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New Yorkers Have a Constitutional Right to Nunchucks, Judge Rules

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  • New Yorkers Have a Constitutional Right to Nunchucks, Judge Rules

    In the 1970s, the United States was in the middle of kung fu fever. A wave of martial arts movies washed onto American shores, making Bruce Lee an international superstar and “nunchucks” a household word.

    Worried that young people inspired by the craze might use nunchucks to cause havoc, New York State lawmakers criminalized the weapon in 1974.

    Not long after, a young man in suburban New Jersey began studying nunchucks, eventually developing a passion for them.

    Four decades later, that formerly young man, James M. Maloney, now 60, was in court battling New York’s ban on the weapon — and winning.

    On Friday, a federal judge struck the prohibition down, calling it unconstitutional. In her ruling, Judge Pamela K. Chen, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, said that nunchucks were protected under the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.

    It was a long-sought victory for Mr. Maloney. “I’m still digesting it, honestly,” he said on Tuesday.

    “It is an instrument or weapon that is a lot more humane than penetrating weapons,” he said. “The swords, the guns, the knife — they all do their damage by putting a hole in somebody,” he said. Nunchucks don’t.

    The legal sparring over nunchucks — two rods connected by a chain or rope that were called by their Japanese name, “nunchaku,” in Judge Chen’s decision and “chuka sticks” in state law — began in 2000, when Mr. Maloney was charged with possessing them in his home.

    But Mr. Maloney, a lawyer who teaches at the State University of New York’s Maritime College, said that the origins of the case traced back to 1981, when he was arrested in New York City after doing a public demonstration with nunchucks.

    That was the first time Mr. Maloney, who had trained himself to use nunchucks after years spent studying martial arts, learned about the ban. The charge, which was easily resolved, planted the seeds for the legal case to come. By the time he graduated from law school in 1995, Mr. Maloney had already formulated the basic outline of a challenge to the nunchucks ban.

    His reasons for first learning to use nunchucks went back to his childhood, he said. When Mr. Maloney was 6, he said, his father was fatally stabbed, so Mr. Maloney was well aware of the danger that edged weapons like knives could cause.

    Because nunchucks allowed their wielder to maintain distance from his or her attacker, Mr. Maloney thought they would make an exceptional tool for self-defense.

    In the ’70s, martial arts movies were a huge cultural phenomenon that brought centuries-old nunchucks closer to the center of modern popular culture. Impressed and inspired, droves of young people were twirling the weapons in their backyards and trying to avoid whacking themselves in the face.

    But New York lawmakers worried that some young people might be using the device nefariously. Officials were especially worried about “muggers and street gangs” who might use nunchucks to cause serious harm, according to Judge Chen’s decision. Out of concern for public safety, they passed a law to keep nunchucks off the streets.

    All the while, public enthusiasm for nunchucks never diminished. They showed up in video games like “Mortal Kombat,” comics like “Daredevil” and in cartoons like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” in which an anthropomorphic adolescent reptile named Michelangelo wielded a set of nunchucks in each hand.

    Mr. Maloney’s affection for the weapon did not wane either. He developed his own martial arts technique. Nunchucks, he said, were an integral part of that style, which he called “Shafan Ha Lavan” — the Hebrew translation of “white rabbit.”

    When he filed his complaint in 2003, Mr. Maloney, who represented himself in the case, argued that he had a constitutional right "to possess nunchaku in my own home,” he said on Tuesday.

    The case then made its way through the court system, finally coming before Judge Chen. The Nassau County district attorney’s office tried to argue that “the dangerous potential of nunchucks is almost universally recognized” and thus not protected by the Second Amendment.

    But Judge Chen said that she did not see any evidence of that, noting that the weapons were used most often in self-defense.

    “The centuries-old history of nunchaku being used as defensive weapons strongly suggests their possession, like the possession of firearms, is at the core of the Second Amendment,” Judge Chen wrote.

    In her ruling, Judge Chen went further than Mr. Maloney had sought, striking down the entire ban on the weapon, as well as a related law preventing nunchucks from being manufactured or transported in New York.

    “The court,” Mr. Maloney said, “gave me a great deal more relief than I asked for.”

    “I guess I could carry them on the street tomorrow,” he said. “Not really my plan, but you know, that’s the result of the decision.”

    Mr. Maloney added that he did not think nunchucks were the threat to public safety that might have motivated lawmakers 44 years ago. “Let’s put it this way,” he said, “if some criminal is going to use nunchaku to terrorize people today, they’d have to worry a lot more about getting shot.”

    “If you’re going to commit a crime,” he added, “your weapon of choice wouldn’t be these two sticks.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/n...JGtZpbbsCLbVsM
    "I guess I just hate the fact there is public property at all." - Mr. Raceboy.

  • #2
    There goes the black market value of nunchucks.

    Pete (is happy for Michaelangelo)

    Comment


    • #3
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with nunchucks is a good guy with nunchucks.
      "I guess I just hate the fact there is public property at all." - Mr. Raceboy.

      Comment


      • #4
        If we outlaw nunchucks, only the outlaws will have nunchuck!

        Pete (wonders who will have them if we in-law them)

        Comment


        • #5
          Looking forward to a new batch of nunchuck fail videos.
          "I guess I just hate the fact there is public property at all." - Mr. Raceboy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by skooly View Post
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with nunchucks is a good guy with nunchucks.
            the only thing that stops a bad guy with nunchucks is himself, when he tries to use them and mugs himself...
            "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." –Mark Twain

            Comment


            • #7
              How much wood could a nunchuck chuck if a nunchuck could chuck wood?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jeff92se View Post
                How much wood could a nunchuck chuck if a nunchuck could chuck wood?
                None.

                Duh!

                Pete (nailed it)

                Comment

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