SJC case could overturn Massachusetts stun gun ban

A Taser brand stun gun. (Credit: WikiMedia Commons) Under Massachusetts state law, it's illegal to possess stun guns (except for police, of course), but a Supreme Judicial Court case could change that. According to The Boston Globe:

Jaime Caetano did what she could to protect herself after the father of her two children beat her so badly that she “ended up in the hospital,” but the abuse did not stop.

Then, after she displayed a stun gun when he showed up at her workplace in New Bedford, he “got scared and left [Caetano] alone,” court papers say.

The same stun gun, however, landed Caetano in the middle of a legal battle about the weapon and the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. She was convicted last year under a state law criminalizing the possession of stun guns by private citizens.

Caetano is challenging the law in court, saying it violates her rights under the Second Amendment to defend herself.

In an almost unbelievably sleazy move, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office is trying to use the fact that Caetano is homeless as a reason for denying her the right to carry weapons:

In a twist, the state Supreme Judicial Court is asking whether and how Second Amendment protections for people to defend themselves in their own homes apply to homeless people such as Caetano. She became homeless after leaving the hospital, spending time in a hotel and a shelter, court papers say...

Middlesex County prosecutors, who brought the case against Caetano, argue the Second Amendment does not establish the constitutional right to have a banned electric stun gun outside the home. They argue two Supreme Court decisions that upheld the right to possess handguns for self-defense inside homes does not necessarily extend that protection outside the home...

“Only a ruling from this Court reversing itself or a decision from the United States Supreme Court specifically holding that the Second Amendment protects possession of an electric stun gun or like weapon outside the home would be sufficient to vindicate the defendant’s challenge to her conviction,” Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Michael A. Kaneb said.

He wrote that being homeless does not entitle Caetano to “special protection” under the Second Amendment.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan (Credit: DA's Office)The argument that homeless people have less of a right to possess weapons is perverse considering many women experience homelessness when leaving abusive relationships, but it's exceptionally offensive coming from the Middlesex District Attorney's Office which was embroiled in a huge scandal last year after dropping the ball in the Jared Remy case.

After Jared Remy was arrested for attacking his girlfriend Jennifer Martel, the district attorney's office made no attempt to have him held in jail pending the trial despite his long history of domestic violence. Two days later, Remy murdered Martel.

After her office's performance in the Remy case, one would think District Attorney Marian Ryan would have learned from her failure and began using her position to support victims of domestic violence when they stand up for themselves. Instead, Ryan's office is trying to make sure women are unable to defend themselves and go to jail if they try.

The Supreme Judicial Court will be hearing arguments for the case tomorrow. I'm definitely hoping that they decide to throw the stun gun ban out.

If the courts don't throw the ban out, it will probably stand for a long time. Massachusetts has some of the most restrictive laws about weapons possession in the country and the state legislature isn't likely to change that anytime soon. Until very recently, it was illegal to buy pepper spray without first obtaining a permit from the police, and that positive change was attached to a gun law that makes it easier for police to deny gun permits to people for potentially arbitrary reasons.

Worcester cop gets paid leave while facing allegation of violent home invasion

worcester_pd_patchLast week, The MetroWest Daily News reported this disturbing story about a Worcester police officer who was arrested and charged with home invasion, assault and battery, breaking and entering, trespassing and threatening to commit a crime:

According to a police report filed in Westborough District Court on Thursday, the veteran Worcester Police officer went to his ex-wife’s Shady Lane home on June 17 and began banging on the door, yelling to be let in while yelling profanities.

The report said his ex-wife would not let him in, so Stout forced a kitchen window screen open and climbed through.

"According to (the ex-wife) her ex-husband was in his full Worcester Police Department uniform at the time he forced his way into her house and he did have his gun, which was holstered in his belt/waist area," the report said.

Stout then went to a bedroom, where he attacked his ex-wife’s "companion" by "grabbing him by the neck and punching him several times, striking him in the face and neck area," the report said.

Throughout the attack, Stout yelled "I will kill you," repeatedly. When the assault was over, Stout told the man he would "murder" him if the man was ever around Stout’s family again, the report said.

Despite the serious charges Stout is facing, the police department is still paying him:

Stout, who has been with the Worcester Police Department for 16 years, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal police investigation, Worcester Police spokesman Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst said.

We see this sort of thing all the time. Police officers are accused of misconduct or criminal behavior and the department they work for puts them on administrative leave, but continues to pay them their lucrative salaries (police are some of the highest paid government employees in Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and other communities).

In recent memory, Massachusetts police have been given paid leave while facing allegations including everything from multiple assaults and rapes, to drunken hit-and-run accidents, to stealing military-grade explosives.

This paid time off can last for months, and sometimes even years. For instance, during 2012 and 2013, a West Springfield police captain was on paid leave for almost two years at a salary of about $104,000 while under investigation for several allegations of misconduct, including allegations that he abused several people in his custody.

There is no reason that police who are taken off the job due to allegations of misconduct or criminal behavior should be allowed to continue drawing a paycheck at taxpayer expense. In the case of guilty officers, the public is literally being forced to fund paid vacations for criminals. In the case of the innocent, the public is still being forced to pay people who aren't doing anything to benefit them.

Neither outcome is fair.