Legal experts are once again debating the Second Amendment but this time the controversy surrounds whether or not "modern-age weapons" fall under constitutionally protected "arms."
Such weapons include stun guns, tasers and homemade 3D printed firearms, categories which are not explicitly defined under constitutional law. This loophole could see Americans’ right to bear arms be vastly curtailed in the age of digital weapons.
Experts say the last serious ruling on weapons came in the 2008 Heller case, when the Supreme Court threw out a District of Columbia statute banning handgun possession in the home. The Supreme court ruling said such a law violated the Second Amendment.
But now some experts question if electrical arms like stun guns, which were invented in 1972, are covered under the same line of Supreme Court reasoning.
They have asked the Supreme Court to decide through a case challenging the Massachusetts ban on the private possession of a stun gun, or a "portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill."
The case concerns Jaime Caetano, who is appealing a 2013 conviction on Second Amendment and self-defense grounds. She claims she has a constitutional right to possess a stun gun for protection against what she has said is "an abusive father of her children."
She was caught with a stun gun outside a Massachusetts store after allowing authorities, who were looking for a shoplifter, to look through her purse. The penalty for breaching the law carries a maximum jail term of two and a half years.
The case hinged on prosecutors arguing the stun gun is a "thoroughly modern invention" not covered by constitutional protection.
The court pointed out that Caetano could have just applied for a handgun license and carried a firearm instead of the stun gun.
"Barring any cause for disqualification the defendant could have applied for a license to carry a firearm," the court ruled.
Her lawyer has asked that the court to find in her favor "so the court can make clear that the 'core' of the Second Amendment is the individual right to keep and carry a bearable instrument—such as a stun gun—for self-defense in case a confrontation, and that this right may exist outside the home."
Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh said the Massachusetts court should lay down a decision which would allow stun guns and other modern weaponry to have Second Amendment protection. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii, ban the possession of stun guns.
A ruling either way will have significant implications for the Second Amendment and could make its way to the federal Supreme Court.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court is likely to announce its decision early next month at the latest.