Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion which can be read as a strong re-affirmation of the Heller decision.
This is terrific news.
In the case of Jaime Caetano v. Massachusetts — the Court vacated a state court opinion affirming a conviction for possession of a stun gun because it categorically violated the Second Amendment. You may ask how a case involving a stun gun affects actual firearms, but it does – and in a big way.
The Court rejected the notion that stun guns “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment,” reasoning that the Heller v. Washington DC decision said the Second Amendment “extends … to … arms … that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
It also rejected the notion that stun guns are “dangerous per se at common law and unusual,” for the same reason as the first because Heller said the Second Amendment does not turn on whether the weapon was “unusual” at the time of the Founding of the nation.
Finally, it also rejected the notion that stun guns are not “readily adaptable to use in the military,”
again, because Heller refused the proposition “that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.”
In relying on the Heller decision in each instance – firmly rebuffing the three rationales offered by Massachusetts’ Court for upholding the state statute, the court basically re-affirmed Heller, applying it in a clear and direct manner. The incredible footnote to this is that it was done without Justice Scalia.
What’s more, the Court never even entertained oral argument, and did not require briefing. In the same order, the Court granted certiorari (an order a higher court issues in order to review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and determine whether there were any irregularities), and vacated the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upholding the conviction. The Supreme Court used a very short, unanimous PER CURIAM opinion (a decision handed down by the court as a whole), which was followed by a concurring opinion by Justice Alito (joined in by Justice Thomas) which is even stronger.
One might ask why liberal justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor may have joined in a decision which affirms a pro-2nd Amendment ruling? It’s difficult to say – maybe the woman convicted of having a stun gun might have been a victim of domestic violence. Whatever the reason, the justices made a sound decision, understanding that allowing weaker people an “equalizer” is the essence of the right of self-defense. As Justice Alito’s concurring opinion states “The decision below also does a grave disservice to vulnerable individuals who must defend themselves because the State will not.”
Can we hear an “Amen” to that?
Kudos go to Bill Olson and the legal team at Gun Owners Foundation for the analysis of this opinion. Bill’s final comments are cautionary and deserve highlighting: “Nevertheless, Justice Alito’s opinion reminds us that we must be vigilant because there are still many who would leave the safety of all Americans ‘to the mercy of state authorities who may be more concerned about disarming the people than about keeping them safe.’”
The PER CURIAM opinion slapped down an obviously anti-gun state court opinion where state court judges were looking for any way to end-run the principles of the Heller decision. No doubt Justice Scalia would have been gratified.