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New Yorkers Can Now Legally Nunchuck

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You now have the right to bear nunchucks. AlexLMX/Shutterstock

New York's nunchuck ban is lifted, right in the middle of the holiday gifting season. Isn't that convenient?

According to the Associated Press, a Brooklyn federal judge ruled the state's decades-old anti-nunchuck law (did you know this existed? I did not.) unconstitutional because it violates the Second Amendment. As a result, you not only have the right to bear nunchucks in your home, but also to manufacture, transport, and dispose of them at your leisure.

The original ban on this weapon—two rods tied or chained together—dates back to the Nunchuck Panic of 1974, when overanxious adults worried that the popularity of Bruce Lee's martial arts movies would mean children mercilessly thwacking one another in the streets. Lawmakers reportedly believed the lure of nunchucks to be so strong that a private citizen could not be trusted to keep them safely locked away at home. No nunchucks for anyone, they said; nunchuck privileges revoked, you bloodthirsty monsters.

Plaintiff James Maloney has been chagrined over the ban since 2000, when authorities charged him possession of a weapon for the nunchaku he kept in his home and which were apparently critical to the martial arts form he developed, Shafan Ha Lavan. Chafed that he could not pass on this self-styled skill to his two sons, Maloney challenged the law: His appeals brought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which returned it to the lower courts for reconsideration. On Friday, Judge Pamela Chen ruled that it is not only unconstitutional to bar people from using chuka sticks, as they are sometimes called, in their own homes, but also to keep them from making them, transporting them, and throwing them away.

"The ban on nunchaku arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity of Kung Fu movies and shows, 'various circles of the state's youth'—including 'muggers and street gangs'—were 'widely' using nunchaku to cause 'many serious injuries," the ruling—provided to Gothamist by the Nassau County District Attorney—reads. In reality, Chen said, nunchucks often serve as instruments "used recreationally in martial arts training, practice, and performance," but in any case, "'the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms,' not just to a small subset." And so Maloney, who had mostly been asking for the latitude to legally use nunchucks in his home, gained a broader right than he originally anticipated.

Hold your applause, though, because as the Washington Post reports, the ruling might have broader implications for the gun rights lobby. Maloney's appeal has been tangled up with other Second Amendment cases, and his victory only came after the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the right to bear arms applied to state laws. Because it would seem to shore up the Second Amendment defense beloved of NRA types, this win feels bittersweet. But now at least you can console yourself with nunchucks, which Maloney described in an email to the AP as "recreational" and "therapeutic."

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