Caetano Never Dies by Tom Reynolds
The Supreme Court of the United States‘ (SCOTUS) decision in District of Columbia v Heller and the follow up case McDonald v Chicago, affirmed the individual right to keep and bear arms. They should have settled many of the gun rights issues. Unfortunately, they did not. Since then, several lower courts have chipped away at or ignored Heller’s fundamental premise, prompting Justice Clarence Thomas to warn of a slide towards “relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right.”
Caetano v Massachusetts, a case in which SCOTUS unanimously vacated the Massachusetts conviction of a woman who carried a stun gun for self-defense, is a good example of what has been happening. It’s important to read Massachusetts’ reasoning and SCOTUS’ rationale for saying that Massachusetts was wrong.
Jaime Caetano was in fear for her life after an altercation with her abusive boyfriend. After obtaining several restraining orders that proved futile, Caetano accepted a stun gun from a friend for self-defense. When her ex-boyfriend later confronted and threatened her, she displayed the stun gun and avoided an altercation. However, when police discovered that she was in possession of the stun gun, she was arrested, tried and convicted under a Massachusetts law that outlawed the possession of stun guns.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts which upheld the Massachusetts state law prohibiting the possession of stun guns after examining "whether a stun gun is the type of weapon contemplated by Congress in 1789 as being protected by the Second Amendment.” Eventually, in 2016, the case made it to the SCOTUS, which unanimously ruled against Massachusetts and for the right to possess a stun gun.
When the Massachusetts’ court ruled, it offered three explanations to support its holding that the Second Amendment does not extend to stun guns. All were rejected by SCOTUS.
· The Massachusetts’ court said that stun guns are not protected by the Constitution because they "were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment's enactment.” SCOTUS rejected Massachusetts’ position and said that this was inconsistent with Heller's clear statement that the Second Amendment does extend to arms that were not in existence at the time of the founding.
· The Massachusetts’ court next asked whether stun guns are "dangerous…and unusual" (Heller had allowed that there was an “historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons”). The Massachusetts Court tried to redefine "unusual" as "in common use at the time of the Second Amendment's enactment” and, thus, Massachusetts concluded that stun guns were "unusual" because they were "a thoroughly modern invention.” SCOTUS also shot that one down by saying that the Massachusetts’ court's second explanation is the same as the first and is inconsistent with Heller for the same reason.
· Finally, the Massachusetts court found nothing in the record to suggest that stun guns were readily adaptable to use in the military. SCOTUS rejected that explanation, again referring to Heller, wherein SCOTUS rejected the proposition "that only those weapons useful in warfare are protected."
The case was sent back to Massachusetts for “further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.” On July 6, 2016, after the prosecution and defense reached an agreement, Caetano was found not guilty by a Massachusetts judge. In a subsequent case, Ramirez v Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court relied on Caetano to strike down the state's stun gun law.
Why is it important to read about a case that was resolved five years ago?
First, because Jaime Caetano’s situation with her abuser was a terrific example of one of the primary reasons why civilians need guns: personal protection. A court order was not helping her and neither were the police. Like all of us, she needed to be able to protect herself.
Second, because the case shows how liberal judges often feel free to blatantly ignore established law. Heller is established law. The Massachusetts court’s rulings were not based on missing or ambiguous SCOTUS rulings. They were attempts to ignore established law or misinterpret it in order to reach the exact opposite conclusion that the Constitution requires.
Liberal judges want to write their own laws, ignoring the legislative process. Only the legislature is legally allowed to make laws and the judiciary’s role is to interpret those laws, based on legislative intent. But too often liberal judges interpret their own judgments and, not coincidentally, find their own judgments to be lawful.
Why are these judges so bold? Because there are no personal consequences to them. For example, none of the Massachusetts judges were fined, disbarred or removed from the bench. In addition, there is usually little chance that the judges will be overruled since most private citizens cannot afford the appeals process, which typically requires years of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. As a result, bad judgements often live on, unmolested by truth and law.
Fortunately, Jaime Caetano was able to take her case to the SCOTUS. However, we cannot count on everyone being able to do so.
Therefore, our legislatures need to take action against judges who blatantly ignore the law. Congress and the states need to act and provide a method to review and override or remove a runaway judiciary. (This is dangerous and needs to be carefully crafted; unfortunately, the left has made it necessary.) In turn, the voters need to support politicians who will take the necessary steps to see this happen.
We also all need to do everything in our power to ensure that judges who hear these cases at the local and state level understand and support the Second Amendment. Most people will not be able to appeal bad decisions made by state and local judges. As such, we need to do what we can to put good judges - who will make good decisions - on the state and local bench.
Second Amendment supporters must be active and vote to ensure that legislators and judges, who take an oath to defend the Constitution, will live up to that oath. An ounce of prevention (voting) is worth the tons of time and money needed to (maybe) cure an unconstitutional ill.