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Politics and Government

Lawsuit calls New York taser ban unconstitutional

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New York’s ban on electronic weapons is being challenged by a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Matthew Avitable, the mayor of Middleburgh, and the Firearms Policy Foundation are suing the state on the grounds that the ban violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and New York State Police Superintendent Lt. Col. George Beach are listed as defendants in the case.

Electronic weapons are legal in 45 states, but in New York, only law enforcement is allowed to have them. For non-law enforcement, having a taser or stun gun is considered a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Avitabile said he wants a taser for home defense, and believes that the ban is representative of New York’s “restrictive” nature toward personal civil liberties.

Avitabile's lawyers cite the Second Amendment ruling of District of Columbia v. Heller in their argument. That 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case overturned a ban on personal handgun possession and legalized the storing of weapons so they can be readily deployed for self-defense.

Caetano V. Massachusetts is another a Supreme Court case from earlier this year that overturned the conviction of a woman who was charged for owning a taser for self defense. While the case didn’t precisely overturn the law, Avitabile said that it provides a precedent for similar legal arguments.

Avitable said, “if there is an issue where i think I'm being deprived of any civil right, or may be deprived of a civil right, then there are probably hundreds or thousands of people across the state of New York that would also be deprived of that very same right.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Massachusetts high court ruling that upheld a stun gun ban, noting that it violated the Second Amendment. In September, Washington D.C. lifted its stun-gun ban after a similar lawsuit and in November, New Jersey's attorney general conceded that the state's stun gun ban was unconstitutional.

Avitabile’s lawyers, Stephen Stamboulieh and Alan Beck, have similar legal cases pending in New Jersey and New Orleans. The remaining four states that have bans against electronic weapons are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Stamboilieh said they are still waiting for a hearing.

The New York attorney general’s office has declined to comment on the case.