The case came after Jaime Caetano, a homeless woman with an abusive ex-boyfriend, was arrested for defending herself from the abuser with a stun gun after police failed to keep him away pursuant to the multiple restraining orders she had filed against the man. Prosecutors charged that Caetano had broken the law by defending herself with the stun gun because the devices were illegal under Massachusetts law and not protected by the 2nd Amendment.
The Supreme Court cited Heller earlier this week as it unanimously overturned a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in the case which maintained that stun guns are not protected as self-defense weapons under the 2nd Amendment because they “were not in common use” when the Bill of Rights was composed.
That, as you know, is also a common refrain from anti-2ndAmendment Americans who don’t believe law abiding citizens should have access to semi-automatic firearms and high capacity magazines.
Here’s what the Supreme Court had to say about the lower court decision:
The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller… and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v. Chicago… In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a Massachusetts law prohibiting the possession of stun guns after examining “whether a stun gun is the type of weapon contemplated by Congress in 1789 as being protected by the Second Amendment.”
In Heller, the Supreme Court cemented the right of the individual to keep firearms in the home for self-defense without interference from government regulatory schemes aimed at making gun ownership impossible.
The later McDonald case cleared up some confusion left after the Heller ruling, with the Supreme Court deciding that state and local governments must adhere to the same 2nd Amendment standards as the federal government.
The Supreme Court declined to take on the case at the federal level, instead sending it back to the lower court demanding “further proceedings not inconsistent” with the SCOTUS opinion.
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas chided the Massachusetts court and said if the courts aren’t willing to protect Americans’ self-defense rights, no one will.
“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,” they noted.
Gun rights advocates applauded the Supreme Court’s position on the stun gun issue in Massachusetts.
Alan Gottlieb, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in a statement. “Just because something didn’t exist at the time the Constitution was ratified doesn’t mean it isn’t protected. By that same reasoning, no modern newspaper, online publication, or broadcast media would be protected by the First Amendment in the Bay State, and we all know that’s nonsense.”
Still, the Supreme Court’s decision to send the stun gun case back to the Massachusetts court rather than clearing up what lower courts continue to get wrong about its rulings in cases like Heller andMcDonald leaves plenty of room for uncertainty about how it may handle future 2nd Amendment challenges.