When it comes to self-defense, most people immediately think of hand-to-hand combat or firearms, with very little in between. But there’s a great case for making an intermediate force option part of your self-defense repertoire.
Some problems are not easily solved by fisticuffs, and that’s always risky, and at the same time, very few issues call for the lethal force of a firearm.
One good option is a taser. But tasers are a weapon that’s almost entirely unique, and accordingly state laws vary considerably. No matter where you live, or travel for work, you’ll need to know these laws if you want to carry and use a taser responsibly.
Today, we’ll be looking at the taser laws in California. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Are Tasers Legal in California?
Yes, surprisingly enough. Tasers are broadly legal in California so long as they’re defensive weapons capable of temporarily immobilizing an attacker through the use of an electrical charge.
California is a state that’s known to be generally against citizens possessing many kinds of weapons, and the ones they can possess are usually regulated to hell and back.
As such, this is a nice surprise and it makes tasers a good option for people who either cannot utilize or don’t want a firearm or other defensive implement.
How Does California Define a Taser?
One point of contention that can be confusing is how California defines a taser. Tasers are distinct, truly, from stun guns but California only uses the catch-all term of “stun gun” for any such electrical weapon.
Normally, a taser is a weapon which will discharge probes with trailing wires that are electrified by the firing unit, whereas a stun gun is a contact weapon that must be pressed into the assailant to function.
California does not really make a distinction between the two, saying only that stun guns are not defined as “less lethal weapons”.
You can see California’s definition for stun gun and section 17230 of the penal code. It’s quite short, and included in its entirety below:
As used in this part, “stun gun” means any item, except a less lethal weapon, used or intended to be used as either an offensive or defensive weapon that is capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge.
16780. As used in this part:
(a) “Less lethal weapon” means any device that is designed to or that has been converted to expel or propel less lethal ammunition by any action, mechanism, or process for the purpose of incapacitating, immobilizing, or stunning a human being through the infliction of any less than lethal impairment of physical condition, function, or senses, including physical pain or discomfort. It is not necessary that a weapon leave any lasting or permanent incapacitation, discomfort, pain, or other injury or disability in order to qualify as a less lethal weapon.
Can You Carry a Taser Openly in California?
Yes. Assuming you can be in legal possession of a taser you may openly carry it in California anywhere that you may legally, lawfully do so.
But a quick word of caution: many tasers, especially some of the more effective modern designs, look very much like firearms even if they do have the black and yellow hazard striping on them.
It would be an easy thing for a taser to be mistaken by other citizens or by law enforcement or security forces as a firearm at a glance, especially at a distance, so think twice before openly carrying a taser that is shaped like a pistol.
Can You Carry a Taser Concealed in California?
Yes. Once again, as long as you’re legally allowed to be in possession of a taser, and aren’t carrying it anywhere that such weapons are forbidden, you may conceal carry one because they are not firearms and don’t fall under the same statutes as firearms do when it comes to concealment.
Like I said above, you can make a great case for concealing any model of taser that looks like a firearm.
Aside from attracting the wrong kind of attention from other citizens and law enforcement personnel, openly displaying such a valuable piece of equipment invites a snatch- or take-away attempt by criminals.
Don’t think for a moment that the presence of your taser, or any other weapon, carried openly is a deterrent!
Where Can You Carry a Taser in California?
You can carry a taser any place where such weapons are allowed as long as you are legally in possession of it. But, there are quite a few places in California where you cannot take any weapon of any kind, and tasers specifically.
For instance, you cannot take a taser into any government building at any level, be a county, state or federal.
You cannot take it onto any school property, generally, with a potential exception if you’re picking a child up from school and you’re remaining in your car the entire time.
You also can’t take your taser into any secured area of any airport, generally defined as the area past the security and inspection checkpoint, nor can you take it into any public meeting that any law requires be open to the public, no matter if the location of the meeting is otherwise a restricted place.
Also, think twice before carrying your taser into any venue for business that has a posted signs restricting the carry of weapons. Violating any of these restrictions will likely get you a misdemeanor which can have a significant punishment in California.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Possess a Taser in California?
Generally, anyone who is age 18 or older may legally purchase and possess a taser in California.
However, minors that are at least 16 years old may also legally be in possession of a taser so long as they have in their possession also their parents’ written permission. This is critical!
But knowing this, that can make a taser a great self-defense option for younger people who cannot legally be in possession of a firearm for self-defense but are still out of the house going to work or for other activities.
Are Any Persons Restricted from Carrying a Taser in California?
Yes, several are, in fact. In California, no person who has been convicted of a felony anywhere in the United States may be in possession of a taser.
Also, anyone who’s been convicted and found guilty of any crime of any kind involving assault may not possess a taser, nor can anyone who is addicted to narcotics or anyone under the ages of 16 years old generally.
And, as expected, no person who has been previously convicted of misuse of a stun gun, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony charge, may possess a stun gun in California.
Section 22610 explains it all succinctly:
22610. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person may purchase, possess, or use a stun gun, subject to the following requirements:
(a) No person convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country, or convicted of misuse of a stun gun under Section 244.5, shall purchase, possess, or use any stun gun.
(b) No person addicted to any narcotic drug shall purchase, possess, or use a stun gun.
(c) (1) No person shall sell or furnish any stun gun to a minor unless the minor is at least 16 years of age and has the written consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian.
(2) Violation of this subdivision shall be a public offense punishable by a fifty-dollar ($50) fine for the first offense. Any subsequent violation of this subdivision is a misdemeanor.
(d) No minor shall possess any stun gun unless the minor is at least 16 years of age and has the written consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian.
When Can You Use a Taser in California for Self-Defense?
Generally, you can only use your taser lawfully in self-defense when you reasonably feel you’re under an imminent threat of injury, but not necessarily great bodily injury.
A taser is not a firearm and is generally not considered a lethal force, and California law broadly allows a citizen to use force in defense so long as that force is proportional to the threat.
For instance, if someone was threatening to punch you or beat you up, and you really thought they were going to go through with it, you would likely be justified in tazing them.
However, it’s important to point out that tasers are, rightly, considered less lethal force, not less than lethal force.
You do not want to taze someone in any circumstances except ones where you are legitimately in fear of your own well-being: in California, misuse of a taser can result in serious misdemeanor charges, or even a felony charge consisting of one or more years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Are there Any Other Laws Concerning Tasers to Know about in California?
Yes, but these won’t be of concern to most people as long as you’re buying from a reputable seller.
California penal code 22615 mandates that each stun gun sold in the state must have the name of the manufacturer stamped on the unit, along with a serial number that was applied by the manufacturer.
Additionally, section 22625 mandates that each stun gun sold must be accompanied by an instruction booklet. That’s it.
It’s in your best interest to always purchase such a weapon from a reputable seller and ensure that any unit you take possession of has the manufacturer’s name on the unit, the serial number and the instruction manual included.
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.