Second Amendment

Second Amendment: Nunchucks and Bump Stocks

Judge declares NY ban on nunchucks unconstitutional; meanwhile, DOJ bans bump stocks.

Thomas Gallatin · Dec. 19, 2018

“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,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Chen in her Tuesday ruling overturning a 44-year-old New York ban on nunchucks.

Back in 1974, following the exploding popularity of martial arts in the U.S. thanks in large part to Bruce Lee, New York lawmakers took it upon themselves to play nanny and enacted a ban against the possession of nunchucks based upon the rationale that the dangerous tool enticed children to engage in violence. In fact, they were so dangerous, lawmakers reasoned, that not even professional martial-arts teachers would be allowed to possess them in their own homes. (How ironic that the 1980s were dominated by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who dwelled in New York City sewers and one of whom specialized in wielding nunchucks.)

Eventually, this ban precipitated a lawsuit brought by James Maloney, a martial-arts enthusiast who had created his own style of fighting known as “Shafan Ha Lavan.” He had been cited for possession of nunchucks in his home in 2000.

In her ruling, Judge Chen noted recent Supreme Court decisions, stating that “both Heller and McDonald suggest that broadly prohibitory laws restricting the core Second Amendment right … are categorically unconstitutional.” Her ruling finally brings vindication to Maloney and it’s a clear defense of Second Amendment rights, clarifying that the bearing of arms is not limited to firearms.

On a somewhat related note, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department announced a new regulatory rule that now bans the possession of controversial bump-fire stocks primarily used for AR-15 rifles. The new rule is certain to raise objections over Second Amendment infringement concerns. However, we have argued that bump-fire stocks are intentionally designed as a workaround of the federal law that severely restricts the sale and possession of fully automatic firearms. If a federal ban on unregistered automatic firearms is unconstitutional, it would be preferable to work to overturn that law rather than creating devices to exploit loopholes in order to “legally” violate the law. That said, the practical reality is that the banning of bump stocks will likely have little to no impact on preventing future mass shootings. In fact, the only known instance of its use in a crime was the Las Vegas massacre.

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