P&S Council learns more about new law regarding stun guns

Last May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law that prohibits Iowa's public universities and community colleges from banning stun guns on campus. But what is and is not legal when it comes to possessing stun guns at Iowa State?

"The dangerous weapons statute was not touched by the Legislature, so a stun gun is still a dangerous weapon," said ISU Police chief Michael Newton during a presentation at the Professional and Scientific Council's Oct. 3 meeting. 

Anyone at least 18 years old can carry a stun gun on campus as long as they do not use it to commit a crime. Language was added last November that eliminated the need to have a permit to carry a stun gun. 

Stun guns

There are two types of stun guns. Only a nonprojectile model is allowed on campus. It delivers an electric shock, but Newton said most use a 9-volt battery, which limits their effectiveness.

"You do have to make physical contact with someone to use it. It is not like TV -- when you touch someone, they don't just drop and go unconscious," Newton said. "It is a pain compliance tool, and it makes [an attacker] angry because it hurts."

Newton said because physical contact is needed there is a chance it can be taken away from someone trying to use it.

Projectile stun guns will knock down someone who is hit with the darts the gun fires. That type of stun gun still is illegal on campus, except for police.

"It shoots darts and uses neuromuscular incapacitation that locks all of your muscles up and you go down," Newton said.

Possess vs. carry

Newton said his department is working with Student Government to educate students about stun guns, and officers had conversations with several parents during fall orientation. Students 18 years old or older, can own a stun gun and have it in their residence hall as well as carry it around campus.

The legal impact of using a stun gun -- even in a residence hall -- would depend on the reason for the use, Newton said.

The new law does not allow stun guns inside athletic facilities and hospitals at State Board of Regents universities.


Newton said safety alternatives to a stun gun include free self-defense classes, the Guardian mobile app and pepper spray.

"There are no restrictions on pepper spray on campus, but I always caution people that anything you carry can be used against you," Newton said. "We haven't seen issues with pepper spray ... and in the few months this [law] has been passed we have not seen any issues with stun guns."

Other business

Tom Elston, director of office operations for the ISU Alumni Association, was unanimously approved to serve on the council until June 2020. Elston is filling a vacancy created in the president's office. He also will serve on the council's awards committee.