Michigan Court of Appeals Strikes Down Stun Gun Ban, Says Second Amendment Applies to Open Carry in Public

People v. Yanna (Mich. Ct. App. June 26, 2012) holds that Michigan’s stun gun ban violates the Second Amendment. I filed an amicus brief on behalf of AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment) in this case, and also wrote a law review article on the subject (Nonlethal Self-Defense, (Almost Entirely) Nonlethal Weapons, and the Rights To Keep and Bear Arms and Defend Life, 62 Stanford Law Review 199 (2009)), so I’m especially pleased by the result. I hope also that this leads to similar results in some of the other places which ban stun guns — D.C., Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virgin Islands, and Wisconsin, as well as the several cities that take a similar view, some of which are in relatively right-to-keep-and-bear-arms-friendly areas.

The court also in the process made three broader statements:

1. The Second Amendment applies not just to firearms but to other weapons as well. “[The state] argues that Heller is strictly a gun control case, but the broad nature of the language used in Heller’s definition of arms clearly covers more than just firearms.”

2. Even weapons that are “far less prevalent than handguns” may still be protected by the Second Amendment. “The prosecution also argues that tasers and stun guns [are] ‘unusual’ or rare weapons. However, they are legal in forty-three states, and in Michigan are routinely used by law enforcement officers. They have been in use for several decades. Though far less prevalent than handguns, we do not think that stun guns or tasers may be fairly labeled as unusual weapons.”

3. The Second Amendment extends to open carrying of at least some weapons — possibly including other “protected arm[s],” such as handguns — in public, and not just to possession in the home. “The next question is whether the protected status of these arms makes unconstitutional a complete ban on carrying them in public. Heller specifically addressed only a full ban of protected weapons inside the home, not in public. Further, the analysis in Heller focused in part on the unmatched popularity of handguns for self-defense, and did not make clear to what extent greater restrictions could be applied to less popular weapons.

“On the other hand, Heller states that concealed weapons may be banned, but makes no such statement regarding openly carried arms. Indeed, Heller cites with approval two state cases that struck down laws prohibiting the public carrying of hand guns. The Second Amendment explicitly protects the right to ‘carry’ as well as the right to ‘keep’ arms. Likewise, the Michigan Constitution specifically allows citizens to ‘bear’ arms for self-defense. We therefore conclude that a total prohibition on the open carrying of a protected arm such as a taser or stun gun is unconstitutional.”