Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. In looking to protect themselves, some residents are arming themselves with less lethal forms of defense, including pepper spray and stun guns. However, the Commonwealth passed a law which bans the possession of devices such as stun guns. One woman arrested under the law fought back, arguing the U.S. Constitution's "right to bear arms" provision protected her right to carry a stun gun. Unfortunately for her, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did not agree.
Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 140, Section 131J, no person shall possess a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states which prohibits private ownership of stun guns or Tasers. Massachusetts is also one of the strictest states when it comes to gun control laws. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Massachusetts has the third highest score indicating strict gun laws.
In 2011, Jamie Caetano, was convicted of possession of a stun gun. According to police officers in Ashland, Massachusetts, they came across the stun gun in Caetano's purse while investigating a report of shoplifting. In her defense, Caetano, now 32, claimed she had the stun gun for protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend, who had once beat her so severely that she had to seek treatment at the hospital. She claimed the former boyfriend repeatedly came to her workplace and threatened her, even after though there were several restraining orders against him.
During her trial, Caetano testified that although she had never used the stun gun, the possession of it was enough for her ex to leave her alone. She claimed she got it from a friend, and now she wants it back. Benjamin Keehn, her defense lawyer, argued that the Second Amendment applied to her stun gun, and she had the right to carry it outside the home. Some legal experts also chimed in that in a state where citizens may possess guns, a ban on less than lethal arms such as a stun gun, does not make sense.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one of the most hotly contested and fiercely debated pieces of text in the document which has formed the basis of the supreme law of the United States. In part, the amendment reads, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." This has been cited by gun rights activists as the basis for an individual'sright to gun ownership. On the other side, critics argue that the amendment only protects the collective rights of states to arm militias.
The high court, in a recent decision, disagreed with Caetano, and upheld her conviction for unlawful possession of a stun gun. In a unanimous decision, the court found that a stun gun is not the type of weapon subject to protections under the Bill of Rights. Instead, the court said it was for the legislature to determine whether private citizens could possess stun guns.