Federal Court: NY Ban On Nunchucks Unconstitutional

The judge ruled that the law from the 1970s, written in reaction to the popularity of kung fu movies at the time, violates the Second Amendment

When we think of the Second Amendment, our mind typically goes to firearms, but that’s not the only self-defense implement covered by the Bill of Rights.

Last Friday, a federal court ruled New York’s ban on nunchucks, or nunchaku, was unconstitutional on 2A grounds.

New York isn’t known for common sense laws when it comes to self defense and the implements thereof, and its ban on nunchucks, an ancient weapon consisting of two pieces of wood joined by a short chain or piece of leather, is one such nonsensical prohibition. The ban on the martial arts weapon was enacted in 1974, in response to the popularity of movies starring Bruce Lee, and driven by misguided fears, as these types of laws often are.

According to the Associated Press, Brooklyn federal court Judge Pamela Chen's recent ruling stated that the ban "arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity 'of 'Kung Fu' movies and shows,′ 'various circles of the states youth—including 'muggers and street gangs'—were 'widely' using nunchaku to cause 'many serious injuries.'"

Chen ruled that the state’s law regarding possessing, manufacturing, transporting or disposing of nunchucks was in violation of the Second Amendment.

James Maloney, a professor at the State University of New York's Maritime College, sought to have the higher courts examine the ridiculous legislation after being charged with possession of nunchucks in his home in 2000, the AP reports. When his initial complaint, filed in 2003, was denied, he began appealing—all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010 the top court sent the case back down to be reconsidered in light of a Second Amendment decision it had made in another case. Maloney filed an amended complaint shortly after.

In an email to the Associated Press, Maloney said some of his motivation was outrage.

“How could a state simply ban any and all possession of a weapon that had a long and proud history as a martial-arts weapon, with recreational, therapeutic and self-defense utility,” he said.

The same way that they ban firearms without cause or reason, James, or say, switchblades in many places.

A Bit of History

The nunchaku is a traditional Okinawan martial arts weapon that is most widely used in martial arts disciplines such as karate and Okinawan kobudō. It is also used as a training weapon, since it develops quick hand movements and improves posture.

Modern day version of the ancient weapon have handles made of metal, wood, plastic, or even fiberglass in myriad colors and designs.

Nobody knows exactly when or where nunchaku came from, but they are alleged to have been created by Okinawan farmers from non-weapon implements for threshing rice. The weapon was never popular in combat because it was fairly ineffective against other common military weapons such as spears and swords.

Bruce Lee popularized the nunchaku in the U.S. and worldwide with his films after he was introduced to them by the man who taught him Filipino martial arts, Dan Inosanto. The nuchaku techniques Lee learned looked incredibly impressive on screen and the weapon became a movie and TV martial arts staple for many years.