Lawsuit calls New Jersey stun gun ban unconstitutional

August 11, 2016 4:05 PM EDT

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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gun rights group filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging a New Jersey law that bans private individuals from owning stun guns, Tasers and other electronic weapons as unconstitutional.

The complaint, filed by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision in March that suggested possessing such arms was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Gun rights advocates filed a similar lawsuit a week ago to invalidate a stun gun ban in Washington, D.C.

In addition to New Jersey, several states including Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island have outlawed electronic weapons like Taser guns.

A spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general, whose office would defend the state's ban, declined to comment.

In March, the Supreme Court threw out a Massachusetts court ruling that stun guns were not covered by the Second Amendment, calling it inconsistent with the high court's landmark 2008 decision finding a constitutional right to bear arms.

The March ruling signaled that the 2008 decision, known as the Heller case, may apply to modern electronic weapons such as Tasers, as well as handguns and rifles.

Stephen Stamboulieh, one of the lawyers who filed the New Jersey lawsuit, said he would be surprised if state bans on stun guns and similar weapons survived court challenges.

"If you have the right already under Heller to keep a deadly weapon in your home, you have the right to keep a non-deadly weapon," he said in an interview.

Stamboulieh said he and Alan Beck, a California lawyer who has worked with him on firearm litigation, plan to file similar lawsuits in other states.

The New Jersey lawsuit said more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies around the world use Tasers, which typically fire wires up to 25 feet long with probes that embed themselves into people's skin, letting officers deliver debilitating electric charges.

A model marketed to civilians for self-defense has a range of 15 feet, the lawsuit said.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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