The Supreme Court issued it’s usual Monday morning orders list this morning. The orders list is usually fairly mundane. In it the Court announces which cases it will here, which it won’t, discipline against lawyers, etc. Here is a link to today’s orders.
Pretty mundane stuff until you get to page 15.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
JAIME CAETANO v.MASSACHUSETTS
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME
JUDICIAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS
No. 14–10078. Decided March 21, 2016
The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute
bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbiav. Heller,
554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonaldv.
Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010). In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a Massachusetts law prohibiting the possession of stun guns after examining “whether a stun gun is the type of weapon contemplated by Congress in 1789 as being protected by the Second Amendment.” 470 Mass. 774, 777, 26 N. E. 3d
688, 691 (2015).
The court offered three explanations to support its holding that the Second Amendment does not extend to stun guns. First, the court explained that stun guns are not protected because they “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment.” Id.,at 781,
26 N. E. 3d, at 693. This 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.” 554 U. S., at 582.
The court next asked whether stun guns are “dangerous per se at common law and unusual,” 470 Mass., at 781, 26
N. E. 3d, at 694, in an attempt to apply one “important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms,” Heller,
554 U. S., at 627; see ibid.(referring to “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and
2 CAETANO v.MASSACHUSETTS
unusual weapons’”). In so doing, the court concluded that stun guns are “unusual” because they are “a thoroughly
modern invention.” 470 Mass., at 781, 26 N. E. 3d, at 693–694. 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.” 470 Mass., at
781, 26 N. E. 3d, at 694. But Heller rejected the proposition “that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.” 554 U. S., at 624–625.
For these three reasons, the explanation the Massachusetts court offered for upholding the law contradicts this
Court’s precedent. Consequently, the petition for a writ of certiorari and the motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperisare granted. The judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is vacated, and the case is
remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
This is a criminal case out of Massachusetts where MS Caetano was convicted of possession of a stun gun in violation of MA law. The Supreme Court of the United States issued what can be termed a stinging rebuke of the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. SCOTUS ordered the SJC to reconsider it’s decision in a manner consistent with Heller.
There is also a separate concurring opinion issued by Justice Alito with Justice Thomas joining. That’s long than the Per Curium order by the Court and contains more details of the facts of the case. You should read the concurring opinion to get a sense of the issues at contest here.
This could well have ramifications beyond Massachusetts and is an important Second Amendment decision.