Apropos of the political season, I've been studying the restrictions on various items in various states around the country. I was inspired by this page on Amazon.com saying New York and California ban anything vaguely associated with the famous but actually-pretty-marginal Japanese martial art of Ninjutsu. (For a comparison, read up on Daitō-ryū_Aiki-jūjutsu, a non-marginal Japanese school).
Many people may be aware that New York and California ban possession of nunchuku*. Nunchuku, for those unfamiliar, are two short sticks connected at their ends with a piece of string or rope. The story linked above describes a case in California where the police came into the home of a martial arts instructor and demanded he surrender all his connected sticks. Subsequently he pled no contest to a single count of possession of nunchuku and was sentenced to jail.
(* In California, martial arts schools, but not individuals, may possess two small sticks connected by string.)
Remind me not to even visit California. Like my partner John, I practiced martial arts for many years and somewhere around the Adios Airways HQ I have several pairs of practice nunchuku - lightweight plastic, covered with foam rubber, couldn't hurt anyone if they tried. Those could get me 1 year in jail for each pair in California (or New York, where Eliot Spitzer demanded the manufacturers in Florida and Georgia turn over the names and addresses of all their customers who had purchased the linked-sticks in New York).
Reading the California penal code (section 12020), I discovered that not only nunchuku, but also:
The good news is that I cannot find any actual language in the California penal code that bans socks, whether or not they are Ninja Socks.any metal knuckles, any belt buckle knife, any
leaded cane, any zip gun, any shuriken, any unconventional pistol,
any lipstick case knife, any cane sword, any shobi-zue, any air gauge
knife, any writing pen knife, any metal military practice
handgrenade or metal replica handgrenade, or any instrument or weapon
of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy,
sandclub, sap, or sandbag.
I don't even know what a "slungshot" is, but it would seem that California intends to ban slingshots (although that would be an interesting legal case: Little Billy v. the Government of the State of California over possession of a slingshot, not a "slungshot".)
I didn't know what they meant by a "shobi-zue", but research indicates it is a stick with a blade attached, AKA a spear. (John maybe you can help - as far as I can tell, the term is jibberish in Japanese or Chinese). I'm not sure where they get their definitions of these things, so a traditional spear (with a sharpened wooden point) might still be OK, but my guess is they'd put you away for possession of an indian-style spear with a flint arrowhead. The same source indicates that a "slungshot" is not a slingshot, but a different type of weapon no one has ever heard of.
Additionally, California's section 12020 bans sandbags (?!? - I guess they don't have hurricanes out there. No wonder they have such problems with mudslides.), saps (a broad category meaning "anything heavy with which you might hit someone"), and "billys", which apparently can mean any stick. No visiting California with the cut-off broom handle I use to close my hurricane shutters!
Cross-checking New York law reveals a very dangerous place to possess a stick, two sticks connected with string, or a sandbag as well:
A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:If Little Billy visited New York with his toy cap pistol he'd be in deep doo-doo. Also New York is much more specific - his slingshot is definitely illegal, as would be a "slungshot", if anyone knew what it was.
1) He possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or "Kung Fu star"; or
(2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another;
What's the point of all of this? It's that some very bad laws sometimes get made, and subsequently otherwise non-criminals get punished for breaking said bad laws. Those laws are almost never un-made - usually quite the contrary: every time prosecutors are able to get a plea out of aforementioned non-criminals, more bad precedents are set.
Compounding this problem is the "shadowing", where various things that aren't actually prohibited (like Ninja socks) are lumped together with things that are, including by law enforcement:
Attend a PTA meeting or a high school football game with a small buck folding knife in your pocket or handbag, or even a tiny pocket knife on your key chain, and you are subject to the same legal disqualifications meted out to murderers and rapists. If there is even a small pocket knife in your pocket or car when you drive your child to school, or perhaps exercise your right to vote (many jurisdictions' plots are located in school buildings), various rights which you may have thought to be "inalienable" may be in jeopardy...My concern is that the incoming government, both congress and the executive branch, overtly state that they wish to broadly expand the power and role of the federal government in our lives. That means more laws, which inevitably means more bad laws that will never get un-made.
Ejusdim generis - Latin for "the same kind." It is common technique in writing laws to specifically list various prohibited items followed by a general inclusive term. For instance, you may find a statute which prohibits "any dagger, dirk, switch-blade, gravity knife, buton knife, cutting instrument the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or other such implement". Under the rule of ejusdem generis, "other such implement" could not legitimately be read to include for instance a drop point fixed blade hunting knife. In other words, the drop point fixed blade hunting knife is not of the same kind or class as the specifically listed items such as the dagger, dirk, switch-blade, military knife or fighting knife, etc. However, you must be careful. In construing a New York statute prohibiting the possession of a dagger, dirk, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, automatic knife, butterfly knife or any other dangerous weapon, an ice pick was found to be a "dangerous weapon" under the principle of ejusdem generis.
Wouldn't it be great if they could occupy themselves with the Ninja Rights Agenda instead?