Statue in front of Supreme Court Building

Jaime Caetano Gets Another Chance

The Supreme Court tossed a Massachusetts court ruling that upheld a state ban on owning or possessing a stun gun.  Today’s ruling directs the Supreme Court of Massachusetts to reconsider Jaime Caetano’s conviction for possessing a stun gun in violation of a Massachusetts laws in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. In Heller, the Court specifically ruled that the Second Amendment covers “all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” In its earlier ruling, Massachusetts court held that the Second Amendment does not protect stun gun possession because stun guns are a modern invention.

On remand, the Massachusetts court will have to consider whether the Massachusetts per se ban on stun guns survives the requirements of the Second Amendment now that it is established that stun guns are covered by the Amendment.

Justice Alito wrote a separate concurring opinion joined by Justice Thomas in support of the Court’s decision.  The opinion takes note of an amicus brief filed by UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh and the Center for Individual Rights on behalf of Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment (AWARE).   The opinion argues that a person should not have to choose between exercising a Constitutional right and following their conscience:

“Moreover, a weapon is an effective means of self-defense only if one is prepared to use it, and it is presumptuous to tell Caetano she should have been ready to shoot the father of her two young children if she wanted to protect herself. Courts should not be in the business of demanding that citizens use more force for self-defense than they are comfortable wielding. Countless people may have reservations about using deadly force, whether for moral, religious, or emotional reasons—or simply out of fear of killing the wrong person. See Brief for Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment as Amicus Curiae 4–5. “Self-defense,” however, “is a basic right.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 767. I am not prepared to say that a State may force an individual to choose between exercising that right and following her conscience, at least where both can be accommodated by a weapon already in widespread use across the Nation.”