BOSTON – The top court in Massachusetts on Tuesday struck down a state law that banned civilians from possessing stun guns, saying the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects Americans’ right to bear arms.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of a man who was criminally charged for possessing a stun gun, holding that such weapons constitute “arms” protected by the Second Amendment.
“Therefore, under the Second Amendment, the possession of stun guns may be regulated, but not absolutely banned,” Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the 6-0 court.
The court dismissed a criminal stun gun possession charge against Jorge Ramirez, who was arrested in 2015 after police discovered one in his pants pocket following a traffic stop. He also was charged with firearms offenses.
The ruling came amid renewed attention to the reach of the Second Amendment after a gunman killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school in February, prompting a surge of gun control activism by teenage students.
A spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, who defended the law, did not respond to a request for comment. Ramirez’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The ruling was a change of course for the court, which in 2015 upheld the stun gun ban in the case of a woman who was arrested for possessing one that she said she carried as protection against an abusive former boyfriend.
But in 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unsigned ruling with no dissents, overturned that holding, finding the Massachusetts ruling was inconsistent with a 2008 Supreme Court decision declaring an individual right to bear arms.
The Supreme Court at that time took issue with the finding of the Massachusetts court that stun guns are “unusual” because they are a “thoroughly modern invention” and sent the case back to the state’s high court for further proceedings.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Gants cited that guidance from the nation’s top court in holding that the stun gun ban was unconstitutional.
He said the state, though, may place restrictions on who can own them, require licenses for people who possess them and restrict stun guns from being carried in schools and government buildings.
The court delayed the effect of its ruling for 60 days to allow lawmakers time to pass legislation regulating stun guns.