Federal Judge Rules Nunchucks Protected by Second Amendment

Strikes down New York state ban

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A federal judge ruled on Friday that nunchucks are protected by the Second Amendment and New York's ban on nunchuck ownership is unconstitutional

Judge Pamela K. Chen of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, an Obama appointee, ruled the state's total ban on the possession, transportation, or manufacturing of nunchucks must be thrown out.

"For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants judgment in favor of Plaintiff, declaring that New York Penal Laws § 265.01(1) and § 265.10(1), (2), & (4), as applied to nunchaku, are an unconstitutional restriction on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment and are, therefore, void," Chen wrote in her ruling. "The Clerk of Court is respectfully requested to enter judgment and close this case accordingly."

Chen ruled nunchucks are bearable arms, which are typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes and therefore protected by the Second Amendment under the framework laid out in landmark Supreme Court cases Heller and McDonald.

Madeline Singas, Nassau County District Attorney, attempted to defend the state's ban before the court. However, she provided only two examples of assault and three examples of possession prosecutions involving nunchucks. Judge Chen found the lack of evidence nunchucks are commonly used in crimes, let alone more commonly used in crimes than used for lawful purposes, doomed the state's case that the ban was necessary to protect public safety.

"Considering the scant evidence presented, the Court finds that Defendant has not met her burden to exclude nunchaku from the ambit of Second Amendment protection," Chen wrote. "Simply put, Defendant does not contradict the contention that the nunchaku's primary use, which Defendant concedes is as ‘a tool from the sphere of martial arts' is a lawful one."

James M. Maloney, a New York attorney, first brought the case on his own behalf back in February 2003. He told the Washington Free Beacon that he persisted in pursuing the case for over 15 years because he thought the ban was outrageous.

"When I was in high school, the author Robert Ludlum came to our English class and gave a talk," Maloney said. "It was followed by a Q-and-A period, and someone asked him what motivated him to write. He answered with one word: ‘Outrage.' Likewise, that was a source of motivation for me: 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? Not only that, but it can be used in self-defense in a more merciful manner, respectful of human life, far more effectively than any penetrating weapon, like a gun or sword or knife. No one would think of doing the same thing with baseball bats (which are much more effective at fracturing skulls than are nunchaku, as the recent death of the firefighter illustrates), but these ‘oriental' sticks were fair game."

He said he was pleasantly surprised the court actually went further in striking down the ban than he had asked them to.

"Most striking from my perspective is that the court gave me far more relief than I'd asked for, striking down all applications of the nunchaku ban, not just the ban as applied to in-home possession, and also going on to strike down other statutory provisions prohibiting the sale, manufacture, etc., of nunchaku," Maloney told the Free Beacon.  "As I come to appreciate the decision more fully, I am increasingly convinced that the judge not only got the law (as it currently exists) correct—but also that she has displayed true wisdom."

Maloney said the ruling was the work of a "good and fair judge" who was swayed mainly by the evidence presented in the case instead of a preconceived ideology.

"A tremendous amount of effort went into refining and rendering this final decision, and it makes me happy to see that our federal courts can and do (albeit not always) ‘deliver the goods' in applying the law to protect individual rights," he said.

The Nassau County District Attorney's office referred the Free Beacon to the County Attorney of Nassau's office for comments on the case but that office did not answer their phone. It is unclear if there is any plan to appeal the ruling.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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