Caetano v. Massachusetts 14-10078 (U.S. March 21, 2016)
The United States Supreme Court declared that “stun guns” are protected “arms” under the Second Amendment.
Jaime Caetano became in fear for her life after ending a relationship with an abusive boyfriend. For her protection she obtained a stun gun. After another altercation with the ex-boyfriend in which she threatened use of the weapon, she was arrested, tried and convicted for having an illegal weapon under Massachusetts law. Massachusetts bans all electrical weapons emitting a current designed for incapacitation. She challenged the conviction asserting a Second Amendment right to bear arms. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held a stun gun “is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection” because it was “not in common use at the time of [the Second Amendment’s] enactment.” The Massachusetts Court analyzed the weapon and, utilizing three factors, determined the weapon was “unusual” in its technological nature and therefore distinguishable from protection of traditional firearms.
The per curiam opinion made very short work of the Massachusetts Court opinion holding its prior opinions established “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.” However, the concurring opinion provided a more detailed analysis. The Court seemed very concerned the Massachusetts Court focused on the type of weapons in use in the 1780s. Justice Alito noted the Supreme Court’s prior opinions found that reasoning “not merely wrong, but ‘bordering on the frivolous.’” Second Amendment guarantees the right to carry weapons “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” Citizens may lawfully possess stun guns in 45 States and are widely owned and accepted as a legitimate means of self-defense across the country. They are neither unusual nor dangerous under a Second Amendment test. In fact, they are less dangerous than traditional hand guns and citizens should not be put in a position of lawfully using more force than necessary vs unlawfully using less force. As a result, the case was remanded for further processing consistent with the opinion.
If you would like to read this opinion, click here. This is a per curiam opinion. However, Justices Alito and Thomas concurred in the judgment.