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Senate committee approves bill to legalize nunchucks

Good news for Arizonans who fashion themselves as the next Bruce Lee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 on Thursday to remove the ban on nunchucks.

Formally known as nunchaku, they are defined in state law as “two or more sticks, clubs, bars or rods to be used as handles, connected by a rope, cord, wire or chain, in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense.” More to the point, Arizona law puts them in the same category as bombs, automatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns, meaning it’s a crime to possess them.

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, said Arizona was one of four states that banned the devices, formally known as nunchaku, amid various fears that they were being used by gangs to commit crimes. The bans all appear to have been enacted in the 1970s as martial-arts movies were popular, with Bruce Lee becoming a bit of an icon for the genre.

But Gowan, who is a martial-arts instructor, said a ban makes little sense given that Arizona law allows people to carry guns, even when they are concealed. And he derided the idea that Arizona should outlaw something just because it could be used as a weapon.

“Under that thought … you might as well take the bats away from baseball, take the crowbars away from anybody (that) changes their tires,” Gowan said.

And there’s something else.

Last December a federal judge voided a similar ban in New York state ruling that nunchucks were protected under the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said he agrees with that logic.

“The Second Amendment, the right of people to keep or bear arms, does not exclusively mean it’s a firearm,” he said.

The three Democrats on the committee remained unconvinced, voting against SB 1291 but without explaining why. The measure now goes to the full Senate for debate.


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