Taser Devices and Other Electroshock Weapons
This page provides general information about the use of electro-muscular-disruption technology, also known as conducted-energy devices (CEDs), stun guns, or by the trade name Taser®, by law enforcement personnel. It also includes Washington local government provisions governing the possession and use of these devices by persons other than law enforcement officers. These weapons are considered less than lethal weapons and are designed primarily to temporarily disable or stop suspects without killing. They provide law enforcement and corrections personnel with an alternative to lethal force where appropriate. Originally designed for military and civilian law enforcement use, they are also becoming popular as personal protection devices for civilians. Among the models being marketed as civilian personal protection devices are those shaped like flashlights and cell phones.
Several bills were introduced in the 2005 state legislature to regulate stun guns statewide, but they were not passed. The 2005 legislature enacted SHB 1934 (Ch. 458, Laws of 2005) (), which established the "projectile stun gun study committee" to review the sale and use of projectile stun guns within Washington State and which added the specific crime of assault of a peace officer with a stun gun to third degree assault. The seriousness level for assault with a stun gun is raised to a level IV, equivalent to the seriousness level of assault in the second degree. (See Final Bill Report for SHB 1934.)
The 2009 legislature amended RCW 9.41.280 to prohibit the possession of stun guns and electro-shock weapons on public or private elementary or secondary school premises, school-provided transportation, and areas of facilities while being used exclusively by public or private schools. Ch. 453, Laws of 2009 (ESSB 5263) ().
Use of Taser Devices by Law Enforcement Personnel
The use of force, including employment of electro-muscular-disruption technology, by law enforcement that causes serious injury or death has been questioned by the public. As a consequence, law enforcement agencies have reviewed their policies and procedures, and a number of studies have been made. Model policies provide conditions for carrying and use of non lethal or less than lethal weapons.
- Chief's Counsel: Electronic Control Weapons: Liability Issues, by Randy Means, The Police Chief, February 2005
- Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology, International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2008 - Includes Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology 'A Nine-Step Strategy for Effective Deployment' and other reference links
- Emerging Issues Surrounding the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons by Police, Municipal Lawyer, January/February 2005 (Available through MRSC Library Loan)
- Seattle Police Department Taser Use Update (), 04/2009
- Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption, National Institute of Justice (Washington, DC), 2011
- Vancouver Police Department Taser - Describes tasers and how Vancouver police department uses them
- Use of Force, MRSC page on Law Enforcement Programs, Policies and Issues
Washington Local Government Policies Regulating Stun Guns and Taser Devices
Local governments have raised concerns about civilian possession and use of these stun gun devices. Some Washington local governments have prohibited the possession and use of tasers, stun guns, and electronic devices. Though there is potential for misuse of any weapon, there are ample reasons for favoring stun gun use as an alternative to firearms in some circumstances. Whether such weapons are allowed to be carried by civilians, and where they can be carried, is a policy issue. Most of the provisions restrict carrying stun guns into places where liquor is sold or into court rooms, though a few such as Port Angeles make it a misdemeanor to assault, threaten, intimidate or harm another, or to facilitate the commission of a crime with an electronic stun gun or other device designed to deliver an electronic charge.
- Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Sec. 9.10.040 - Weapons prohibited in city hall, in the municipal court room, or on liquor sale premises.
- Bellingham Municipal Code Sec. 10.30.020 - Prohibits the possession, sale, or use of tasers, stun guns, and similar electronic or energy devices
- Burlington Municipal Code Sec. 9.76.020 - Prohibits the possession, sale, or use of tasers, stun guns, and similar electronic or energy devices
- Federal Way Municipal Code Sec. 6.25.030 - Weapons prohibited on liquor sale premises - Includes tasers
- Port Angeles Municipal Code Sec. 9.42.030 - Stun guns
- Pullman Municipal Code Ch. 8.30 () - Dangerous Weapons - Prohibits discharge and possession and includes stun gun in the definition of "Electronic Devices"
- Redmond Municipal Code Sec. 9.24.040 - Weapons prohibited on liquor sale premises - Includes tasers