SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today regulating the sale and purchase of stun guns and Tasers. The new law, Senate Bill 1962, requires Tasers and other stun gun purchasers to obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card and submit to background checks, just like they would to obtain a gun. Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to require a firearm license to own a stun gun, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Tasers and other stun guns can be very dangerous in the wrong hands – the amount of voltage they exert alone can be lethal. By treating these weapons just as seriously as we treat firearms, we can make our streets and neighborhoods safer,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
A Taser looks like a gun and can fire two barbed darts up to a distance of 15 feet, which remain attached to the gun by wires. The fishhook-like darts are designed to penetrate into the target’s clothing or skin and are designed to cause instant incapacitation by delivering a 50,000 volt shock. A stun gun is a handheld object that is held by the user and placed directly against another person. The prongs at the end of the stun gun touch the target and deliver an electric current.
Amnesty International estimates more than 80 deaths have occurred in the United States and Canada among people shot by Tasers and other stun guns since 1999. In twelve of the U.S. fatalities, medical examiners cited the stun gun as one of the causes of death or a contributing factor in the death.
Tasers and stun guns are viewed by law enforcement as a less lethal alternative to firearms to subdue suspects. More than 5,000 police departments nationwide use them. But, Tasers and stun guns are sold to private citizens at gun stores and on the internet. And, Taser and stun gun companies appear to be trying to increase sales to civilians.
“Civilians buying these weapons should be required to undergo criminal background checks and a waiting period before they buy something capable of administering that kind of force,” said Sen. Jeff Schoenberg. “This legislation provides another tool for law enforcement officers tasked with the job of protecting us and enforcing the laws of our state.”
“By requiring background checks and a waiting period, we can assure Illinois citizens that these powerful devices do not fall into the wrong hands,” said Representative Elaine Nekritz.
Sponsored by Sen. Schoenberg and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Des Plaines), the law adds stun guns and Tasers to the types of weapons that must follow the requirements of the FOID Card Act. The bill creates the following restrictions:
1. In order to possess a Taser or stun gun, an individual must have a valid FOID card, as is currently required for firearms.
2. Sellers of Taser or stun guns must check the buyers FOID card and keep the record of sale for ten years, the same requirements for firearms sales.
3. When a licensed firearms dealer sells a Taser or stun gun, they must request a background check of the buyer.
4. The 24-hour waiting period required for long guns, shotguns, and rifles, will also apply to taser and stun gun purchases.
“Stun guns are more than weapons that can be used for self-defense. They also can be used in robberies and other violent crimes and therefore must be kept out of the hands of felons,” said Alderman Edward M. Burke, who is the sponsor of a similar local initiative.
“This is also an example of how Governor Blagojevich has acted quickly and decisively to keep pace with the emerging dangers of new and evolving technology. I emphatically commend him for signing this important legislation into law today and I am confident that other jurisdictions will soon follow his lead,” added the Alderman.
Exceptions to the FOID card Act currently in place for firearms will also apply to Taser and stun guns. Illinois law already prohibits stun gun and Tasers from being concealed and carried.
This bill is effective January 1st, 2006.