Iowa Supreme Court rules inoperable stun gun a dangerous weapon

The Iowa Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court’s ruling that carrying a stun gun, whether operable or not, without a firearms permit is illegal.

“We hold that a stun gun, even if inoperable, is per se a dangerous weapon under [Iowa Law]. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the judgment of the district court,” read the ruling issued Feb. 19.

The case — stemming from the arrest of Taquala Monique Howse for shoplifting, during which the arresting officer discovered a stun gun in her purse — came to Iowa’s highest court as a result of the Court of Appeals overturning the district court’s decision, citing insufficient evidence.

The Blackhawk County judge had initially ruled the stun gun was a dangerous weapon, and appealed the Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court.

According to the case background, Howse was placed under arrest after police were called to a Waterloo Walmart on a report of shoplifting. Following her arrest, Howse’s purse was searched, where officers found the stun gun, which was later deemed to be inoperable.

Howse admitted the stun gun was hers, and she had purchased it to take with her to clubs. However, she also acknowledged she did not have a concealed carry permit for the weapon.

Iowa state law defines a dangerous weapon as any instrument or device designed “for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal,” and which is capable of causing death when used in the manner intended. Additionally, any item that is actually used to inflict death or injury on a living thing will be considered a dangerous weapon.

The state’s definition of dangerous weapon includes any sort of offensive weapon, firearm, blade exceeding five inches in length or “any portable device or weapon directing an electric current, impulse, wave, or beam that produces a high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person.”

The Supreme Court also heard testimony from police officers with regard to the nature of weapon a stun gun was.

According to the testifying officers, a stun gun can both be used to incapacitate someone and cause injury, and in certain situations — such as with someone on drugs or with a heart condition — use of a stun gun on an individual could result in death.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the state had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a stun gun — regardless of its condition — could be considered a dangerous weapon.

Carrying a dangerous weapon without a permit in Iowa will result in an aggravated misdemeanor charge.