In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment’s protection of “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms . . . confers an individual right to possess and carry weapons.” They went on to note that the protection thus recognized “extends . . . to . . . arms . . . that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
While this unambiguous statement, coupled with the holding in McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742 (2010) that “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller,” would seem to be fatal to many outright bans under state law, we are just now beginning to see cases that have progressed through the various state courts presenting themselves for consideration by the Supreme Court.
In a per curiam decision in Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S. Ct. 1027 (2016), the justices were unanimous in vacating and remanding a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision upholding a conviction based upon Massachusetts’ complete ban on stun guns.
In upholding the conviction, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had relied upon three separate premises, two of which the Supreme Court noted were in direct conflict with the clear language of Heller:
- that stun guns were not protected because they “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment”;
- that stun guns were “dangerous per se at common law and unusual”; and
- that stun guns are not “readily adaptable to use in the military.”