Supreme Court Update: Caetano v. Massachusetts

Written by: LexisNexis

In the recent case of Caetano v. Massachusetts,577 U.S. __ (2016), the United States Supreme Court held that stun guns—possession of which had been banned by the state—are in fact protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ensures the right to keep and bear arms. In doing so, the Court rebuffed three arguments by the state.

First, the Court rejected the state’s claims that stun guns should not be included under the Amendment because they did not exist at the time the Constitution was adopted, but pointing out that the Court has previously stated the Amendment’s protections extend to “arms … that were not in existence at the time of the founding.” Similarly, the Court denied that stun guns are “dangerous” and “unusual’ solely because they are a modern invention, again reiterating its previous holding that weapons not in existence in 1791 may still fall with the Constitution’s protection. Finally the Court was not persuaded by an argument that stun guns should not be protected solely because they are not readily adaptable to military use, rejecting the proposition “that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.”

While the case was remanded back to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, it seems likely that any state law that outright prohibits possession of a stun gun or taser will not pass constitutional muster.

This article was written by Jason Schuck, a graduate of Georgetown Law School. He is now a Legal Analyst for LexisNexis.  Jason has written on the subject of constitutional criminal procedure law for over a decade, covering subjects such as arrest, search and seizure, and Miranda rights.  He also monitors and summarizes new criminal and traffic laws in over 35 states.


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