In a ruling that ought to have been obvious, but feels more like a shock in these days of personnel difficulties, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Massachusetts law restricting who may legally carry a stun gun is a violation of the Second Amendment. This is the same state that at one point required law-abiding people to have a license to carry pepper spray, so it comes as no surprise that the authorities there would wish to control access to other tools of self-defense.
The lawsuit was brought by Jaime Caetano to protect herself against an abusive ex-boyfriend. The concurring opinion of Justice Alito on this point could not have been better written: “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was either unable or unwilling to do what was necessary to protect Jaime Caetano, so she was forced to protect herself. To make matters worse, the Commonwealth chose to deploy its prosecutorial resources to prosecute and convict her of a criminal offense for arming herself with a nonlethal weapon that may well have saved her life.”
And that is exactly what is at the heart of the debate over whether good people should be allowed to carry weapons of any kind. Alito’s writing points at a key fact: The total number of law enforcement personnel in the United States is not quite one million. That’s in a nation of 320,000,000 with a land area of 3.8 million square miles. One cop for every 320 persons and some four square miles suggests that protection won’t solely come from the armed enforcers of the law. Naturally, those officers are concentrated in areas of higher population density, which illustrates the problem all the more. If you live in rural areas, law enforcement is more than just a few minutes away.
Stun guns are not non-lethal. Deaths have resulted from the use of these devices, though the numbers are much lower than deaths due to gunfire. A stun gun is a weapon and has to be treated as such. But when an abusive former partner makes himself into a weapon, someone like Caetano has the right to defend herself against his assaults.
Whether we’re talking pepper spray, stun guns, or firearms, states like Massachusetts demonstrate a fear of allowing private citizens to have the ability to defend themselves, rather than hoping that the police will arrive in time. To some, state control is more important than personal safety.
And it’s a pleasure watching the Supreme Court deliver a smackdown without dissent to Massachusetts. It’s also good to see the justices recognize that firearms are not the sum total of the Second Amendment. The core principle of the Constitution is the defining and limiting of government power for the purpose of protecting the rights of the people. To say that one of its amendments would only cover a small list of approved guns, rather than offering general protection for the rights of all of us to have personal weapons would be to express something contrary to the framers’ intentions.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.