County Council repeals ban on tasers to comply with Supreme Court ruling

By Chaz Brown
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Council passed a bill Monday that repeals a 32-year-old law that banned the possession of stun guns, or “tasers,” for personal use on grounds that the ban was unconstitutional.

The emergency legislation, which was passed during a council legislative session, will be effective immediately after being signed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is expected to support the measure.

The bill would put county law in  alignment with a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Massachusetts case that said possession of a conducted electronic weapon is protected by the Second Amendment, local officials said.

County Attorney Mike Field told the council before the vote that the county had stopped enforcing its taser ban after the Supreme Court ruling.  However, county documents said the new law was needed to ensure that citizens and taser manufacturers were clear that the county was not in violation of the court’s decision.

Field said tasers will be regulated similar to firearms. He said state law still requires a person to be over 18 years of age and not to have been convicted of violent crimes to purchase a taser.

In addition, the bill wouldn’t affect any local organizations or county agencies that have prohibitions on bringing tasers into certain locations, Field said.

“It’s just the repeal of the outright ban,” Field said to the council.

In 1985, the council passed legislation that prohibited citizens from possessing a “stun gun or similar device.” The bill was later amended changing “stun gun” to electronic control device.

On March 21, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Massachusetts law that enforced the prohibition of the possession of stun guns in that state.

In lieu of the Supreme Court ruling, Howard County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City were sued in federal court in February by residents who claimed they were not able to purchase stun guns because vendors refused to sell them in fear they were breaking the law.

The Howard County Council repealed its ban on the sale and possession of stun guns on Feb. 21.

In other action, the council approved a resolution that authorizes local officials to accept the donation of a 2007 Acura MDX from a not-for-profit organization to help combat auto theft. The donation has a value of $9,675.

According to county documents, the vehicle, which is replacing a 2004 Lincoln Navigator, will aid law enforcement agencies in identifying, detecting and prosecuting persons committing auto theft.

According to the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, the cost of repairing and maintaining the vehicle will be approximately $8,000 annually. The costs will be paid through the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Grant.

Councilman Todd K. Crandell, R-District 7, said it is important for drivers to turn off their cars while they are unattended.

“Please do not leave your car running with the keys in it and the door unlocked,” Crandell said. “Not only is it illegal but you’re inviting your car to be stolen. There are bad actors that will take advantage of the situation.”

Other measures the council voted on, both of which passed, include a $2 million conditional loan to McCormick & Company, Inc., to redevelop its corporate headquarters located at 99 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley, and the approval of a 10-year payments-in-lieu-of-real-property-taxes agreement for an affordable rental housing project.

According to county documents, Dogwood Towns LLC will acquire the property located at 7301 Dogwood Road in Windsor Mill and construct 61 two-story townhouse units. The development, Towns at Woodfields, will be reserved for persons whose income is less than 60 percent of the area median income or $52,020 for a family of four.

The agreement is effective July 1, 2018.

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