Lawsuit Filed Challenging Massachusetts' Ban on Non-Lethal Self-Defense Weapons

Boston, Massachusetts – In a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit regarding self-defense rights of private citizens, three Massachusetts residents have teamed with The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) and Commonwealth Second Amendment, Inc. ( in challenging the constitutionality of a state law banning stun guns and other non-lethal electrical weapons. The plaintiffs claim that the absolute ban on stun guns violate their Second Amendment rights and say they want the option to own non-lethal means of self-defense.

“There are times when an electronic personal defense weapon is more appropriate than a firearm and for people seeking a way to protect themselves, a non-lethal stun gun can be a safer alternative in many situations, both for the user and an attacker” said Christopher Martel a plaintiff in the case. “No one should have to choose between potentially lethal force and nothing.”

The Center for Individual Rights, a not-for-profit public interest firm that specializes in civil rights, free speech and other cases affecting citizens’ rights, is working with the Boston office of the law firm McCarter & English to bring suit in federal court.

“The 2nd Amendment clearly protects an individual’s basic right to self-defense,” said Terry Pell, the president of CIR. “In light of the previous case at the U.S. Supreme Court, we believe that this fundamental right extends to electronic non-lethal weapons and that the Massachusetts statute is unconstitutional. Individuals should have the right to choose alternatives to firearms.”

In March 2016, the US Supreme Court unanimously reversed a Massachusetts high court ruling that upheld the Commonwealth’s ban on stun guns. A Massachusetts woman, carrying a stun gun to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend, was convicted of violating the statute.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, in which the Court rejected all three of the state’s justifications for the ban, the statute remains in effect and is enforced.

Electronic weapons are legal in 45 states, but in Massachusetts citizens are prohibited from selling or possessing any device which discharges “an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam.” (M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 131J) Federal, state and municipal law enforcement officers are permitted to carry these weapons under the statute.  The remaining states are facing similar legal challenges, and the New Jersey Attorney General recently conceded that the stun gun ban violates the Second Amendment.

The plaintiffs seek the ability to lawfully protect themselves by using non-lethal force when appropriate and ask that the court recognize that the total ban on electronic weapons is unconstitutional.