Supreme Court's First Post-Scalia Second Amendment Decision is Shockingly Unanimous

| MAR 22, 2016 | 3:02 PM
Supreme Court Prepares To Deliver Decisions On Big Cases As Its Term Comes To Close

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In 2015, a Massachusetts court ruled that stun guns were not covered under the protections of the 2nd Amendement. On Monday, in their first decision since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court overturned that decision.

The ruling was unsigned and unanimous, and was generally presented as an objection to the Massachusetts court's argument that “stun guns were not the type of weapon Congress would have envisioned in 1789 when the 2nd Amendment was written.”

In a simple 2 page brief, the Justices argued that, based on the 2nd Amendment case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Massachusetts court's ruling could not stand:

  • First, the [Massachusetts] court explained that stun guns are not protected because they “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment.” This is inconsistent with Heller’s clear statement that the Second Amendment “ ...arms...that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
  • Second, the court concluded that stun guns are “unusual” because they are “a thoroughly modern invention.” By equating “unusual” with “in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment,” the court’s second explanation is the same as the first; it is inconsistent with Heller for the same reason.
  • Finally, the court used “a contemporary lens” and found “nothing in the record to suggest that [stun guns] are readily adaptable to use in the military.” But Heller rejected the proposition “that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected."

Justices Alito and Thomas made additional comments on the ruling:

Their comments in brief:

"A State’s most basic responsibility is to keep its people safe. 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.

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. This Court’s grudging per curiam now sends the case back to that same court. And the consequences for Caetano may prove more tragic still, as her conviction likely bars her from ever bearing arms for self- defense.

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 the people than about keeping them safe."

The case that the Justices all cited as their benchmark, District of Columbia v. Heller, resulted in the 2008 decision - penned by the late Justice Scalia - that overturned Washington D.C.'s ban on handguns, calling it unconstitutional.

Heller was argued in part by a young Texas Solicitor General by the name of Ted Cruz.

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