California Judge Overturns 100-Year-Old Ban on Billy Clubs

The judge says the state’s dangerous weapon statute of 1917 infringes on citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights.
California Judge Overturns 100-Year-Old Ban on Billy Clubs
A Canadian police officer carries a baton at a protest near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb.20, 2022. California's billy-club ban exempts members of law enforcement and some security officers. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)
Jill McLaughlin

A San Diego federal judge has overturned California’s 104-year-old ban on possessing billy clubs, reversing his decision three years ago that upheld the prohibition on them, batons, and other similar weapons.

The state’s attorney general has appealed the Feb. 23 ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, who found the ban violated the Second Amendment.

In his ruling, the judge stated California’s dangerous weapon statute, enacted in 1917, “unconstitutionally infringes the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.”

The billy-club ban exempts members of law enforcement and some security officers.

The court challenge failed in 2021 after Judge Benitez found the law was “longstanding” and a permissible restriction under the Constitution.

The ruling was appealed by two military veterans—Russell Fouts and Tan Miguel Tolentino—who sued the state over the ban in 2019. But while the first ruling by Judge Benitez was on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Bruen decision, which upended many state firearm restrictions.

Under the Bruen decision, the government must prove that its criminal statutes banning possession of a billy club are part of historical traditions.

The billy club case was sent back to Judge Benitez for review under the new Bruen ruling. He ruled Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office failed to provide the court with historically relevant evidence of similar prohibitions.

California’s ban on billy clubs criminalized the possession of “any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sandbag, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.” Courts have defined a billy as any kind of stick, bat, or baton used as a weapon.

Attorney Alan Beck, who represented the military veterans, welcomed the ruling, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

“If people have the right to own and carry a handgun, it makes very little public policy sense that they can’t carry a billy club,” Mr. Beck told the newspaper.

Both of his clients are trained on the use of batons, so there was no reason they couldn’t use them for self-defense, especially in their own homes, Mr. Beck added.

Mr. Bonta appealed the ruling on Feb. 26, seeking to reverse the district court decision.

“We have filed an appeal, as this decision puts public safety at risk,” Mr. Bonta said in a statement. “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.”

The potential public safety risk includes allowing civilians to possess modern billy clubs, such as an expandable baton, which can be concealed and used in public disturbances or riots, such as the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Bonta added.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.
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