Supreme Court tosses out lower court ruling on stun gun possession
The top court’s Monday decision throws the case back to Massachusetts, giving the lower court another chance to rule, according to the Associated Press.
The justices, with no apparent dissent, issued an unsigned opinion in favor of Jamie Caetano, who was convicted for violating an anti-stun gun law. Caetano was arrested for possession of a stun gun, which she said she kept in her purse for self-defense because of an abusive former boyfriend.
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states prohibiting the possession of stun guns. The state Supreme Court’s ruling in Caetano’s case in March of 2015 stated that the US Congress would not have envisioned a weapon like a stun gun in 1789, when it passed the Constitution’s Second Amendment protecting the right to bear arms, according to Reuters.
Caetano’s lawyers had argued in court that stun guns should be considered “arms” under the Second Amendment and that the Massachusetts law banning them went too far.
In their own opinion, the Supreme Court justices said “the explanation the Massachusetts court offered for upholding the law contradicts this court’s precedent,” according to AP.
The justices were referring to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which struck down Washington, DC’s handgun ban and affirmed the Constitution’s recognition of an individual’s right to own a gun, at least for self-defense at home.
The justices’ unsigned opinion does not go so far as to strike down the state law or rule that stun guns fall within the Second Amendment. The court has repeatedly refused pleas to spell out the extent of gun rights in the US.
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Thomas, wrote separately to criticize the state court ruling in blunt terms.
Alito called Monday’s ruling “grudging” and noted that the state court would now have another chance to rule against Caetano, reported AP.
“Caetano’s mere possession of the stun gun that may have saved her life made her a criminal,” Alito wrote, according to AP.
There have been just eight justices on the court, rather than the usual nine, since conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.