One of the major reasons why I am skeptical of gun control is the twisted logic used by gun control opponents. Like the sick reasoning behind the war on drugs, this leads to disturbing violations of both constitutional and basic human rights.
An example is New Jersey’s Graves Act, which makes it a felony to own any weapon in the Garden State without a special permit. Under that law, Gordon van Gilder, a 72-year-old retired school teacher faced a five-year prison sentence for carrying a 250-year-old unloaded antique musket pistol in his car. Gilder was luckier than single mom Shaneen Allen, a Pennsylvania resident who spent 40 days in jail in Atlantic City in 2013 because she had a pistol, for which she had a concealed weapons permit, in her car.
Court Ruled Citizens Have No Right to Self Defense
An even worse example of the bizarre thinking behind gun control is a court case called Massachusetts v. Caetano. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, stun guns, which are nonlethal weapons, are completely illegal, but it is possible to get a permit to carry a deadly weapon such as a pistol.
The defendant in the case was Jaime Caetano, who was arrested for carrying a stun gun to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend. Ms. Caetano faces prison time for trying to use nonlethal means to protect herself.
The case took a really strange turn—that’s been ignored by the national media—when it was appealed to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court. That august body ruled unanimously that Massachusetts citizens have no legal right to use nonlethal weapons to defend themselves.
What’s worse is that it used some very twisted logic to effectively gut the Second Amendment. This opinion from Justice Francis X. Spina is particularly bothersome:
“Because the stun gun that the defendant possessed is both dangerous per se at common law and unusual, but was not in common use at the time of the enactment of the Second Amendment, we conclude that stun guns fall outside the protection of the Second Amendment,” Spina wrote.
Were it to be widely applied, Spina’s twisted logic would make it possible for government to ban virtually any kind of modern weapon. To make matters worse, some very dangerous armaments would be available to the public, but many safer, even nonlethal weapons could be banned.
Decision Would Ban Most Weapons
Spina is making two broad arguments that threaten basic rights here. They are:
- Government has the power to ban any weapon that might be dangerous. Since all weapons ranging from a pen knife to an atomic bomb are dangerous by their very nature, all weapons can be banned.
- The only weapons covered by the Second Amendment are those that were around when it was ratified in 1791. That means the only weapons Americans could legally own would be black powder muskets, swords, and possibly a cannon. Under this logic, all weapons invented since then, including all repeating rifles, any weapon that fires a cartridge, and all modern pistols, rifles, and shotguns, could be banned. Everything ranging from a cowboy’s six-shooter to an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle could be banned under Justice Spina’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.
This logic is particularly disturbing because it might allow Ms. Caetano to carry a sword but not a stun gun. It could also be a blueprint for stripping all Americans of their Second Amendment rights and opening the door to a ban on most weapons.
Supreme Court Could Grant All Americans the Right to Self Defense
Fortunately for Americans, Justice Spina’s arrogant attempt to gut the Second Amendment may have backfired. Massachusetts v. Caetano has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s on the Supremes’ docket right now, and a decision should be handed down later this year.
If the Supreme Court rules in Caetano’s favor, it could overturn bans on stun guns in five states—Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island—the District of Columbia, and several major cities, including Philadelphia. More importantly, the case could affirm the right to self-defense and expand the Second Amendment to cover less lethal weapons.
The ruling would also clear up conflicting law. An Appeals Court in Michigan struck down a stun gun ban in that state because it violated the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court will have to clear up the conflict.
Although nobody can be certain how the Supremes will rule, this court has generally been sympathetic to arguments of self-defense. In a case called District of Columbia V. Heller, the court ruled that the Second Amendment does grant citizens the right to own weapons for self-defense and that a Washington, DC, ban on all privately owned pistols was unconstitutional.
Why Is a Potentially Landmark Case Being Ignored?
This makes Caetano a potentially landmark case, but you have probably never heard of it. The media has not covered the matter, largely because gun control groups have ignored it.
It is easy to see why gun control supporters would ignore Caetano. The whole story around it makes them look very bad. In particular, they do not want to be seen arguing that women have no right to self-defense or that nonlethal weapons should be banned.
Even if the media ignores it, Caetano could radically transform and expand Second Amendment rights. It looks as if a court’s attempt to use a strict interpretation of the Constitution to justify gun control is about to backfire in a big way and greatly expand Second Amendment rights in the process.