If you want a ranged self-defense option that doesn’t have all of the legal or ethical concerns associated with firearms, you should consider a taser.
Tasers have long been in the realm of Police service for bringing down bad guys with minimal risk of permanent injury, and in the past few years, they have started to grow in popularity among civilians.
But the matter is complicated by the fact that laws governing them are highly variable from state to state. How about in Pennsylvania? Are tasers legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes, tasers are legal in Pennsylvania and may be owned and carried without a permit. However, anyone prohibited from owning a firearm cannot be in possession of a taser in Pennsylvania and misuse of one is a serious crime.
Pennsylvania is definitely a study in contrasts when it comes to tasers…
On the one hand, citizens may freely obtain and carry these devices for lawful self-defense. But if you’re forbidden from possessing one and get caught with it, or if you criminally misuse a taser, they’ll throw the book at you.
There’s plenty more you’ll want to know before you add a taser to your self-defense lineup. Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it…
How are Tasers Classified in Pennsylvania?
Tasers fall under two different definitions in Pennsylvania…
The first is “electric or electronic incapacitation device,” which is a portable device designed or intended to be used in order to temporarily incapacitate a person using electricity.
The second definition that fits tasers is “offensive weapon,” specifically in the context of illegal possession.
An “offensive weapon” in this context is any taser, stun gun or stun baton or any other electric weapon designed for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.
Of course tasers serve a common and lawful purpose, self-defense, and so don’t fit under the category of offensive weapon unless they are possessed illegally. Read the exact text of both definitions for yourself below in 18-908.1 and 18-908.
18-908.1. Use or possession of electric or electronic incapacitation device.
(f) Definition.–As used in this section, the term “electric or electronic incapacitation device” means a portable device which is designed or intended by the manufacturer to be used, offensively or defensively, to temporarily immobilize or incapacitate persons by means of electric pulse or current, including devices operating by means of carbon dioxide propellant. The term does not include cattle prods, electric fences or other electric devices when used in agricultural, animal husbandry or food production activities.
18-908. Prohibited offensive weapons.
(a) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon.
“Offensive weapons.” Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.
Are Stun Guns Legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes, they are. If you want to get really technical about things, stun guns and tasers are two different devices, but the difference being that tasers shoot out their electrodes attached to wires while stun guns do not. Pennsylvania lumps both items under the primary definition of electric or electronic incapacitation device.
But it’s worth knowing the actual differences between the two not only for practical reasons but in case you need to interpret any other state statutes: some states give each type of device its own definition!
Can You Carry a Taser Openly in Pennsylvania?
Yes, you can. Open carry of tasers and stun guns is legal in Pennsylvania so long as you may be in legal possession of the device, and you are only carrying it for a lawful purpose…
Can You Carry a Taser Concealed?
Yes, you can. Carrying a taser or stun gun concealed on or about your person is legal in Pennsylvania, no permit necessary, again as long as you may legally possess the device and the device in question is of a legal type.
Note for yourself in 18-908.1 that possession of an electric or electronic incapacitation device of any kind is permitted under the law as long as you don’t intend to commit any crime with it and it is only for self-defense.
18-908.1. Use or possession of electric or electronic incapacitation device.
(a) Offense defined.–Except as set forth in subsection (b), a person commits an offense if the person does any of the following:
(1) Uses an electric or electronic incapacitation device on another person for an unlawful purpose.
(2) Possesses, with intent to violate paragraph (1), an electric or electronic incapacitation device.
(b) Self defense.–A person may possess and use an electric or electronic incapacitation device in the exercise of reasonable force in defense of the person or the person’s property pursuant to Chapter 5 (relating to general principles of justification) if the electric or electronic incapacitation device is labeled with or accompanied by clearly written instructions as to its use and the damages involved in its use.
Are there Age Restrictions on Taser Ownership or Possession?
Yes. You must be at least 18 years old or older in order to legally possess a taser or stun gun and in Pennsylvania.
What Do You Need to Do to Buy a Taser in Pennsylvania?
Purchasing a taser in Pennsylvania is easy. Simply go to any dealer where such devices are sold, usually a gun shop, sporting goods store or security supplies retailer, and then it follow the instructions of the employees.
You might need to submit to a background check and your personal information will be recorded and entered into a database by the manufacturer of the taser since these devices are serialized.
Note that Pennsylvania likewise bans taser ownership from anyone who is prohibited from possessing a firearm . Note that this includes a taser or a stun gun. As examples, anyone who is a felon, who has been convicted of any domestic violence crime, is under a protection order, and so forth cannot own a taser. You can read about the rest of the disqualifying factors for yourself and 18-6105.
18-6105. Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms.
(a) Offense defined.–
(1) A person who has been convicted of an offense enumerated in subsection (b), within or without this Commonwealth, regardless of the length of sentence or whose conduct meets the criteria in subsection (c) shall not possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture or obtain a license to possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture a firearm in this Commonwealth.
Is Training Mandatory for Taser Ownership in Pennsylvania?
No. You don’t have to go through any special training in order to buy or possess a taser in Pennsylvania, or to carry one, whether it is openly or concealed.
Where Can You Carry a Taser in Pennsylvania?
You can carry your taser anywhere that other weapons may legally go. Naturally, you still can’t carry it into any government building or government office, into a courthouse or courtroom, into a treatment facility or into the secured area of an airport or other facility.
But most interestingly, it appears that possession of a taser or stun gun may indeed be legal on school property: it is a defense, but not an excuse, to possession of a weapon on school property detailed in 18-912 if the weapon is possessed for a lawful purpose.
Me personally? I wouldn’t test it, but make sure to talk to your attorney about this.
18-912. Possession of weapon on school property.
(a) Definition.–Notwithstanding the definition of “weapon” in section 907 (relating to possessing instruments of crime), “weapon” for purposes of this section shall include but not be limited to any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nun-chuck stick, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.
(b) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school.
(c) Defense.–It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.
When Can You Use a Taser to Defend Yourself in Pennsylvania?
You should only ever use your taser in a legitimate instance of self-defense. Specifically, considering that a taser is not genuinely a non-lethal weapon, only use it against someone when it’s proportional against the unlawful force being used against you.
This means tazing someone if they just push you is probably stepping over the line. Someone is threatening to beat you, shoot you, stab you or club you, definitely.
The point is that you must be in genuine fear for your life or in fear of real bodily injury, because your taser is capable of inflicting the same on them.
Criminal misuse of a taser, or if the use of your taser is considered excessive force you’ll be facing serious criminal charges in Pennsylvania.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.