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Posted by on in Legal

bglogoDoes Jaime Caetano, a homeless woman, have the right to use a stun gun to protect herself from her ex-boyfriend, the violent man who is the father of her children?  She didn't even have to hit him with the stun gun.  According to a report in the Bostog Globe, all she had to do was show hm that she had it, and he left her alone.  If only the police could have done the same.

 The Globe reported, "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."  See the full article here.

 She is now appealing her case, attempting to get her conviction overturned, based on two argements.  First, that the Second Amendment covers "arms" that are not firearms.  Second, that US Supreme Court decisions have implied a right to carry outside the home.  Also at issue is the question of whether a homeless person has the same rights for self-protection as a person who has a home.

 Caetano's case was brought to AWARE's attention last August. AWARE was asked to provide an amicus brief for the court.  An amicus is a “friend of the court” document that isn’t required to be part of the case, but that provides the court with relevant expert information they might not be aware of.  AWARE did file a brief, giving arguments why many people have good reasons to choose stun guns as self-defense tools, including religious or ethical compunctions against killing, being psychologically unwilling to shoot, women who need protection against a violent ex but don’t want to kill him, and firearm owners who want to have a reliable but less lethal alternative available. The brief also also explained why the legal right to keep and bear arms extends beyond firearms, and therefore should automatically include carrying stun guns outside the home.

 You can see the full text of AWARE's brief here.

 We await the resolution of this case with the greatest interest and will keep you informed of what happens to Jaime Caetano, and when, if ever, we can legally have those less-lethal weapons in Msassachusetts.


Tagged in: Personal Protection
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Posted by on in Legal


With all the publicity regarding nearly every killing of one person by another, it is reasonable to ask, is this crime getting worse in our country, or better?  There are two national databases that collect relevant information on this.  Why two?  Do they agree with one another?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been collecting Uniform Crime Reports since 1930, so they have gotten very good at it.  The UCR data comes from voluntary police reports, so it attempts to collect all and only crimes that are known to police.  That data, for crimes that include murder, involve a lot of specifics: jurisdiction, circumstances (argument, robbery, gang-related), victim-offender relationship, and so on.  

The FBI’s UCR data has two divisions for killings, one for all murders plus nonnegligent manslaughters and one for negligent manslaughters.  Negligent manslaughter means only unintentional, accidental killing of one person by another.  The first division includes everything else: justifiable homicide, murders, law enforcement-related killings, and killings in self-defense.

The second national database on death is managed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  It is called the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and collects information by Fatal Injury Reports.  Its data about deaths comes from death certificates filed by people in each state, primarily funeral directors, medical examiners, or coroners.  The death certificates include information on the manner of death (homicide, suicide, unintentional)  and also information about the cause of death (injury, poisoning, etc.).  

CDC’s NVSS data covers virtually every death, because death certificates are filed for everyone who dies.  The FBI’s UCR, coming from voluntary reports, has some omissions where police reports were not sent to the FBI, or where crimes were never reported to the police.

A bigger difference than the number of deaths in these two databases is the way they classify homicides.  The UCR takes a predictably legalistic approach, classifying homicides as intentional, justifiable, or negligent.  The NVSS puts all person-by-person death in one category, homicide, without judgment of criminal intent, because death certificate data cannot make those  distinctions.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics just published a report on these two measures of homicide, describing in more detail than I have done here the methods and limitations of each system.  Then the report includes a graph of the homicide rates by each method, over a 30 year period, 1981-2011.  Here is that graph.


You don’t have to remember all of your school mathematics to understand this.  Looking at each organization’s own definition of homicide, the graphs are striking similar.  The NVSS rate is slightly higher, probably because that captures all the deaths while SHR misses some due to non-reporting by police.

The really striking thing is that in 1981 the homicide rate was 10 per 100,000 people in the US.  It dipped to 8 in the mid 1980’ and climbed to a high of 10 again in 1991. Since then, for the last 20 years, the homicide rate has been falling or steady.  Falling or steady to its 2011 level of 5, half that of 1991.

Murders are going down.  Down, not up.  Down, despite all the publicity being given to both mass and individual murders.  Down.

If you want to see the beautifully short (4 page) report from which this material was taken, here it is. It contains pointers to many other reports and sources of data for you to explore if you are a data junkie, as I am.

The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide  NCJ247060 July 2014


Picture Credit:  hoyou / Shutterstock

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Posted by on in Legal

Dstun-gun-no-3oes it make sense to you that stun guns and tasers are not legal for private citizens in Massachusetts?  In a state where it IS legal to buy, own and use firearms, shouldn't everyone have the same access to these less lethal self-defense tools? Michael Rosman is trying to make that happen.


Who is Michael Rosman?  He is, a lawyer at a conservative/libertarian public interest law firm, the Center for Individual Rights in Washington DC.  He is working to bring a case in Massachusetts to challenge this law.


I have volunteered to put together a small group, an "association in fact," of people who would like to see this law changed.  This is not, and never will be, a request for donations. 


It might involve having Michael Rosman represent us, but it will not cost you anything; his law firm and this effort are funded by other people and organizations, not by you and me.  It may involve becoming plaintiffs in this lawsuit, if you want.


Interested?  Curious?  Email me, bates@aware.org for more information.

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Posted by on in Legal

 Gun being put in car trunk

 It is bound to happen at some point. You are carrying your handgun lawfully on a Class-A LTC on your daily errands when you have to go somewhere that you can’t take the handgun. Let’s say your child’s school calls – your son is throwing up and needs to be picked up within the hour. Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, §10(j) clearly says that you can’t carry a firearm (or other dangerous weapon) on your person in a building or on the grounds of a school (including colleges) without the written authorization of certain school officials. In the wake of Newtown, it is not worth taking chances with this statute.
So what can you do? Unfortunately, the answer is not clear.
Chapter 140, § 131C concerns weapons in a motor vehicle. You can carry a loaded firearm on your person, under your direct control on a Class A permit. Someone with a Class B permit can transport a firearm unloaded and contained within the locked trunk or in a locked case or other secure container. Arguably, if you make a brief stop you are still transporting the firearm, and you could place it unloaded in the trunk (if you have one) or in a locked case or container. (The ammunition, apparently, does not need to be in its own locked container, but it must be separate from the firearm.) Trigger locks and cable locks do not count! A locked glove compartment might count, but the trunk or a locked case/container is a better option.
The other possibility is Chapter 140, § 131L which concerns weapons being stored by the owner. To comply with 131L, you need to secure the firearm in a locked container or equip it with a tamper resistant mechanical lock or other safety device. (§ 131L does not say the firearm has to be unloaded.) What is an appropriate locked container under this section – according to the Court, "the container must not merely be locked, but securely locked ... [i.e.,] maintained in [a] locked container[] in a way that will deter all but the most persistent from gaining access.” Com. v. Parzick, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 846, 850 (2005). Use something sturdy with a reasonable lock.
The only case interpreting this area, so far, is Com. v. Reyes, 464 Mass. 245 (2013). In Reyes, the defendant was a corrections officer who carried his firearm to work one day at the house of correction. When he asked for a key for a gun locker, he was told the lockers were all full. He put the handgun, including a loaded magazine, in the glove compartment of his car, parked in an employee lot directly in front of the entrance, and went to work. It is not clear whether the glove compartment was itself locked. Corrections officials asked to search his car and found the firearm. He was arrested, and convicted of violating both G. L. c. 140, § 131C (a) (carrying statute), and unlawfully storing a firearm (after leaving it in his motor vehicle) in violation of G. L. c. 140, § 131L (a) and (b) (storage statute). Reyes was granted a new trial after his appeal because the trial judge did not properly define “locked container” for the jury.
The Court said that leaving a firearm in an unattended vehicle while at work is storage under G.L. ch. 140 § 131L. A secured container “must be capable of being unlocked only by means of a key, combination, or other similar means.” The locked passenger compartment is NOT a secure container. The Court specifically mentions a locked vehicle trunk as a possible secured container.
As to the glove box, the Court says it might suffice under § 131L “depending on the particular factual circumstances including the nature of the locking mechanism, whether the motor vehicle was also locked and alarmed, and ultimately whether in the circumstances it was adequate to ‘deter all but the most persistent from gaining access.’”

The Court discusses § 131C, but does not explain whether § 131L applies to all instances of a firearm left unattended in a vehicle, or to only situations where the firearm has been left unattended for a long period. Reyes was convicted under both statutes, implying that both applied to him.

Bottom line:
The safest process is to put the firearm, unloaded, in a secured case or container when you have to leave it unattended. This complies with both 131C and 131L. If you have a trunk, you can keep a lockable storage box in it in case of an emergency. (If you use a proper storage container, you don’t have to secure the container to the vehicle – see Com. v. Lojiko, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 82 (2010)). While the locked trunk will qualify, a container within the trunk will protect your firearm from dings and scrapes, and inadvertent discovery if you have to open your trunk while it is still there.

Want to discuss or ask questions? Post a comment to this blog.

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Posted by on in Legal

Mug shot of Sandra Layne

A 75-year old woman named Sandra Layne recently endured a jury trial because she shot her grandson.  The shooting was never in dispute, just her claim of self-defense.

Here is some background, gathered to support her defense.  Sandra Layne and her husband, Fred, had agreed to take into their Pontiac, Michigan home their 17- year old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman for his final year of high school.  Jonathan had been living with his parents in Arizona, but depending on which story you choose to believe, his parents were divorcing, or his sister developed a brain tumor and so his parents needed to devote most of their time to her.

Jonathan was not an easy teenager to deal with.  He used drugs, not just marijuana but something hallucinogenic that required hospitalization at one point.).  He brought people his grandparents didn’t know, and doubtless would not have approved of, into their home, without their permission.  He didn’t respect or listen to his grandmother.  He swore at her.  He demanded that she give him money. He had an awful temper, and hit or kicked  things.  In short, he was completely unmanageable.

She bought a gun, a Glock, because she thought Jonathan’s friends might be dangerous.

A few days before his death, Jonathan had failed a drug test that put him in violation of his probation.  He wanted to get away, out of Michigan before he could be jailed, and he wanted his grandmother’s car and money to carry out his escape plan.

Sandra Layne said he hit her during a huge argument about money, and that she was afraid of him.

She sounds quite sympathetic, doesn’t she?  If you had been on her jury, would you have believed her claim of self-defense and acquitted her?  Would you at least have reduced her guilt from first degree murder charge to manslaughter?

Let’s look at a few more facts about this situation.  Maybe that will help you decide.

Layne fired 9 shots (from a Glock 9mm) and hit him 5 times.  Better accuracy than many people in that kind of situation would have had, you might be saying.  But what if I add the fact that the 911 call showed that those 10 shots took place over 6-minutes? Yes, 6 minutes, not 6 seconds.

Layne shot him, and walked out of that room.  Apparently he called 911, kept the 911 operator on, then she returned to the room where he was lying on the floor, and shot him again.  If a fight had been continuing, the 911 call would have picked it up.  The 911 call did pick up Jonathan saying, "My grandma shot me. I'm going to die.”  A few minutes later he said,  “Help. I got shot again."

Another telling point, Layne never asked for an ambulance for her grandson.  

Layne was examined at a hospital right after the incident, but did not appear to be injured in any way, undermining her claim that Jonathan had hit her.

Does that change your opinion of what the verdict should have been?  The jury in this case had the 911 tape in the jury room, and played it over and over.  It helped them reach their verdict: guilty (first-degree murder).  That poor woman will spend at least 14 years in prison, if she lives long enough to complete her sentence.

Everyone suffers in a tragic situation like this.

You can read more about this story here:


Photo Credit: West Bloomfield Township Police Dept.

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Posted by on in Legal

Yesterday's Metrowest Daily News reported that there is currently a court case involving the legality of stun guns in Massachusetts.  Currently, both stun guns and tasers are illegal for private citizens to own.  

Stun Gun

A stun gun is a relatively small, handheld device with two prongs.  To be used, the prongs must be pressed against someone's body, and the current activated by a switch.  It is effective for as long as it is in contact.  A taser is quite a different kind of device.  A taser can be fired like a gun, and fires two barbs on the end of wires.  When the barbs contact a person, current is applied.  Generally, police have been using tasers quite successfully for many years.

The paper reported that in 2011, a 4-foot 11-inch woman named Jamie Caetano had two restraining orders against her former boyfriend, and she was carrying a stun gun for protection against him.  She was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by police, and the police found the stun gun in her purse.  She was charged with its possession - not with any other cirme.

Her case is about to come up in Framingham District Court, and her lawyer, Paul McManus, is challenging the constitutionally of the law, in light of the Supreme Court case that said the right to bear arms is not restricted to firearms.  Because Caetano was clearly carrying the stun gun only for personal protection, and since self-defense is many circumstances is legal, her lawyer will argue that she should not be convicted, and that, indeed, such weapons should be legal. 

Michigan's supreme court has rules that a ban on stun guns was unconstitutional in that state.  Stay tuned for further information about these less-lethal weapons, and their possible future legality in Massachusetts.

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Posted by on in Legal

Those of us who have been around firearms licensing in MA for a few years now have encountered the patchwork of very different standards and requirements in different towns.  And then there's the matter of restrictions that some police chiefs put on the back of Class A licenses - those restrictions might be the topic of a later AWARE blog.  


But now the Boston Globe's reporter, Brian MacQuarrie, has investigated the licensing situation and has done a darn good job of presenting the issues, together with some very interesting statistics on licenses.  

Did you know that it can take 6 years to get a Class A (concealed carry) license in Newton?  Did you know that, statewide, over 80% of licenses are Class A?  

Check out the Globes whole story, and reader’s comments here:  Want a gun license in Massachusetts? Much depends on where you live.  

Other people are learning what we have known all along, there are no fixed standards for issuing gun permits in Mass. Each individual chief in each town has complete control over who is considered a suitable person and thus gets a license there, and who doesn’t.

How can you find out how the police chief in your town issues licenses?  Ask others at your gun club, gun stores, or GOAL before you apply.  It could make the difference between getting that license or not.

AWARE is a big proponent of training.  We applaud the chiefs who require a basic safety class for any license applicant.  We also believe that, if you are going to receive a Class A license, you should have fired a real gun, at a real range, as part of that class.  Alas, the Massachusetts State Police has certified some courses, and some instructors, to qualify people for Class A licenses without any shooting.

What do you think about the patchwork of requirements, and about people who have concealed carry licenses, but have never fired a shot?


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