Can New York Legally Forbid You to Own Nunchucks?

January 30, 2009

chuka-sticks-nun-chucksYou may know about the Supreme Court’s summertime D.C. v. Heller decision, which held that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the Federal government from making laws which substantially infringe on the rights of individuals to “keep and bear arms,” i.e. to carry or own weapons. The Wait a Second! blog reported that on Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (the Federal appeals court with jurisdiction over New York) issued its opinion in the case of Maloney v. Cuomo. It held that New York’s law against possessing “nunchucks” does not violate the 2nd Amendment, or the Heller decision’s interpretation of that amendment by the Supreme Court. In other words, it holds that a State may make laws that do infringe on the individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

It is true that the 2nd amendment only prohibits the Federal government from taking away an individual’s right to bear arms. But the 14th Amendment is said to incorporate the vast majority of the rights in the “Bill of Rights,” the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, against the individual States as well. However, this new Maloney case holds that it is settled law that the  2nd Amendment’s prohibition against Federal laws prohibiting weapon ownership do not apply to the States.

It will be interesting to see if other Circuits face similar cases and how they come out. The Supreme Court will hopefully take on of these cases on appeal and clarify what they neglected to clarify in the Heller case. Is the individual right to bear arms incorporated via the 14th Amendment as a right against State infringement? Or just Federal law infringement?

Either way, if you get busted for illegal possession of a gun, call a good criminal lawyer!

Picture courtesy of karatedepot.com

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7 Responses to “Can New York Legally Forbid You to Own Nunchucks?”

  1. Jim Maloney Says:

    I was the Plaintiff-Appellant in the Second Circuit case. For more information and many documents in pdf (including the briefs and transcript of oral argument), visit http://www.nunchakulaw.com.


  2. Jim,

    Thank you for visiting! Actually, when I was searching for a picture to go with this post, I did find your site and look through it bit.

    I have to admit that I am sympathetic to your side. Are you asking the Supreme Court to grant a Writ of Certiorari?

    There are two hurdles you would have to overcome though. First, you would have to convince the Court that the 2nd amendment’s prohibition against the individual’s right to bear arms, as found in Heller, is incorporated against the States. And then you would still have to prove that ban on Chuka Sticks is unreasonable. They would have to believe that Nunchucks are more similar to rifles and ordinary handguns and not similar to automatic weapons, which a State may make laws against.

    Good luck! What is next for you?

    Would you care to write a guest post about how you got into this case, why you took it all the way to the Circuit level, and what’s next for you?

  3. Jim Maloney Says:

    Yes, I’d be happy to write a guest post. Please contact me directly with details about what I need to do. To address one of the comments above, I note that Heller explicitly stated that “the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns,” 128 S.Ct. at 2815-16. The nunchaku has been recognized as having legitimate purposes by many courts since the 1974 New York ban was enacted, including the three cases cited at pages 10-11 of Appellant’s Brief (available in pdf on my website), as well as State v. Muliufi, 64 Haw. 485, 489, 643 P.2d 546, 549 (1982) (“Today, nunchaku sticks are widely used in the martial arts to build up dexterity, timing, mind and body coordination and aids in developing a larger sphere of consciousness around an individual.”). See also the 1974 Memorandum from Division of Criminal Justice Services that opposed NY’s total ban (also at http://www.nunchakulaw.com; scroll to the bottom of the home page), noting the “current interest and participation in [martial arts involving use of nunchaku] by many members of the public.”


  4. […] 4, 2009 As I posted on Jan. 30th, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided the case of Maloney v. Cuomo. Jim […]


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  6. […] I posted on Jan. 30th, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided the case of Maloney v. Cuomo. Jim […]

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