On Monday the US Supreme Court reversed a Massachusetts court ruling that upheld Massachusetts’ ban on stun guns, and the conviction of a woman who carried one. The Massachusetts court previously ruled that stun guns did not fall under the purview of the Second Amendment because the devices were not in common use—or even invented—at the time of the nation’s founding. However, the Supreme Court vacated that decision, referring to the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision that determined the Second Amendment to apply to all instruments that can be considered as a “bearable arm,” including those not in use during the signing of the constitution, or even those invented in the future.
“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way,” the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2008. “The Second Amendment extend … to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states, including Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, that prohibit the use and possession of stun guns. A few states, such as Michigan and Illinois, require a license before residents can own and carry a stun gun such as consumer-grade Tasers. The plaintiff in the Massachusetts case, Jaime Caetano, called the laws a “fossilized relic.” According to NBC News, Caetano was arrested in 2011 after police officers found the stun gun in her purse while investigating a possible shoplifting. Caetano said she purchased the weapon to protect herself against an abusive former boyfriend.
It seems that the majority of the Justices agreed that Caetano should have the right to carry the stun gun, and that it is covered under the Second Amendment.
“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,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in a 10-page concurrence.
“The commonwealth of Massachusetts was either unable or unwilling to do what was necessary to protect Jaime Caetano, so she was forced to protect herself,” Alito added.