A federal judge has delayed a case involving a Honolulu man who sued the police, city and state in 2018 over the ban on stun guns for personal protection in Hawaii.
U.S. District Court Judge Helen Gillmor wants to see how a Second Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court plays out before making a decision on the lawsuit filed by Andrew Namiki Roberts, according to Alan Beck, one of his attorneys.
That Supreme Court case involves New York City’s gun transport laws. The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association sued the city over its ban on transporting a handgun outside the city limits. The debate is whether that’s consistent with the constitutional right to travel.
An Axon Taser X26 is a common stun gun used by law enforcement.
That case and the Honolulu case are not necessarily alike, Beck said, but the judge wants to see what happens since they are both weapons-related.
“We’re pretty confident that eventually we’re going to win, because all these other cases have won in all these other jurisdictions,” Beck said, referring to stun gun bans having been overturned in other areas, including New Jersey, Michigan and New York.
Roberts, who heads the local gun organization Hawaii Firearms Coalition, sued for the right to protect himself and his expensive photography gear with a less than lethal weapon, according to the complaint.
Since 1976, Hawaii has banned the use of stun guns, including Tasers, the most common brand. There is an exception for law enforcement use, but that wasn’t created until 2001. Hawaii is one of only two states that ban ownership for civilians altogether; the other is Rhode Island.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that people have the right to bear arms, and Tasers are a form of arms, he added.
Roberts’ basic argument is that Tasers are not dangerous, nor are they that uncommon. About 4.7 million civilians in the United States own stun guns, he and his lawyers say in court filings.
The lawsuit has caught the attention of a national gun control group. Everytown for Gun Safety has filed an amicus brief in the case, challenging Roberts’ argument that stun guns are safe and common.
The group said in court filings that while it took no position on stun gun legislation in general, Roberts’ defining Tasers as a “common” weapon was illogical and threatened public safety.
The state Attorney General’s Office, which is named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the case.
“Unfortunately, Tasers do kill people,” Deputy Attorney General John Cregor wrote in court filings. “Tasers in the hands of even well-trained police officers kill people.”
Tasers may be considered less dangerous, but they still accounted for more than 1,000 deaths in actual use, he said. He added that in more than 150 cases, wrongful death lawsuits have been filed with regards to stun guns.
Specifically, Cregor pointed to a Honolulu case involving a former Hawaii Air National Guardsman, Sheldon Haleck, who was stunned three times before collapsing onto the pavement near Iolani Palace. He later died and his uncle, Gulstan Silva, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on his behalf. A jury, however, found in favor of the police officers and the city in that case.
Cregor also submitted research linking cardiac arrest to Tasers as an exhibit. In Haleck’s trial, experts tied to Axon Enterprises, the company that makes Tasers, disputed such research.
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