to the offender. Tasers are able to shoot electricity at the target from a large distance.
The bill defines a stun gun as “a device that is capable of creating an electro-muscular disruption…capable of temporarily incapacitating or immobilizing an individual by the direction of emission of conducted energy. The stun gun does not include a launchable device.”
Only concealed pistol license holders who are trained law enforcement officers can possess stun guns, under the law now. They must be educated on the use, risks, and effects of the weapon.
Damsel in Defense sells non-lethal defense tools to women and the elderly. Their small group of Michigan members has been lobbying for the bill. Hoitenga also introduced the legislation last February, but it was never taken up.
“Stun guns will aid many women and the elderly who are uncomfortable carrying a firearm,” Hoitenga said. The bill doesn’t intend to replace the use of firearms, but to offer an alternative option. If the bill is approved, anyone the age of 21 and older would be eligible to own and use a stun gun.
The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill, said Robert Stevenson, executive director.
“A concern for us is officer safety. It could also be used on the police,” Stevenson said. “We aren’t immune to it so we aren’t a big fan of everybody having that. There are some occasions it causes problems.”
Hoitenga believes that the bill has a better chance with the new legislature.
“It’s a bipartisan issue,” she said. “Many women and elderly want a non-lethal tool for defense.”
If the bill passes, she hopes to lower the legal age for possessing a stun gun from 21 to 18. Damsel in Defense and Hoitenga previously successfully supported a bill raising the amount of pepper spray a person is permitted to carry.
Hoitenga also recently proposed bills to authorize the concealed pistol licenses for carrying, possession, and sale of weapons to last a lifetime without renewal.
The bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee and scheduled to be taken up sometime in February.