Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Caetano v. Massachusetts Means for the Carry of Knives in New York

Over the past decade, 60,000 people in New York City have been victimized by corrupt prosecutors for possessing common pocket knives.  They have been cited, arrested, fined and imprisoned for carrying some of the most common tools in existence in the United States, under an incredibly broad interpretation of New York law banning "gravity" knives.  The New York City prosecutor has demanded payment to his office fund of for "knife safety", what  amounts to extortion money so as not to be prosecuted for selling these common knives. 

All of that is threatened by the clear finding of the wording of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court today, March 21st, 2016, in the case of Caetano v. Massachusetts.

Jaime Caetano is a woman who was poor and homeless, who carried an electric stun gun for self defense.  She also used it for that purpose.  But the stun gun was discovered in her purse when she consented to a search for shoplifting.  No stolen items were found, but she was charged with illegal possession of a stun gun.  Massachusetts bans possession of stun guns.

The case was appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which ruled that stun Guns were unusual and dangerous weapons, that did not exist at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and so, could be banned.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which disagreed, and in a very shot ruling confirmed that the Second Amendment applies to all bearable arms.  From 14-10078 Caetano v. Massachusetts(pdf) :
The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v.Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010).
The Supreme Court has cleared up numerous lower court confusions with this simple ruling.   Clearly knives constitute instruments that are bearable arms.  Clearly folding pocket knives are common, as are fixed blade knives or all lengths.  Therefore there is no doubt that a ban on possession of common knives is unconstitutional on its face.

The same goes for sticks, clubs, and virtually all types of  firearms that have sold more than the approximately 200,000 electric stun guns estimated to be in the United States.
From Justice Alito's concurring opinion:
(Almost Entirely) Nonlethal Weapons, and the Rights To Keep and Bear Arms and Defend Life, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 199, 244 (2009) (citing stun gun bans in seven States); Wis. Stat. §941.295 (Supp. 2015) (amended Wisconsin law permitting stun gun possession); see also Brief in Opposition 11 (acknowledging that “approximately 200,000 civilians owned stun guns” as of 2009).
Thus we have an lower limit for what is considered "common";  any type of weapon that can be shown to exist in numbers approaching a couple of hundred thousand is in common use.  Locking, folding, pocket knives exist in tens, more likely, hundreds of millions.  There are millions of semi-automatic rifles that meet the facial description of common, bearable, arms.  The open carry of those arms in dozens of states makes it clear that they are both bearable and common.

I do not see how the numerous local and state bans can withstand this argument.  No doubt those cases are on the way.

Caetano v. Massachusetts will provide a powerful argument for those who are attempting to reform these ineffective and archaic bans on common arms.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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