For the professional edge in your day-to-day practice, rely on the most timely, objective reporting on significant developments, trends, and emerging patterns in criminal law today—Criminal Law...
March 21 — A state law making it illegal to carry stun guns or tasers for self-defense may violate the Second Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 21.
The decision revives Jaime Caetano's claim that she had a constitutional right to carry a stun gun in her purse to protect herself from a violent ex-boyfriend and casts doubt on the constitutionality of other laws and ordinances that make electric taser-like weapons illegal.
The justices stopped short of ruling that the Massachusetts law violated the Second Amendment and instead sent the case back to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court with instructions to give the categorical ban a second look.
The Massachusetts high court used flawed reasoning when it held that Second Amendment protections are limited to the types of arms that were around when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, the court said in its per curiam opinion.
That conclusion is at odds with the landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (554 U.S. 570), which said that the Second Amendment protects all bearable arms, even those that didn't exist at the time of the country's founding or aren't readily adaptable for military use, the court said.
That 5-4 decision was written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Police discovered the weapon in this case when they searched Caetano's purse while investigating a shoplifting complaint .
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a concurrence fleshing out the defects in the Massachusetts opinion.
The pertinent inquiry under the Second Amendment “is whether stun guns are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes today,” he wrote.
Alito also criticized the “grudging” per curiam decision because it doesn't resolve the question and just remands the case to the same court that affirmed her conviction “on the flimsiest of grounds.”
This “nonlethal weapon” likely saved Caetano's life when she scared off her abusive ex-boyfriend by brandishing it, he said.
“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 said. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the concurrence.
Massachusetts is one of just five states that make it illegal to possess weapons that deliver an electronic shock.
The others are:
A number of other states, like Wisconsin, don't ban tasers and other “electric weapons” outright, but have licensing restrictions.
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office represented the state. The Committee for Public Counsel Services filed the petition for certiorari on behalf of Caetano.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)