This was the first case the court had following Scalia’s death. It’s a great win for the 2A, and with Garland’s nomination we need all the wins we can get!
In the first case before the Supreme Court following Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely and mysterious death, the court threw out the decision of a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding the state’s claim that stun guns are not protected under the Second Amendment. However, in the court also stated very clearly, “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.”
But in an unsigned opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday vacated that ruling. It said the Massachusetts court improperly found that Second Amendment protection applies only to weapons that were in common use at the time of the nation’s founding.
Referring to its landmark 2008 ruling on handguns in the home, the justices said the Second Amendment applies “to all instruments that constitute bearable arms,” even those not in existence at the time of the founding.
The case before the court was Jamie Caetano v. Massachusetts, in which a 4’11” woman had been given a stun gun by a friend to protect herself against her abusive ex-lover, who beat her so severely that she had to seek medical attention. This man was also the father of her two children.
Was the stun gun effective? Apparently, it was pretty effective in possibly saving her life.
One night after leaving work, Caetano found her ex-boyfriend “waiting for [her] outside.” He “started screaming” that she was “not gonna [expletive deleted] work at this place” any more because she “should be home with the kids” they had together. Caetano’s abuser towered over her by nearly a foot and outweighed her by close to 100 pounds. But she didn’t need physical strength to protect herself. She stood her ground, displayed the stun gun, and announced: “I’m not gonna take this anymore. . . . I don’t wanna have to [use the stun gun on] you, but if you don’t leave me alone, I’m gonna have to.” The gambit worked. The ex-boyfriend “got scared and he left [her] alone.”
Now, understand the Caetano was later arrested under Massachusetts General Law ch. 140, §131J. That’s right, the victim was arrested for defending herself and not only that, but she faced a minimum fine of between $500 up to $1000 and 6 months to 2 and a half years in prison! That’s for defending herself!
According to the Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion:
- The Massachusetts Court held that stun guns were not protected by the 2A because stun guns “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment”. The Supreme Court rejected this as a direct affront to the landmark Heller decision, which explicitly holds that the 2A “extends…to…arms…that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
- The Massachusetts Court’s holding that stun guns were “dangerous and unusual” devices in part because they were “a thoroughly modern invention” fell for a similar reason. The Supreme Court noted that “[b]y equating ‘unusual’ with ‘in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment,’ the [Massachusetts] court’s second explanation is the same as the first; it is inconsistent with Heller for the same reason.”
- Finally, the Massachusetts Court’s holding that stun guns were not “readily adaptable to use in the military” fell because “Heller rejected the proposition ‘that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.'”