Federal judge reverses himself, rules that California’s ban on billy clubs is unconstitutional - Hindustan Times
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Federal judge reverses himself, rules that California’s ban on billy clubs is unconstitutional

AP |
Feb 27, 2024 08:26 AM IST

Federal judge reverses himself, rules that California’s ban on billy clubs is unconstitutional

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge struck down a California law banning possession of club-like weapons, reversing his previous ruling from three years ago that upheld the prohibition on billy clubs, batons and similar blunt objects.

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U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled last week that the prohibition “unconstitutionally infringes the Second Amendment rights of American citizens” and enjoined the state from enforcing the law, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

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Weapons such as billy clubs have been outlawed in some form or other in California since at least 1917, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and some state-licensed security guards, the Times said.

Benitez declared in Sept. 2021 that California’s ban on such weapons qualified as “longstanding” and therefore did not violate the Second Amendment. But while that ruling was under appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that altered the legal analysis for Second Amendment regulations.

The billy club case was sent back to Benitez to review under the new Bruen analysis. He decided that Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office, which is defending the case, failed to provide evidence of any historically similar prohibitions.

Bonta said the judge's decision “defies logic” and the state has filed an appeal.

“The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states — and we believe that the district court got this wrong. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities,” Bonta said in a statement Monday.

Alan Beck, an attorney for two military veterans who challenged the billy club ban, welcomed Benitez’s ruling.

“I thought it was a straightforward application of Supreme Court precedent,” Beck told the Times on Monday.

The challenged California law bans the possession, manufacture, importation or sale of “any leaded cane, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slungshot.”

Courts have defined a billy as any kind of stick, bat or baton that is intended to be used as a weapon — even common items like a baseball bat or table leg could qualify if it is meant to cause harm.

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