By Campbell Kistner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Baltimore County Council will consider a bill next week that would repeal a 32-year-old law that bans the possession of taser guns and other electronic devices because the ban is no longer constitutional.
The bill, which was discussed during a council work session Tuesday afternoon, is needed so that the county will officially be in compliance with a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Massachusetts case that said possession of a stun gun is protected by the Second Amendment.
County Attorney Mike Field told the council Tuesday that while the county took several steps last April that essentially negated the local anti-taser law, emergency legislation should be approved by the council now to ensure there is no confusion about whether stun guns and other electronic devices can be sold and operated in the county.
Although the law would be repealed under the bill, Field said, the use of stun guns and tasers would still be regulated. For example, he said a Maryland resident must be at least 18 years old and not have been convicted of a series crime to possess an electronic control device.
Council members said the same logic used in the purchase and possession of certain types of pepper spray can be applied to electronic control devices.
If the bill is approved at the council’s next meeting on Monday, it would go into effect immediately after it is signed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
According to county documents, the council approved a law in 1985 that prohibited local residents from possessing a “stun gun or similar device.” The law was amended later to change “stun gun” to “electronic control device.”
The local law was effectively rendered unconstitutional on March 21, 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned a Massachusetts court ruling that upheld a law prohibiting the possession of stun guns in that state.
In response to the court’s decision, local police officials announced in April 2016 that the county’s taser ban ordinance would no longer be enforced. In addition, the county attorney issued an order to the publisher of the Baltimore County Code to place a note on the law saying that the taser rules were no longer in effect.
However, the county was sued in federal court in February by residents who claimed that they were not able to purchase electronic control devices because the main seller of the devices in the area refused to sell them for fear that it would violate local law, county documents say.
The suit also included Baltimore City and Howard County, which had similar laws on their books. The Howard County Council repealed its law on Feb. 21, according to Baltimore County documents.