California bans private citizens from owning nunchucks. Under the second amendment, the state can’t ban guns, but it does ban nunchucks.

Nunchuck bans date back to the 1970s, when martial arts films (especially Bruce Lee’s output) sparked a bit of a panic. In reality, nunchucks are not a very practical weapon in untrained hands. Sure, Bruce Lee could take you down with nunchaku, but Bruce Lee could also take you down with a pool cue; that doesn’t mean the item itself is so dangerous that authorities must ban it. On the other hand, if it really is as strong a weapon as the authorities fear, you might question why it doesn’t qualify for second amendment protections, under the spirit of the law.

But anyway, yes, California today bans nunchucks for private citizens. They do not extend that ban to police.

Some decades ago, quite a few police forces tried outfitting officers with nunchucks. Today’s nunchucks function differently from other nonlethal tools, say police. They aren’t supposed to strike people. As CNN put it: “Rather, the officers will most often use the nunchucks as a clamping device to pinch the leg or wrist of a defiant suspect. The intense pain will prompt the suspect to surrender to an arresting officer.”

That sounds less like incapacitation and more like torture. We have trouble picturing situations in which cops are able to painfully clamp legs and wrists but are unable to simply cuff them. And in fact, when California police used nunchucks in the ’80s, a lawsuit made them stop, after they broke a bunch of people’s wrists. 

The recent batch of nunchucks were manufactured by Orcutt Police Defensive Systems, a company founded by a Colorado police sergeant. Below, you can see some old footage demonstrating the supposed uses. We don’t know if they work as well in practice as in theory, so we’re just going to have to go find some cops and make donut jokes in front of them to see how violently they react. 

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Top image: Orcutt Police Defensive Systems

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