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Westminster council repeals 'stun gun' ban

It is now legal to own an electronic firearm, such as a stun gun, in Westminster.

The Westminster Common Council voted 4-0 at their bimonthly meeting Monday to abolish the law that banned electronic firearms. Newly elected Councilman Ben Yingling was not at the meeting.

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The stun gun ban was first put on the books in 1985. None of the members of the current council were on the council at the time, a point raised during their discussion Monday.

The decision to repeal the law was prompted by a letter from legal group Stamboulieh Group PLLC, which represents the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Firearms Policy Foundation. In the letter, the legal group threatened to sue the city if the ban was not repealed.

The letter's tone was off-putting, said Councilman Greg Pecoraro.

"I don't like being threatened, and it was a very aggressive letter. And I didn't like that," Pecoraro said.

The councilman told the other council members that if the letter had been a heads up about the law, the council would have been more receptive and the outcome would have likely been the same.

City Attorney Elissa Levan told the council that recent courts have ruled that bans like the one in Westminster weren't technically illegal, but they needed a compelling reason to have such a ban. She did not think there was a compelling reason.

But if repealing the ban caused Westminster residents to be in danger, they could reinstate it, she said.

Westminster Police Department Chief Jeff Spaulding said no Maryland law bans electronic firearms and he didn't have any issues with the repeal. In his tenure, he said he could recall only one instance that involved a Taser.

"A Taser is not a firearm. It's not a handgun," Spaulding said.

New Mayor Joe Dominic told the council that if the council was not aware of the law, then most citizens probably didn't know about it.

"I don't think this is going to change anything," he said.

Council President Robert Wack agreed, saying that if the law wasn't being enforced or changing anything, there wasn't any point in keeping the law on the books.

Wack did raise a question as to why the policy group and their legal representations took the time to go through Westminster's code and find the ban, especially since the legal group is based in Mississippi, not Maryland.

"And who would devote the resources about suing little Westminster about a ban from 1985?" Wack said.

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