Stun guns and Tasers not prohibited on campus, but remain banned in residence halls

Mikaela Cannizzo

Campus carry will allow licensed handgun owners to bring concealed handguns on campus starting Aug. 1, but students can also freely carry other types of weapons, such as stun guns or Tasers, around campus as a self-defense mechanism.

UTPD officer William Pieper said there is no specific policy regarding stun guns or Tasers on campus. He said the law regarding handguns should not affect students’ abilities to continue carrying stun guns and Tasers.

“Stun guns and Tasers aren’t qualified as a firearm and it’s really not a part of that law,” Pieper said.

While there are no policies in place regarding use on the general campus, stun guns and Tasers are restricted in all on-campus residence halls, according to the Division of Housing and Food Services’ Residence Hall Manual.

While the manual does not provide a detailed list of prohibited items, it forbids “any weapons that could inflict bodily harm or result in disturbances of the peace,” including stun guns and Tasers.

“Safety and security is our top concern in the residence halls,” residence life director Mylon Kirksy said. “That’s the motivation for having the policy in the residence halls.”

Pieper said understanding the difference between the two devices is important for students to know. While stun guns are contact devices that require someone to be within arm’s reach of their attacker, Tasers fire out two prongs at a distance of up to 18 feet in order to temporarily immobilize an offender.

Mathematics sophomore Alexa Lewis said she owns a stun gun and carries it with her when she stays on campus late at night. Despite never using the device on anyone, she said it makes her feel safe when walking back to her apartment in West Campus.

“If a homeless person ever got too close, I would pull [the stun gun] out and maybe zap it to let them know that I have it,” Lewis said. “I feel pretty safe on campus though, so if I ever had to use it, it would probably be in West Campus.”

Both stun guns and Tasers have significant drawbacks, Pieper said. He said the proximity involved in using a stun gun against an attacker is his biggest concern for that device.

“It takes time for the full effect of [the stun gun] to work and until that time is met, the person who’s attacking you has an opportunity to continue to attack you or even worse, take the stun gun from you or use it against you,” Pieper said.

He said Tasers also have shortcomings including the requirement of both prongs needing to make contact with the attacker for the attempted defense to be successful. Due to the separation of prongs once fired, Pieper said students who carry Tasers should know how to use them and be prepared before attempting to use one in a stressful situation.

While criminal charges would not be issued to students using either of these weapons for self-defense on campus, Pieper said students using them to cause intentional harm to others could face simple or aggravated assault charges.