The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, showing once again that it has as much respect for the civil rights of Massachusetts residents as does the nation of Ghana, recently upheld a Massachusetts law banning stun guns, holding that they are not protected by the Second Amendment. Since they weren’t around in 1789, they aren’t the kind of weapon that was contemplated by the framers when drafting the amendment. The facts of the case are as follows . . .
After consenting to a search of her purse, the defendant, Jamie Caetano, was arrested for possession of a stun gun in a supermarket parking lot. Caetano claimed that the stun gun was necessary to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend, and that she had previously had to ‘display’ the gun to her ex-boyfriend to ward off an attack. She argued that a stun gun was an ‘arm’ protected by the Second Amendment. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected her arguments:
The ban on the private possession of stun guns will not burden conduct that falls within the scope of the Second Amendment if a stun gun is a weapon not “in common use at the time” of enactment of the Second Amendment and would be dangerous per se at common law without another, primary use, i.e., as a tool. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 624-625, 627, quoting Miller, 307 U.S. at 179. For reasons that follow, there can be no doubt that a stun gun was not in common use at the time of enactment, and it is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection. See Heller, supra at 622….
[A]lthough modern handguns were not in common use at the time of enactment of the Second Amendment, their basic function has not changed: many are readily adaptable to military use in the same way that their predecessors were used prior to the enactment. A stun gun, by contrast, is a thoroughly modern invention. Even were we to view stun guns through a contemporary lens for purposes of our analysis, there is nothing in the record to suggest that they are readily adaptable to use in the military. Indeed, the record indicates “they are ineffective for . . . hunting or target shooting.” Because the stun gun that the defendant possessed is both dangerous per se at common law and unusual, but was not in common use at the time of the enactment of the Second Amendment, we conclude that stun guns fall outside the protection of the Second Amendment. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 622, 627.
The Court went on to apply a rational basis test to the law, since a stun gun can “deliver a charge of up to 50,000 volts” repeatedly, “without leaving marks… [t]he Legislature rationally could ban their use in the interest of
public health, safety, or welfare.”
After reading this case, I find myself wishing once again that Courts would expend more energy in forcing governments to justify their exercise of powers than in holding citizens responsible for justifying the exercise of their rights.
There’s an old saying that bad cases make bad law; in this case, the entire reason that the defendant came to the attention fo the police was because she was at a supermarket with someone who was detained for shoplifting. The police apparently approached her to question her about that incident, and presumably asked to search her purse in conjunction with that matter. That said, I am left with the sense that the Massachusetts Court decided that this was a perfect opportunity to thumb its nose at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Heller. Hopefully, the Supreme Court set right this challenge sooner rather than later.
In any event, let us never forget that the Massachusetts Court apparently doesn’t think that women have a right to empower themselves with non-lethal equipment to fight off male attackers. What’s all this I hear about that state being a bastion of ‘progressive’ politics?
(Hat tip: RK)