Court strikes down New York’s decades-old ban on nunchucks

World Today

Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee introduced nunchucks to westerners back in the 1970’s.

At the time, lawmakers in New York saw the martial arts weapon as too dangerous and instituted a state-wide ban.

Now, decades later, it’s been lifted – thanks to the efforts of one man.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

In 1973, “Enter the Dragon” starring Bruce Lee hit the big screen. Scenes of Lee using nunchucks, or “nunchaku” as they are known in Japan, helped fuel interest in martial arts in the United States.

But the growing popularity of nunchucks unnerved law enforcement in New York on worries street gangs would use them as weapons. The state banned them in 1974.

That ban was recently overturned in large part because of one man: James Maloney.

“If it were a baseball bat it would be unthinkable that it could be banned. This is a western sport that is well-recognized. But here you have something that was new in the 1970s and the legislation said no, and that was wrong,” said Maloney, Adjunct Professor at SUNY Maritime College.

Maloney is an attorney at law. He’s also a nunchuck fan – first picking them up in the late 1970s. He later developed his own technique.

In 2000, he was charged with possessing them in his home. He was determined to fight the ban on constitutional grounds.

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution states Americans have the right to keep and bear arms.

In her ruling, Judge Pamela K. Chen, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wrote: “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.”

It was a huge victory for Maloney who represented himself in the case.

“Getting justice is a little like hitting the lotto. The odds aren’t always that good but you’ve got to be in it to win it. I stayed in it for 15 years and the fact that I got something positive out of it is a great relief to me,” said Maloney.

New York state could appeal the decision but for now anyone can legally use nunchucks in New York for the first time in 44 years.