Stun guns produce an electrical shock that causes pain. Wednesday night, the Iowa Supreme Court considers whether this qualifies these devices as "dangerous weapons."
The categorization matters because when Taquala Howse was arrested at a Waterloo Walmart for shoplifting in 2013, officers found a stun gun in her purse. She was convicted of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon without a permit, but the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned that conviction this spring.
"Nothing in this record establishes, even in general terms, the voltage of the device at issue...had sufficient voltage to immobilize a person," writes Chief Justice David Danilson. "We conclude there is not substantial evidence in this record to sustain the conviction."
The state argues the conviction should stand since stun guns can be lethal, especially if the person shocked by the device has a heart condition or is on drugs. Assistant Attorney General Tyler Buller adds that if a person is stunned on the head or neck, "Serious injury and/or death can be inflicted."
Howse says since stun guns are not designed to immobilize or kill, her charge is illegal. "Nobody who intends to kill people is going to grab one of these devices. Nobody is going to do a drive-by with a stun gun," writes Howse's attorney John Audelehlm. "Tasers and stun guns were designed to avoid killing people."
The court will hear the case tonight during special offsite oral arguments at Harlan High School.