Nunchucks and the Law
Nunchuck martial arts fighting sticks are a traditional martial arts weapon that originates from Okinawa, Japan. A pair of nunchucks, also called nunchaku, consists of two short sticks connected by a rope or chain.
Used as a single martial arts weapon, or in pairs, nunchucks are illegal in a shrinking number of states and countries.
Nunchucks frequently appear in mass media. Movies, such as Dragnet, Ghost World and Bruce Lee martial arts films, and animated television shows, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all feature nunchucks in fight scenes. Nunchucks also have a history of being used in gang violence. As a result, many people glamorize and/or do not recognize the danger of these weapons.
Are nunchucks legal? States in the U.S. have differing views on this question. Some states prohibit the personal possession of nunchucks and nunchaku. Most states, however, allow them.
Up until 2019, four states had laws banning personal nunchuck usage, including Arizona, California, New York, and Massachusetts. However, the bans in Arizona and New York were overturned, and now only California and Massachusetts have laws limiting their use.
In 2018, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a New York resident who argued that the state's nunchuck ban was unconstitutional because it prevented martial artists from training with nunchucks.
The court agreed that the ban violated the Second Amendment right of New Yorkers to bear arms. The presiding judge reasoned that law-abiding citizens commonly use nunchucks in the practice of karate and self-defense, and cited a 2010 landmark Supreme Court case holding that the Second Amendment extends to state laws.
Outside the U.S., a number of countries have laws prohibiting or significantly restricting the use of nunchucks and nunchaku, including:
Hong Kong allows legal possession nunchucks and nunchaku only by martial arts instructors who can obtain a special license from the police.
Injuries from nunchucks can be serious. The martial arts weapons are almost always composed of hardened sticks made of wood, metal, or plastic. They are usually connected by a short length of rope, metal chain, or leather. When used in a technically accurate manner, the sticks reach high velocities and can strike an object with tremendous force.
Nunchucks can cause broken bones, cuts, concussions, and eye and nose injuries.
A nunchuck is engineered so that it can be used as a fulcrum: the assailant holds one stick while attacking with the other stick that is attached to the first one. As a result, serious, non-fatal nunchuck injuries often happen.
Nunchucks and Your Legal Rights
As discussed above, there are state and federal laws concerning nunchucks that people must understand and follow. If you're charged with possession of a nunchuck, or are the victim of a nunchuck-related crime, you'll want to plan your legal strategy as soon as possible.
Some of the legal factors that an attorney can review with you include:
- What being charged with violating your state's nunchuck law means, including elements of the crime, potential defenses, and the length of any possible criminal sentence.
- If you or your loved ones are victims of nunchuck violence, whether you can recover damages from the assailants and their employers.
Nunchuck Safety Tips
- Follow your state's nunchuck laws. If the martial arts weapons are not prohibited, you must still use extreme care when handling or practicing with them.
- If you are outside your home state, check the applicable local and state regulations governing the use of nunchucks and nunchaku.
- Make sure that if they are legal in your state, that you get safety training and practical experience operating nunchucks.
- Like any dangerous weapon, nunchucks always have the potential to hurt others, whether purposely or accidentally. If someone is hurt, or property is damaged while you are using nunchaku, you could be held liable in a civil lawsuit, and/or face charges in a criminal court.
- Never let young children play with or near nunchucks.
- Never use nunchaku while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Confused About Nunchucks and the Law? Get an Attorney's Help
Depending on where you live, you may be able to purchase a pair of nunchucks without any kind of a background check or other precautions. But they can be dangerous and cause injury. If you've been injured by a pair of nunchucks -- whether it was an intentional act or an accident -- you should talk with a local attorney.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.