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SCOTUS on Electronic Control Weapons

In a two page decision in the case of CAETANO V. MASSACHUSETTS, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that Electronic Control Weapons (like TASER, so-called “Stun Guns” and others like them) are protected under the Right to Bear Arms under the Second Amendment. Hopefully this is a glimpse at how SCOTUS will look at these and other implements in the future.

This finding rejects a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court after examinging criminal charges brought against Ms. Jaime Caetano for possession of a stun gun and her subsequent prosecution. In September of 2011, law enforcement officers answered a call for service to a store in Ashland, MA. In the course of their response they observed Caetano's stun gun and arrested her for violating Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140, §131J, “which bans entirely the possession of an electrical weapon,” When Caetano moved to dismiss the charge on Second Amendment grounds, the trial court denied the motion. Although the prosecutor asked the court to believe the reason Caetano gave for possession of the implement (she'd obtained it for protection from an allegedly abusive boyfriend who put her in the hospital) she was nevertheless convicted under the Massachusetts statute.

The Supreme Court, however, found that Caetano's encounter with her ex-boyfriend proved that, “By arming herself, Caetano was able to protect against a physical threat that restraining orders had proved useless to prevent. And, commendably, she did so by using a weapon that posed little, if any, danger of permanently harming either herself or the father of her children.” (Justice Alito)

SCOTUS furthermore noted that stun guns are neither “unusual” nor “dangerous weapons,” and there for should not be banned. Justice Alito wrote,

“As the per curiam opinion recognizes, this is a conjunctive test: A weapon may not be banned unless it is both dangerous and unusual. Because the Court rejects the lower court's conclusion that stun guns are “unusual,” it does not need to consider the lower court's conclusion that they are also “dangerous.” But make no mistake-the decision below gravely erred on both grounds.”

Justice Alito

From the PATC Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute (LLRMI):

SCOTUS on Electronic Control Weapons

It is noted that the per curiam decision of the Court in a two-page decision rejected the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court because:

  1. The SJC held that stun guns were not protected because they were not commonly used at the time the Second Amendment was passed. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously rejected this type of analysis and once again did so here.
  2. The SJC held that stun-guns were unusual since they are a modern invention that was not in existence at the time the Second Amendment was written, an analysis that is contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
  3. The Court also rejected the SJC analysis that since stun-guns were not readily adaptable to military use, the Second Amendment did not apply.

View the case and learn more about it online here.

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