Though the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the same law in 2015, it has been looking to revisit the issue because the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that its holding conflicted with its landmark gun-rights ruling District of Columbia v. Heller.
Jorge Ramirez brought the challenge that the court had been seeking after he was arrested during a traffic stop in Revere, Massachusetts, and police found a stun gun in his pants pocket.
By this time, the U.S. Supreme Court had already vacated Commonwealth v. Caetano, the 2015 ruling that upheld the stun-gun ban. Still, a judge presiding over Ramirez’s prosecution refused to dismiss his possession charge without explanation.
The SJC determined unanimously Tuesday that the ban is unconstitutional.
“Having received guidance from the Supreme Court in Caetano II, we now conclude that stun guns are ‘arms’ within the protection of the Second Amendment,” Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the 6-0 court. “Therefore, under the Second Amendment, the possession of stun guns may be regulated, but not absolutely banned. Restrictions may be placed on the categories of persons who may possess them, licenses may be required for their possession, and those licensed to possess them may be barred from carrying them in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings. But the absolute prohibition in § 131J that bars all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, is inconsistent with the Second Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional.”
To give the state Legislature a chance to correct the law, the justices stayed their decision striking the law for 60 days.
Although court found the law unconstitutional, Gants said striking it in its entirety would leave the state without any stun-gun regulation at all.
“Unless and until the Legislature were to act to replace [the stun gun law] with a revised version that would pass muster under the Second Amendment, facial invalidation of [the law] would mean that there would be no law in place preventing stun guns from being sold to or possessed by violent felons, persons convicted of domestic violence, convicted drug dealers, children, or the mentally ill,” wrote Gants.
The state originally banned stun guns in 1986, and then amended the law in 2004 to allow law enforcement officers to carry the device. Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia all have bans against the ownership of stun guns.