Michigan Case Holding That Second Amendment Protects Stun Guns

Here’s the opinion in People v. Yanna (Mich. Cir. Ct. Apr. 21, 2011), the Michigan case that David Kopel mentioned.

The court’s ruling was based solely on the Second Amendment, and not on the Michigan right to bear arms provision, likely because People v. Smelter, 437 N.W.2d 341 (Mich. App. 1989), held that the Michigan provision does not protect stun guns. Smelter is the only court decision I know of, before this one, dealing with whether the right to keep and bear arms (under either a state constitution or the federal constitution) protects stun guns. The Yanna decision strikes me as correct, and Smelter wrong, for reasons I gave in my Nonlethal Self-Defense, (Almost Entirely) Nonlethal Weapons, and the Rights to Keep and Bear Arms and Defend Life, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 199 (2009); I hope Yanna will be affirmed on appeal.

The case involved a “stun gun” that requires direct contact between the main part of the device and the person whom one is trying to stun, and that thus can only be used from a very short distance. The case did not involve a stun gun, such as a Taser, that fires darts; but I think that the constitutional analysis should be essentially the same for both.

Note also that the defendant was carrying the gun openly, “while working behind the counter at a convenience store next to another employee who was [openly carrying] a firearm.” The firearm carrier was likely acting quite legally (and could even have gotten a licensed to carry a firearm concealed, since Michigan is a shall-issue state). The stun gun carrier was breaking the law by even possessing a gun.

(Yanna himself also apparently had a criminal record; but he was charged under the general ban on possession of stun guns, not under any special law — which some states have — that bans stun gun possession by people with certain kinds of criminal convictions.)