New Orleans LA Dec 20 2016 A New Orleans man suing the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Police Department over a citywide ban on sales, purchases and possession of stun guns has won the temporary luxury of carrying a Taser -- though, for now at least, he's the only private citizen in the city who can legally carry one, his lawyer said Sunday (Dec. 18).
According to a deal struck by New Orleans resident John Ford and city officials that briefly staves off an injunction of the city's ban, Ford will be the only person in the city able to buy and carry a stun gun for at least 90 days, starting last Wednesday. The deal stems a civil suit Ford filed in U.S. District Court last month against the city and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, which argues that New Orleans' ban on stun guns violates federal and state constitutional rights to bear arms.
In his suit, Ford said he wants to a keep a stun gun or Taser in his home not only for self-defense, but also to avoid resorting to deadly force if he were subject to a "violent criminal attack." Stun guns use high-voltage electric prongs to immobilize an attacker, but they are not designed to inflict serious or permanent injury.
Louisiana law permits the use of stun guns for self-defense without obtaining a permit -- but local laws vary. New Orleans Municipal Code prohibits the sale, purchase, possession or use of stun guns as well as other devices such as blackjacks, metal knuckles and switchblades.
Last Wednesday, both Ford and the city agreed to a stipulation granting him the sole right to bear a stun gun and purchase one from a third-party vendor, staving off an injunction of the ban brought by the suit. Meanwhile, city officials "may" take a look at tweaking the municipal code section that bans the sale and possession of the non-lethal devices, court records show.
But for 90 days at least, Ford can buy and stun gun and carry it "anywhere a firearm is allowed to be carried either openly or concealed," according to the stipulation, which also says the city doesn't have to admit it's violating state or federal law with the ban. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon ordered the stipulation to be adopted Wednesday.
Now, it's up to the city to decide whether to tweak municipal code or risk the injunction moving forward, according to Stephen Stamboulieh, a Mississippi-based attorney brought on to head up Ford's legal team. Speaking by phone on Sunday, Stamboulieh indicated that Ford would push the injunction in the face of inadequate or non-action on the city's part -- though he believes Ford would win handily should his suit proceed further in civil court.
"They're going to have to figure that out," Stamboulieh said. "We may have to go through several iterations" of a code rewrite before Ford and his team feel satisfied.
Court filings hint that it may be a tall order for Ford and the city to come to terms in just 90 days. In separate filings, Ford and the city appear to have battled over whether he should keep a stun gun strictly inside his residence -- a restriction that Ford ultimately had scratched from the stipulation.
Nonetheless, Ford "definitely" plans on purchasing a stun gun, Stromboulieh said, and has even started the process of buying one from a third party. Court filings show he would like to "place an order with Taser International for a Taser Pulse model."
Ford could not be reached for comment Sunday. But in court filings, he has posed his inability to carry a Taser as a "self-defense" issue that could imperil not only his personal safety, but further leave him vulnerable to costly litigation, public disdain and post-traumatic stress should he ever have to shoot someone dead with a gun in self-defense.
"(Ford) is aware of the potential legal, economic and psychological ramifications of even the justified use of deadly force to defend himself or his home against a violent criminal attack," the suit states. "(He) would prefer to minimize the likelihood that he would have to resort to deadly force in the event he was forced to defend himself or his home against a violent criminal attack."
Attorneys for Harrison and the city did not immediately return requests for comment Sunday. NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble declined last month to comment on the pending litigation, and did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Sunday morning.
Ford's suit has drawn New Orleans into a nationwide debate over stun-gun laws, which in March saw the U.S. Supreme court toss out a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision holding that stun guns were not covered by the Second Amendment. In that decision, the federal justices held that the Second Amendment does indeed apply to "all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those not in existence at the time of the founding."
For his part, Stramboulieh is not stopping with New Orleans. He and another of Ford's attorneys -- Alan Beck -- are also part of a legal team representing Matthew Avitabile, the 29-year-old mayor of Middleburgh, New York, who earlier this month filed suit against New York's governor, attorney general and chief of state police over that state's ban on stun guns.
Both Stamboulieh and Beck have also joined the litigation team in a stun-gun suit brought in August against New Jersey's attorney general and chief of state police, which likewise challenged that state's Taser ban. Last month, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino asked a federal judge for a meeting to settle the case and to be granted time to establish rules governing stun gun purchases and ownership, after he conceded that New Jersey's ban on stun guns "would likely not pass constitutional muster."
"We're starting to bring these suits across the country," Stramboulieh said on Sunday. "Hopefully, they'll fix the issue."