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Supreme Court suggests 2nd Amendment protects carrying a stun gun

Supreme Court suggests 2nd Amendment protects carrying a stun gun
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

The Supreme Court extended the reach of the 2nd Amendment on Monday and strongly suggested that women have a right to carry a stun gun in public to protect themselves.

In a brief unanimous opinion, the justices set aside a ruling that upheld the criminal conviction of Jaime Caetano, a Massachusetts woman who kept a stun gun to defend herself against an abusive ex-boyfriend.

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The justices repeated their view that the self-defense weapons protected by the 2nd Amendment are not limited to weapons "useful in warfare."

Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Hawaii and several cities have laws or ordinances that generally forbid the carrying of tasers or other electronic devices that can shock and injure people.

Lawyers for Caetano, with the backing of 2nd Amendment advocates such as UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh, appealed her conviction on the grounds that she had a constitutional right to defend herself, and particularly when using a nonlethal weapon.

"The ability to possess non-lethal weapons is an important aspect of the right to keep and bear arms," Volokh argued.

Caetano's appeal had languished for more than four months and was left unresolved when Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's foremost champion of the 2nd Amendment, died last month.

The unsigned opinion issued Monday did not rule squarely on her appeal, but said the Massachusetts court went wrong by upholding her conviction. Her case was then sent back to the state court.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a much stronger concurring opinion setting out the reasons why the 2nd Amendment protects the right to carry a stun gun.

"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 rather than keeping them safe," he wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas said he agreed with Alito.

On Twitter: @DavidGSavage

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