Supreme Court Orders Massachusetts To Take Another Look At Stun Gun Ban

Toni Ann Booras Contributor
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The Supreme Court ordered Massachusetts’ highest court on Monday to reexamine the state’s ban on stun guns after a woman claimed the statute violated her constitutional right to bear arms.

Jaime Caetano, who was arrested in 2011 for carrying a stun gun in violation of Massachusetts state law, claimed she carried the weapon for self defense to protect against an abusive ex-boyfriend, Reuters reports. Caetano was convicted after police found the stun gun in her purse while investigating a shoplifting report.

The state’s top court affirmed Caetano’s conviction in 2015, ruling that the stun-gun ban did not violate the Second Amendment because stun guns did not exist when the Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1789.

While the Supreme Court did not strike down the Massachusetts law or rule on whether electroshock weapons were protected under the Second Amendment, the move was seen as a temporary victory for gun rights proponents. In an unsigned ruling with no dissents, the nation’s highest court sent the case back to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to be looked at again.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion saying simply sending the case back to the lower court may not be enough.

“If the fundamental right of self-defense does not protect Caetano, then the safety of all Americans is left to the mercy of state authorities who may be more concerned about disarming the people than about keeping them safe,” Alito wrote.

Caetano’s lawyers argued the Supreme Court has ruled in the past modern weapons are protected under the Second Amendment, according to USAToday. In a 5–4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court affirmed an individual right to bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February leaving the normally nine-member court short one justice, wrote the ruling.

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment,” Scalia wrote in the Heller decision. “We do not interpret constitutional rights that way.”

Scalia continued that the Second Amendment extends “to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

Massachusetts’ highest court had previously decided the constitutional rights affirmed in Heller did not extend to stun guns.

Massachusetts is one of only seven states that ban possession of stun guns, USAToday reports.