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Homeless woman’s stun gun case heads to state Supreme Court

Denise Lavoie Associated Press

BOSTON – Jaime Caetano was beaten so badly by her ex-boyfriend that she ended up in the hospital. So when a friend offered her a stun gun to protect herself, she took it.

Caetano, who is homeless, never had to use it but now finds herself at the center of a contentious Second Amendment case headed to the highest court in Massachusetts.

The Supreme Judicial Court is being asked to decide whether a state law that prohibits private citizens from possessing stun guns infringes on their right to keep and bear arms. In an unusual twist, the court is also being asked to examine whether the Second Amendment right to defend yourself in your own home applies in the case of a homeless person.

Arguments before the court are scheduled Tuesday.

Police found Caetano’s stun gun in her purse during a shoplifting investigation at a supermarket in 2011. She told police she needed it to defend herself against her violent ex-boyfriend, against whom she had obtained multiple restraining orders.

During her trial, Caetano, 32, testified that her ex-boyfriend repeatedly came to her workplace and threatened her. One night, she showed him the stun gun and he “got scared and left me alone,” she said.

She was found guilty of violating the state law that bans private possession of stun guns, devices that deliver an electric shock when pressed against an attacker.

In her appeal, her lawyer, Benjamin Keehn, argues that a stun gun falls within the meaning of “arms” under the Second Amendment. He also argues that self-defense outside the home is part of the core right provided by the Second Amendment.

Massachusetts is among only five states that ban stun guns and Tasers for private citizens, said Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has written extensively about Second Amendment issues. The devices are used by law enforcement agencies around the country.

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