A federal judge found last week that New York’s 45-year old ban on a popular martial arts weapon is unconstitutional when squared against the right to bear arms.
Judge Pamela K. Chen found in favor of James M. Maloney in her 32-page ruling on Friday, arguing that the sale, use, and possession of nunchaku or chuka sticks — a simple weapon consisting of two sticks connected by a length of chain or rope — is protected by the Second Amendment. As such, New York’s ban on such weapons, enacted in 1974 after their popularity in martial arts films of the time, went too far and is an unconstitutional restriction.
Maloney, a college professor and an amateur martial artist, created his own martial arts style of which he is the sole practitioner. Key in his style is the use of nunchucks for self-defense, which are illegal to possess or sell in the Empire State. As he wants to both train his children in the art and possess the weapons in his home legally, he filed a lawsuit back in 2003 in an effort to overturn the law and, last Friday, the court sided with him.
As part of his case, witnesses for Maloney advised that at least 64,890 factory-produced metal and wood nunchakus were sold to individuals in the U.S. since 1995, that they are legal and in common use in 48 states — only New York and Massachusetts bans them — and some 5,000 martial arts schools train their users. The devices are even carried by police in California and Colorado.
In an effort to preserve the law, the Nassau County District Attorney, where Maloney lives, argued there were 56 anecdotal nunchaku-related incidents in the country since 1974, to which Chen, a 2013 appointment by President Obama, said, “Even if Defendant had offered evidence of these 56 incidents at trial, they do not constitute clear and convincing evidence, or a preponderance of evidence, that nunchakus are not commonly used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”