SAN DIEGO — A recent wave of court decisions around the country have recognized the constitutional right of citizens to possess arms such as daggers, nunchucks and Tasers for self-defense, and now a pair of San Diego military veterans are challenging California’s ban on another weapon: the baton.
Striking weapons such as billy clubs, blackjacks, leaded canes and saps — described in a 1923 San Diego Union story as “weapons of the holdup man or thug” — have been outlawed in some form or other in the state since at least 1917.
“The Legislature obviously sought to condemn weapons common to the criminal’s arsenal,” a California appellate court wrote about the ban of such weapons in a 1965 ruling.
The law’s only exception extends to peace officers and certain licensed security guards who obtain a state baton permit.
The current law, retooled in 2012, makes possession, importation, sale and manufacture of such weapons a “wobbler,” meaning prosecutors can charge it either as a misdemeanor or felony.
While the law doesn’t explicitly define a billy, courts have determined it to be any kind of stick, bat or baton that is intended to be used as a weapon — even the common baseball bat or table leg would qualify if it is meant to hurt someone else.
A lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court last week argues the ban violates the Second Amendment.