By: José Niño
In a new court filing, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha is supporting the state’s prohibition of stun guns and tasers, arguing they are not “the type of weapons associated with ‘core’ Second Amendment rights.”
This filing is part of a broader case, O’Neil v. Neronha, that two Rhode Island residents — Michael P. O’Neil, the Vice President of the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, and Nicola Grosso, former president of the Rhode Island Federated Sportsmen’s Association—brought forward in 2019 in hopes of trying to change the Rhode Island law that prevented them from legally buying stun guns.
Neronha, in the latest filing, does concede that stun guns “may constitute bearable arms within the meaning of the Second Amendment.” He also contends, however, that the state’s ban on stun guns should be upheld. The AG is of the opinion that the law does not violate the intent of the Second Amendment — self-defense at home. Additionally, Neronha asserts that the act of carrying a “bearable arm” outside of one’s home is not covered by the Second Amendment, thus the state’s ban on stun guns should stay in place.
The issue of stun guns was addressed by the Supreme Court in the 2012 case Caetano v. Massachusetts. The court unanimously determined, drawing from the D.C. v. Heller decision, that the Second Amendment covers “all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.” The Second Amendment is timeless. Even though stun guns were invented well after the Second Amendment’s ratification at the end of the 18th century, they still receive constitutional protections.
Neronha’s actions are in complete defiance of the Supreme Court’s previous ruling. Cam Edwards of Bearing Arms noted that, “Since the Caetano decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, a number of states around the country, including Massachusetts, have dropped their bans on the possession and use of stun guns, but Rhode Island has failed to follow the clear guidance by the Supreme Court in favor of continuing to prohibit the ownership and use of these items for self-defense.”
It seems Rhode Island still hasn’t gotten the memo. It makes sense when we consider the state’s anti-gun profile. According to Guns & Ammo magazine, Rhode Island is ranked in 43rd place in the publication’s list of “best states for gun owners.”
But there may be good news on the horizon for Rhode Island. The aforementioned federal case is still being reviewed by the courts. Should it reach the Supreme Court, it will undoubtedly get struck down thanks to the conservative makeup of the court.
Nonetheless, strong activism at the local and state levels are key in preventing these legal disputes from occurring in the first place. There will come a time when the courts won’t be able to save gun owners, so it’s best that we have all our bases covered.
José Niño is a Venezuelan American freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.