Supreme Court

Supreme Court Vacates Massachusetts Ruling That Found Stun Guns Ineligible for 2nd Amendment Protections

SCOTUS rejects lower court ruling in Caetano v. Massachusetts.

|

In 2015 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, that state's highest court, upheld the criminal conviction of a woman named Jaime Caetano for the crime of possessing a stun gun, which she obtained for purposes of self-defense against her violent and abusive ex-boyfriend. According to the Massachusetts high court, Caetano's conviction must stand because a stun gun "is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection." Today the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that judgment and ordered the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to rehear the case.

At issue in Caetano v. Massachusetts is the reach of the Supreme Court's Second Amendment precedents District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), which together recognize that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense, and that this right applies against legislative enactments by both the federal and state governments.

In its Caetano decision, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that Heller and McDonald were not controlling because stun guns are dangerous and unusual "modern" weapons that "were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment enactment." Yet as the U.S. Supreme Court observed today, that judgment "is inconsistent with Heller's clear statement that the Second Amendment 'extends…to…arms…that were not in existence at the time of the founding.'" In other words, the Massachusetts high court got Heller wrong and the U.S. Supreme Court just instructed that court to get it right the second time around.

No member of the Supreme Court dissented from today's per curiam opinion in Caetano v. Massachusetts. However, Justice Sameuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he left little doubt that if it were up to him (and Thomas), the state's actions would have been ruled flatly unconstitutional.

"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 wrote. "To make matters worse, the Commonwealth chose to deploy its prosecutorial resources to prosecute and convict her of a criminal offense for arming herself with a nonlethal weapon that may well have saved her life. The Supreme Judicial Court then affirmed her conviction on the flimsiest of grounds." According to Alito, "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 people than about keeping them safe."

The Supreme Court's per curiam opinion in Caetano v. Massachusetts is available here.

NEXT: Dem Senators to Sanders: You've Had Your Fun, Time to Fall In

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. Hand-cranked mechanical printing press; only that.

      1. Hand bills.

      2. When I used that argument on a gun-grabber, he fell silent. He eventually became a Randite.

        1. Do you have time for a quick chat with Mark Hamill?

          1. He was obviously speaking at the Joker, not as the heroic Luke Skywalker.

    2. And for ‘non lethal’ fist cuffs.I assume you are well versed in those.

      1. Marquess of Queensberry Rules??

    3. What, no rapiers?

          1. I’m throwing the challenge flag. I think that warranted a slow applause.

            1. 2nded

        1. Rapier culture FTW.

          1. LOL! I’ll go get my Case – I like using both hands when I rapier.

    4. Hmm, only interstate commerce involving transportation via horse or mule.

  1. So, why does Massachusetts hate women, while enabling sbusive map rapists? Crazy.

        1. The tasings will continue until the commenting improves.

  2. Massachusetts doesn’t have an obligation to protect Caetano.

    See Town of Castle rock vs Gonzalez

    1. Alito’s point being if they choose not to protect her, then they can’t also deny her the means of protecting herself.

      1. This principle needs to be applied to businesses and government facilities that ban guns. And enforced with liability when someone is hurt during the commission of a crime.

        1. Government facilities, yes. Businesses, no. Businesses don’t pretend to represent/serve everyone and they can’t force you to interact with them either.

          1. What if the business is, say, a utility company, where, since it is a monopoly, I have no choice but patronize. No thanks. I say unless the business is going to take on that legal reponsibility, then yeah, I can take my gun in there too.

            1. If it’s a legal monopoly, then it’s not so different from a government facility.

              I’ll admit it’s more difficult question when the business is a natural monopoly.

              1. All Natural is more gooder!

          2. I’m with you on that. Businesses should not be liable if you are harmed because they required you to disarm before entering. You would assume the risk if you choose to enter.

            1. Hmm. Interesting take. I’ll have to think on it some more. Foreseeable consequences v assumption of risk.

              1. I realize that traditional assumption of the risk elements apply to “dangerous activities”; is entering a store disarmed a “dangerous activity”? Maybe, maybe not. Hard to say.

                Still, unless you have no choice, I still think you are personally responsible for the risk and should have no legal recourse against the business.

    2. And she had no right to protect herself it seems.

      1. Government jealously defends its monopoly on violence.

    3. Massachusetts doesn’t have an obligation to protect Caetano.

      Considering that no one claimed that it does, I’m not certain what your point is.

  3. According to Alito, “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 people than about keeping them safe.”

    This is what I think every time I see a story about someone punished (frequently with lethal force) for attempting to defend himself against a cop.

    1. YOU TAKE HIS SENTIMENT TOO FAR SIR.

      1. Its actually legal self-defense in Texas to shoot a cop acting outside his legal authority to threaten or attack you.

        1. Yeah but the boundaries of a cop’s legal authority are like Atlantis. You hear people talk about them, but no one’s ever discovered them.

          1. Atlantis is in the Pegasus Galaxy. DUH.

        2. I’m sure most if not all cops/judges/prosecutors would argue that a mere peasant can’t possibly understand what is outside the legal authority of one of the king’s men.

          1. But it should only about what the peasants *perceive* the legal authority of the king’s men to be, right? I mean, that is the standard cops are held to, and there certainly aren’t any double standards at play.

            1. “Your honor, I had broken no laws when the cop stopped me and asked for my ID and demanded to frisk me. He made a furtive movement, and I felt threatened, so my weapon discharged and he was struck by multiple rounds. I understand he died later from a cardiac arrest in the hospital, so its not clear that my weapon was connected with his death.”

              “Welp, when the police were making that argument last week, I had to let them walk. So I guess you get to go home too. Be careful out there!”

  4. No member of the Supreme Court dissented…

    Thanks to it being a woman protecting herself from domestic abuse?

    1. Yes,a man,not so much.

    2. Victimhood is the new privilege.

  5. A giant point and Nelson laugh at my ancestral home.

  6. Police are the only people allowed to defend themselves because they have badges that confer onto them magical powers that prevent them from misusing weapons. Unless someone bears that magical talisman, they cannot be trusted with a weapon of any sort.

    /standard leftist “logic”

    1. Does that magical talisman also prevent them from having racial biases?

      1. Being state employees makes them as blind as Justice herself. We’re talking about their aim, right?

  7. stun guns are dangerous and unusual

    And that’s why we give them to all cops.

    1. Yup. Any weapon that is issued to police departments should be legal for anyone to own. I might make an exception, maybe, for crowd control – tear gas grenades, etc. The rest? Flashbangs, full-auto submachine guns and rifles, etc? No question.

      1. But, but, but… officer safety!

      2. I’ll start saving up for that DoD-surplus MRAP.

        1. My former brother-in-law bought a Lenco Bearcat from a police department in Ohio. They made him weld the sniper port shut before they would let it on the street.

          1. And then he re-cut it after taking possession?

            1. My bad, it was a Gurkha.

              No, they bought it for promotion for a fashion company. No guns whatsoever. It’s Jersey.
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VaLV3avDyM

        2. They’re practically free, but it takes a village to move/maintain them.

      3. I might make an exception, maybe, for crowd control – tear gas grenades, etc.

        Why?

        1. Well, they have very little utility for either self-defense or armed insurrection. I’m just thinking that if I have to throw the King’s Men a bone on this, that’s probably the best one.

          1. So what? 2A doesn’t have a “utility” exception. And I would certainly argue that in the event of riots, crowd control arms are exactly what is needed for self defense.

            1. I was thinking more politically than in principle.

      4. I bet flahsbangs are a lot of fun.

        1. Not really. I’d be happy never being around one the rest of my life.

        2. They are not.

        3. -2 ruptured eardrums

          Or the burned off face on that poor kid that had one land in her crib.

  8. Attention San Francisco area Reasonoids! We are having a meetup this Thursday after work, in Hayes Valley (about a 13 minute walk from the Civic Center BART). Write me at my handle @gmail.com for details. I want a headcount so we can reserve some space.

    1. What is “after work”, privileged shitlord? Some people have to work at night!

      1. I apologize for the microaggression….

      2. Take care, Papaya is a raging leftist who wants to round up all you baggers into one place and… hand out Bernie propaganda!

        1. Playing the long con.

    2. You’re not even going to post a menu?

      1. I’m trying to get people to contact me for a headcount. Later I might post the details here.

    1. 8 to 0. That will make Clinton and Bernie fans scream.

      1. Why would you assume that? Having a nonlethal weapon to protect yourself would be something most of them would get behind.

  9. 8 to 0? Holy shit, I was just about to ask which of the leftists on the court sided with Alito and Thomas.

    What is going on here? The next thing you know, these stun guns will make every tea bagger redneck a potential terrorist.

    1. This opinion is an obvious signal to the Mass. court that it just has to try a little bit harder and not violate Heller so obviously. There is no chance that this lady ultimately wins.

      1. Interesting conundrum. Do they just turn around and charge her with illegal firearms possession? Can they charge her for possessing something not previously defined

        1. They don’t need to recharge her. SCOTUS didn’t say that the Mass. statute was unconstitutional. It just said the Mass. court’s reasoning for why it was not unconstitutional wasn’t good enough. Now the case will go back to the Mass. court, where it will try out a different explanation for why the statute is not unconstitutional.

  10. Stun guns are also illegal in Baltimore City. Unless you’re a cop that is.

    1. To also enjoy this constitutional right, all Charm City residents have to do is sue for it. Probably a few times.

      1. Good luck to them finding more than a few people who care.

    2. Everything is illegal in Baltimore City, or at least that was the case when I was in undergrad there.

      1. It’s the only place I know of in the surrounding areas, including Baltimore County and Howard County, where you can cook on a grill on a veranda in a building with other occupants. Outside of that, it’s like … California? Seattle? I dunno.

        1. That’s not that uncommon. Due to the number of apartment fires by people being complete morons. I don’t have that much of a problem with it, honestly.

        2. That grill thing is an actual law?

          Most landlords won’t allow it around here, but I don’t know of any laws on the books.

          Same with gas lines. Most multi-family dwellings don’t have gas utilities to keep people from blowing up the building. It’s not illegal, but it’s a bad idea.

          1. As a law, I don’t know how common it is. I know of one or two towns that outlawed it, but it may be mostly landlord policy.

        3. I’m in Elkridge this weekend. I will grill outdoors. I don’t give a fuck.

    1. See?! France has religious freedom!!

    2. I’m not sure I would trust that news source for that particular news story.

  11. “Keep and bear arms”. I don’t see the word ‘stun gun’ there do you?

    1. Arms. I see arms. I take that includes everything I can get my hands on for self defense.

    2. Clearly a reference to castles and ursine appendages.

    3. “Keep and bear arms”. I don’t see the word ‘stun gun’ there do you?

      1) “Stun gun” = word….not a word.

      2) The issue of stun guns as “arms” is addressed in the court’s decision. Try reading it.

      1. Who the hell at Reason is editing my posts? And why do they not know the difference between a “word” and multiple “words”?

    4. You used the phrase “stun gun”. This phrase did not exist when the Bill of Rights was passed, and you therefore have no First Amendment right to use it. Proceed directly to jail.

  12. “In 2015 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, that state’s highest court, upheld the criminal conviction of a woman named Jaime Caetano for the crime of possessing a stun gun, which she obtained for purposes of self-defense against her violent and abusive ex-boyfriend.

    Where are the feminists?

    Do they even care?

    1. Feminists have demonstrated time and time again that they can be openly hostile towards women when any woman or any issue does not suit their agenda.

    2. Competing concerns. We have to check the social justice hierarchy chart of gender equality. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

      1. Isn’t this where intersectionality comes in? I don’t actually know what that term means, so I’m just spitballing , here.

      2. When in conflict, the leftist agenda trumps the feminist agenda. E.g.: rape is the most terrible thing ever, which must be combatted in any way possible. But if the rapists are Muslims or refugees or illegal immigrants, it’s “racist” or “xenophobic” to point that out and object to importing more of them.

  13. “modern” weapons that “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment enactment.”

    Jesus, neither was a six-shot .22 pistol.

    1. For those who believe in a living constitution (many lefties), it sure is a real hypocritical stance.

  14. From Alito’s dissent:

    “One night after leaving work, Caetano found her ex-boyfriend “waiting for [her] outside.”…He “started screaming” that she was “not gonna [expletive deleted] work at this place” any more because she “should be home with the kids” they had together….Caetano’s abuser towered over her by nearly a foot and outweighed her by close to 100 pounds. But she didn’t need physical strength to protect herself. She stood her ground, displayed the stun gun, and announced: “I’m not gonna take this anymore. . . . I don’t wanna have to [use the stun gun on] you, but if you don’t leave me alone, I’m gonna have to.”…The gambit worked. The ex-boyfriend “got scared and he left [her] alone.”…

    “…When police later discovered the weapon, she was arrested, tried, and convicted….”

    Look, why couldn’t she have done what a Supreme Court Justice would do if accosted by some guy threatening them…put in a call to the Secret Service and have the guy roughed up a little.”

    1. Alito concurred, but yeah it was a good observation.

      1. dissent means concur, concur means [expletive deleted]

    1. No it’s not you fucking hippie.

    2. Light up. It is safer than drinking.

      1. And it cures every kind of cancer.

        1. It would be nice if it was true.

          It would be nice if testing could be done easily.

    3. Oh, for fuck’s sake, Thomas! Can’t you stop sucking cop dick for just a little while? You too, Alito.

      1. Alito has a particular “thing” about drugs that aren’t his preferred ones. No mere constitutional proscription stands in the way of his crusade.

      2. Cops always trump Federalism.

      3. Thomas’ dissent was merely that he thought they should at least hear the case in order to give the neighboring states a more thorough explanation. I didn’t think it was so awful.

        1. Given his deference to “authority” and his drugs hysteria, this is in line with a long series of terrible decisions by Thomas in this area.

    4. Thomas and Alito in dissent.

      So the decision was political.

      The dissent was in effect: there is a law. Enforce it.

  15. According to the Massachusetts high court, Caetano’s conviction must stand because a stun gun “is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection.”

    And *that* is why it’s the “high” court.

  16. Massachusetts found that Heller and McDonald were not controlling because stun guns are dangerous and unusual “modern” weapons that “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment enactment.”

    These people presumably completed high school. Then an undergrad degree. Then law school. Then passed the bar exam.

    It’s like those stories from the 80’s about illiterate football stars who were given a pass because they were so good at sports. But what were these people good at that got them a pass?

    1. Reaching the right legal result, of course.

    2. I’d like to ask you about Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.

      1. Where do I begin?

    3. Yeah, but how would their high school teachers know they were good at legal stuff?

      I’m guessing they were good at blowjobs.

    4. Torturing the plain words of the Constitution in order to promote a progressive agenda?

    5. stun guns are dangerous and unusual “modern” weapons that “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment enactment.”

      It might help the state’s case if Heller or MacDonald said any such thing. They are incredibly weak cases, but not that weak.

      1. You can have the more deadly version, but not the probably-wont-kill-you version? Yeah, pretty sure these prosecutors wanted to nail this girl to a cross for some reason. Probably because they were trying to limit us to muskets vs. tanks (again).

        I guess it never even enters their heads to maybe try the case instead of using the case as a transformative legal precedent for their own agenda.

    6. You have it backwards. A decent High School student would be able to read the plain language and apply it to this situation. It took 7 more years of re-education to eradicate all trace of common-sense and language cognition from the minds of these Judges.

    7. Don’t for get these Top Men went to top tier law schools. Ain’t gonna get a `preme Court Justice from Boise State.

  17. I read this story recently:

    “I’ve Had a Cyberstalker Since I Was 12”

    About a lady who’s been dealing with a cyberstalker for a really, really long time.

    http://tinyurl.com/hndlyzg

    The story is about what a pain in the ass (it supposedly is) it is to get the government to do something about it.

    Here’s the part the quote at the end that bugs me:

    “I emailed the lawyer back, but due to attorney-client privilege he wouldn’t reveal the nature of his representation of Danny. I assumed, however, that he was being sued by another victim. Women have had the most success in bringing their tormenters to justice in exactly this way???in court . . . .

    Perhaps???no thanks to my own efforts with law enforcement, from local police up to the DOJ? my saga is finally approaching an end. But when will we recognize that fear shouldn’t be a prerequisite for justice? I was never physically afraid of Danny and never will be. That fact does not negate my experience or make his actions any less damaging. I don’t need the law questioning whether I feel scared enough. I just need my voice to be heard.”

    1. She knew who the stalker was, etc. Her complaint boils down to the observation that she shouldn’t have to go after the stalker herself. She suffered this loser’s stalking for years and years–and complains that various government agencies did nothing to help her. Some other woman takes it upon herself to sue the stalker–and the fucking problem ends.

      I’m not here to blame the victim. Quite the opposite. Why don’t more women take it upon themselves to solve their own problems?

      Take responsibility for defending yourself. Don’t be a victim.

      1. I’m not here to blame the victim.

        Actually, I think you did. And rightly so. If someone’s stove catches on fire, they don’t get to stand there with a fire extinguisher in their hand and complain about how late the Fire Department is.

        1. I’m encouraging the victim to stand up for herself.

          It’s not saying it’s her fault she was being stalked.

          But the things she’s describing–judges grant restraining orders for far less. Local police will arrest someone for violating a restraining order.

          And if they don’t think they can get a simple majority of jurors to side with them against a guy that’s been harassing them, . . . they’ve been watching too many movies on Lifetime Network or something.

          Man or woman, there’s just no substitute for standing up for yourself. Nobody’s willing to stand up for your if you’re not willing to stand up for yourself. That’s the way it should be. No knight in shining armor, princess. Be your own knight in shining armor.

          1. It’s not saying it’s her fault she was being stalked.

            No, but its her fault she didn’t use readily available means to make it stop. So, at some point, yeah, she bears some, not all, responsibility.

      2. In general they are not built for it psychologically. That is in part why they are socialists – generally.

        1. I think there’s something to the suggestion that they imagine protection is something men are supposed to for them, and if they don’t have a man around to protect them, then they should call men in blue uniforms to protect them.

          Maybe that’s something instinctive, going back to our prehistoric ancestors. So overcome instinct! Seems like this should be a popular topic of feminist conversation–but encouraging women to stand up for themselves does seem to get slammed a lot as “blaming the victim”.

          Maybe society should be proactive against the abuse of people who are often incapable of speaking up for themselves: children, the mentally handicapped, the elderly, . . .

          Not seeing why women should be on that list should mean I’m liberated.

          1. Women are terrible (generally) at overcoming instinct. Or hadn’t you noticed?

            1. Yes, I was just mansplaining something about that the other day. I was grilling meat over an open flame and scratching myself, when I said to my woman, “Unga bunga!”, which in caveman language means, “Women belong in the kitchen and the bedroom”.

              1. Bad boys take advantage of female instinct. Especially around ovulation time.

                I was a “bad boy” for quite a number of years.

                =========

                And what is the unanimous advice females give each other? “Don’t chase bad boys.”

                What do women do with this advise? Chase bad boys.

  18. “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 people than about keeping them safe.”

    Feature, not bug.

  19. Wow, by far the best Alito opinion I’ve ever read.

  20. Did anything happen to the guy who was threatening her?

    1. Paid vacation?

      Oh, he wasn’t a cop? No idea, then.

    2. Did anything happen to the guy who was threatening her?

      He was shocked…SHOCKED, I tell you!

  21. The initial Mass. decision was made by a panel of judges who presumably are educated and not fucking retarded. I could get a lone drunken chimp to display better reasoning ability than they did in the aggregate. It’s absolutely pathetic.

    1. The job of a judge is not to be a check on legislative power. It is to defer to legislative power by twisting the meaning of the constitution so as to justify whatever the legislators want.

      1. And people scream at the result, which is more lobbying of the legislature, but they rarely make the connection. If you have no real recourse with the courts when the executive branch abuses its authority, to whom do you turn? The legislature.

        1. If you have no real recourse with the courts when the executive branch abuses its authority, to whom do you turn?

          Smith and Wesson.

          1. No, it’s “Tesla & Edison”.

            1. But my electric chair running on AC drives up the electric bill and browns out the nighborhood.

        2. I should add that this result also occurs when the legislature itself is the abusive branch.

  22. “weapons need not be invented in 1789 to be protected, and weapons need not be used in warfare to be protected”

    Fuck yeah.

  23. but these tyrants make sure their state sponsored terrorists are armed with stun guns and tear gas

  24. Idiocy! We do we hate lawyers? Because they are not smart enough to be people. They can not read, reason or render well thought out decisions. But I can have a cannon. And a crossbow. . . .or pepper spray.

  25. According to Alito, “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 people than about keeping them safe.”, excerpted from the above article.

    Re the above, the following comes to mind.Heaven help the citizen who has to rely on “the mercy of state officials” for their own safety or protection. I suspect that re the above referenced “mercy”, the quality thereof is strained, to say the very least, and or is less than anything I personally would want to rely upon.

  26. There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further.Good article,thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well

    SMPPoker Situs Agen Judi Poker Online Uang Asli Terpercaya Indonesia

    SMPPoker Situs Agen Judi Poker Online Uang Asli Terpercaya Indonesia

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.