The US Supreme Court may take up a case soon that could lead to citizens being banned from owning stun guns and other non-lethal self-defense weapons.
At issue is a case called Caetano v. Massachusetts, in which Massachusetts’ highest court ruled that the Second Amendment right to bear arms does not apply to non-lethal weapons and that the state’s ban on them could stand. That case involved Jaime Caetano, a woman who was carrying a stun gun in her purse for protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend. The ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has yet to determine if it will hear it.
The fact that a different court – the Michigan Court of Appeals – ruled that stun guns are protected under the Second Amendment only increases the chances the case will be heard. The Supreme Court is more likely to hear a case if there are divided rulings in lower courts.
The US Supreme Court has never ruled on whether the Second Amendment applies to non-lethal weapons like pepper spray and stun guns. In Massachusetts, even law-abiding citizens can face criminal charges for carrying a stun gun.
“The ability to possess a stun gun instead of a handgun is an important aspect of the right to keep and bear arms,” Caetano’s attorneys wrote in an appeal to the US Supreme Court. “Some people have religious or ethical compunctions about killing. Other religious and philosophical traditions, such as Judaism and Catholicism, believe that defenders ought to use the least violence necessary.”
The attorneys also noted that there are cases when less-lethal force is preferable.
“Still others might be reluctant to kill a particular potential attacker, for instance when a woman does not want to kill an abusive ex-husband because she does not want to have to explain to her children that she killed their father, even in self-defense,” the attorneys wrote. “Some might fear owning a gun because it might be misused by their children or by a suicidal roommate.”
The Massachusetts law, the brief said, deprives citizens of choice.
“Some people who do own guns may prefer to own both a firearm and a stun gun, so that they can opt for a nonlethal response whenever possible, resorting to lethal force only when absolutely necessary,” the attorneys wrote.
Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all have laws against the ownership of at least one type of non-lethal weapon.
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