Earlier this month, on November 7th, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino wrote in a letter to federal judge, Michael Shipp, that the state’s ban on “stun guns” is unconstitutional. Porrino went on to request a meeting with the judge to settle the case, asking for time to establish regulations governing the purchase and ownership of the self-defense tools.
Following the March decision on stun guns handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court (Caetano v. Massachusetts), New Jersey now recognizes “that an outright ban on the possession of stun guns within a state, regardless of the contextual circumstances surrounding any such possession, would likely not pass constitutional muster.” This is a stark contrast to current New Jersey law which states, “any person who knowingly has in his possession any stun gun is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.”
The landmark ruling said that “the Second Amendment extends … to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
Alexander Roubian, executive director of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, responded to this by stating, “We have once again proven that New Jersey’s draconian laws are unconstitutional and a violation of our natural rights to be able to protect ourselves.”
But New Jersey is not the only state with stun gun prohibition provisions. Several states (i.e. Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts) and cities (i.e. Annapolis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Tacoma, and a few other smaller towns) still ban stun guns. Not only are the devices protected by the Second Amendment, but there are numerous public safety cases for them.
One such case (Caetano v. Massachusetts) found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Massachusetts, Jaime Caetano started carrying a stun gun after multiple restraining orders against her violent ex-boyfriend failed to keep him away. One night outside her Massachusetts workplace, Caetano was confronted by the man, who towered over her by about a foot, outweighed her by nearly 100 pounds and threatened her. She displayed the stun gun and the man left her alone.
But not long after, the stun gun that had protected her landed her in trouble with the law. Because of a Massachusetts ban on possessing a stun gun, she was arrested, tried and convicted after police discovered the gun in her purse.
Her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in March found that the state had gone too far in banning non-lethal stun guns. The court stopped short of striking down the law, but it unanimously rejected the Massachusetts court’s ruling that stun guns are not protected by the Second Amendment and sent the case back for rehearing. However, the case was settled and the law remains on the books.
For people seeking a way to defend themselves that are reluctant or afraid to use lethal force, stun guns are a reasonable, preferable and safer alternative to firearms.
A few jurisdictions are now making more thoughtful decisions.
A ban on stun guns in Washington, D.C., which was recently challenged in court by three residents, also appears headed for extinction. The legal case is on hold while City Council members consider amendments to bring the law in compliance with the Constitution.
Many of the laws against stun guns date to the 1970s and '80s. But today, they are legal in more than 40 states for good reason. Others should follow, and unlike Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, they shouldn't wait for a lawsuit.