Massachusetts Stun Gun Regulations Released – More Mess
After a 2016 Supreme Court of the United (SCOTUS) decision in JAIME CAETANO v. MASSACHUSETTS the Massachusetts legislature was forced to repeal the complete ban on “electronic weapons”, namely stun guns and tasers. New regulations finally released.
The case started when the boyfriend of a woman, Jaime Caetano, beat her enough to land her in the hospital (July 10, 2013). After the incident she obtained a restraining order and a friend offered her a stun gun for self-defense. Soon after she was confronted by her boyfriend when leaving work. In what probably saved her life she brandished the stun gun and threatened to use it. It was enough to scare him away, but it only began Caetano’s legal problems.
As a result, Caetano was found guilty of criminal possession of a stun gun. The case ended up before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (MassSJC). That biased court defended the State law: “This court concluded that a stun gun is not the type of weapon that is eligible for protection under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, where, although a stun gun is both dangerous per se and unusual, it was not in common use at the time of the enactment of the Second Amendment; and where the Legislature rationally could ban the use of stun guns in the interest of public health, safety, or welfare.”
Eventually the case went before SCOTUS and the conviction was vacated in what we now fondly refer to as the MassSJC smack down. In a rare unanimous decision, SCOTUS vacated the MassSJC’s decision.
Subsequently the Massachusetts legislature passed legislation that repealed the outright ban on stun guns. Unfortunately, they made a complete mess of it because they would not listen to GOAL. The biggest part of the mess was they placed stun guns (stun guns and tasers) under the definition of “Firearm” which are handguns.
In any other state if a stun gun breaks, one simply throws it away. In Massachusetts that would likely result in criminal charges. The current online web portal, MIRCS is not designed to handle electronic weapons. As a result, the Firearms Record Bureau had to reissue paper FA-10 forms so retailers could report the sales.
There is also the question of whether these items are legally considered lethal force. A handgun certainly is and since they are under the definition of a handgun, what does that mean? To further complicate that question, in the new regulations yet another definition magically appears:
“Electronic Control Weapon (ECW)/Conducted Energy Devices. A stun gun as defined in
M.G.L. c. 140, § 121, or any portable device or weapon, regardless of whether it passes an
electrical shock by means of a dart or projectile via a wire lead, from which an electrical current,
impulse, wave or beam that is designed to incapacitate temporarily by causing neuromuscular
incapacitation or pain so that an officer can regain and maintain control of the subject.”
This new definition adds more confusion to an already badly written law as it suggests that stun guns are considered less than lethal weapons that are only used to control an assailant. This new definition creates a dangerous legal trap for anyone who may be brought up on criminal charges in a self-defense incident much like what happened to Caetano. Once again, bad law made worse.
Definition Law: Chapter 140, Section 121 ''Firearm'', a stun gun or a pistol, revolver or other weapon of any description, loaded or unloaded, from which a shot or bullet can be discharged and of which the length of the barrel or barrels is less than 16 inches or 18 inches in the case of a shotgun as originally manufactured; provided, however, that the term firearm shall not include any weapon that is: (i) constructed in a shape that does not resemble a handgun, short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun including, but not limited to, covert weapons that resemble key-chains, pens, cigarette-lighters or cigarette-packages; or (ii) not detectable as a weapon or potential weapon by x-ray machines commonly used at airports or walk- through metal detectors.
Massachusetts State Law. Ann. Laws of Massachusetts. Chapter 140. Sale of Firearms. Section 131J: Section 131J. Sections 131.75, 131K and 131P shall not apply to stun guns. The secretary of public safety and security shall promulgate regulations restricting access or use of stun guns by non-licensed persons and establishing minimum safety and quality standards, safe storage requirements, education and safety training requirements and law enforcement training on the appropriate use of stun guns, which shall require that any stun gun purchased or used by a law enforcement or public safety official include a mechanism for tracking the number of times the stun gun has been fired.