Since the passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia we’ve been debating the future of the Second Amendment as cases are heard either by an eight person bench or one newly filled by a potential Obama nominee. We may have the beginning of an answer to the first scenario in that question now that the court has ruled on a gun ban in Massachusetts. The catch here is that it was a ban on stun guns. (The Hill)
The Supreme Court overturned a controversial stun gun ban on Monday, even as it allowed the Obama administration to block firearms from government buildings…
In the first case, the justices unanimously upended a Massachusetts stun gun ban, calling it unconstitutional.
“While less popular than handguns, stun guns are widely owned and accepted as a legitimate means of self-defense across the country,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “Massachusetts’ categorical ban of such weapons therefore violates the Second Amendment.”
Right off the bat I’ll express my amazement that the court managed to come to a unanimous ruling on any case that involved the word gun. Perhaps there’s a sliver of hope for the future after all. But even though the technology of firearms has changed significantly since the time of the founders, would they have really looked at a Taser and though of it as “arms” in the conventional sense once they figured out how electricity works? All such weapons at that time were obviously devices which fired projectiles of some sort through the use of gunpowder. In some sense you might even think of a cannon as a “gun” for purposes of this discussion, though nobody has suggested we all have cannons in recent times. (Or at least to my knowledge.)
A stun gun is certainly a weapon, but is it a gun? The fact that you have to be in hand to hand combat range to use the simple models or at least within the range of the electrical wires and tethers for police models would seem to imply that it’s more of a melee weapon, or at least something in the same class as a bow and arrow. They’re also not generally considered to be terribly lethal unless you have a dodgy ticker.
Still, as I said above, the four liberal justices actually found a path to agree that the states couldn’t ban one type of weapon so the day isn’t a total loss. The second case (which they refused to hear) dealt with a ban on weapons inside federal buildings… in this case, the Post Office. That one isn’t a general ban on ownership, but rather a location specific restriction so I won’t read too much into at this point.