LETTER: Second Amendment does not protect Taser use

Thursday, October 28, 2010 | 9:08 p.m. CDT

David Rosman's October 25 column arguing against voting YES on the Prop 2 Taser initiative clearly shows a lack of understanding of the right given to citizens under the Second Amendment.

That right encompasses owning and possessing firearms. Prop 2 addresses only the use of the Taser. It places no restrictions on the right of a person to possess or to carry a Taser.

The Second Amendment and the right of possession of a firearm was defined clearly in the Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. The majority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, scrutinized every word and phrase contained in the Second Amendment and concluded the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to possess firearms that might be used for self-defense, and this right shall not be tied to service in the militia.

Further, the court found that there were limited restrictions that could be placed on the rights of certain persons to own or possess a firearm, e.g. convicted felons, the insane, or those under age. The court further found that the government had the power to restrict the use of firearms. This explains how we can have, within our city limits, specific restrictions in the form of municipal laws that limit certain uses of firearms, e.g.. shooting off guns to celebrate New Year's or taking target practice in crowded areas.

In the District of Columbia v. Heller opinion, the court repeatedly used the term "firearms" when discussing the Second Amendment. The court went on to explain that although when the Second Amendment was ratified the citizens of the United States used the musket, the term "arms" contained in the Second Amendment applies to modern firearms now in common use.

Nowhere in the opinion is there any mention that arms also meant electric control devices such as the Taser.

Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court has found and specified that the term "to keep and bear arms" means that a citizen has a right to own and possess a firearm. The court has never found that a citizen has the right to use a firearm irresponsibly, in a way that would threaten the safety of others. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has found that the government has the right to regulate the manner in which firearms are used and to punish citizens who violate such restrictions. The initiative assumes that citizens have the right to own Tasers.

Under Missouri law, the Taser is classified as a "dangerous instrument" under Section 556.061.9 RSMo, and as a "Deadly Weapon" under Section 556.061.8 RSMo. Taser International recognizes this fact on its website. As such, the Taser is classified as a weapon capable of causing death or other serious physical injury when fired. Due to these legal classifications, the Taser's use can be restricted.

Taser International developed the Taser so that it would not be classified a firearm. The Taser, instead of gunpowder, uses a compressed inert nitrogen gas cartridge to shoot the probes. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, at the request of its manufacturer, has classified the Taser as not being a firearm. This makes it possible for persons to purchase and carry the Taser concealed without meeting the strict requirements imposed on owners of a firearm.

Finally, Missouri Law Section 563.031 provides that a citizen of Missouri has the right to use any weapon in self defense if a person believes he or she may be harmed or killed by another person, or if a person enters his or her home or vehicle without permission, or refuses to leave the residence or the vehicle.

As far as citizen use of Tasers or electric control devices, Prop 2 affects only irresponsible use of the Taser, as in pranks, initiation rituals, or other threatening, outrageous behavior.

It is the people's right to set the use of force used by our police. Vote yes on Prop 2.

Ed Berg lives in Columbia.


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Andrew Hansen October 28, 2010 | 10:31 p.m.

"Vote yes on Prop 2."
...because gunshots are preferable to electro-shocks.

(Report Comment)
George Lyon October 29, 2010 | 7:32 a.m.

The writer misreads the Supreme Court's Heller decision. Heller made clear that the second amendment protects "arms" not just firearms. The amendment does not mention "firearms" or guns. Thus knives and swords which were common arms at the founding come within the amendment's purview. And certainly swords were weapons of the militia at the time of adoption. Moreover, following its decision in McDonald that the second amendment applied to the states via the 14th amendment's due process clause, the Supreme Court remanded a pending case in New York which denied second amendment protection to nunchucks. There would be no need to remand that case if only guns were protected by the second amendment. The test the court set forth is whether a weapon is in common use. Tasers are in common use. The test the author of this letter would adopt, whether the weapon is dangerous or deadly would gut the second amendment. What is more deadly than a gun?

(Report Comment)
Vince Hathaway October 29, 2010 | 9:37 a.m.

A woman who demands further gun control legislation is like a chicken who roots for Colonel Sanders. —Larry Elder

Vote No on Prop Two.

(Report Comment)
jeremy weichelt June 17, 2012 | 8:21 p.m.

i just had a charge of possession of an electric weapon dismissed against me in Wisconsin on two grounds, one it was a violation of my 2nd amendment rights and two, it was a violation of the equal protection act, these charges were dismissed by a very conservative trial judge as the motion by my attorney requested and haven't been appealed by the state as of yet...

(Report Comment)

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