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In Reversal, U.S. Judge Rules CA Billy Club Ban Unconstitutional

A federal judge in San Diego struck down a California law banning possession of club-like weapons, reversing his previous ruling from 2021 that reluctantly upheld the prohibition on billy clubs, batons and similar blunt objects. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez declared that the prohibition “unconstitutionally infringes the Second Amendment rights of American citizens” and enjoined the state from enforcing the law, the San Diego Union Tribune reports. 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. Benitez ruled in 2021 that California’s roughly 100-year-old ban on such weapons qualified as “longstanding” and therefore did not violate the Second Amendment. While that ruling was under appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 changed the analysis for Second Amendment regulations, placing nearly singular importance on laws that date back to the time period around when the Second Amendment was ratified.

The billy club case was sent back to Benitez to review. He ruled that Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office, which is defending the case, failed to provide evidence of any historically similar prohibitions. “What is different today is that a statute enacted in 1923 is no longer given a pass for being ‘longstanding,’ ” Benitez explained of the change in his rulings before and after the high court decision. “For this case, changing the relevant time period changes the outcome.” Attorney Alan Beck, who along with co-counsel Stephen Stamboulieh is representing two military veterans challenging the billy club ban, welcomed Benitez’s ruling. “I thought it was a straightforward application of Supreme Court precedent,” Beck said. 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 hurt someone else. “Essentially any stick can be construed as a billy club — it doesn’t make sense, not just for constitutional reasons, but for public policy,” Beck said. “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.”


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