Court Strikes Down California Ban on Possessing Billy Clubs

From Judge Roger Benitez’s decision in Fouts v. Bonta(S.D. Cal.):

This case is about a California law that makes it a crime to simply possess or carry a billy. This case is not about whether California can prohibit or restrict the use or possession of a billy for unlawful purposes…. Historically, the short wooden stick that police officers once carried on their beat was known as a billy or billy club. The term remains vague today and may encompass a metal baton, a little league bat, a wooden table leg, or a broken golf club shaft, all of which are weapons that could be used for self-defense but are less lethal than a firearm….

The court struck down the law on Second Amendment grounds (citing, among other cases, Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016), which suggested that stun guns were constitutionally protected arms). The historical analysis is long and detailed (read it here), but here’s the conclusion:

The Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to defend one’s self with dangerous and lethal firearms. But not everybody wants to carry a firearm for self- defense. Some prefer less-lethal weapons. A billy is a less-lethal weapon that may be used for self-defense. It is a simple weapon that most anybody between the ages of eight and eighty can fashion from a wooden stick, or a clothes pole, or a dowel rod. One can easily imagine countless citizens carrying these weapons on daily walks and hikes to defend themselves against attacks by humans or animals. To give full life to the core right of self-defense, every law-abiding responsible individual citizen has a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms like the billy for lawful purposes.

In early America and today, the Second Amendment right of self-preservation permits a citizen to “‘repel force by force’ when ‘the intervention of society in his behalf, may be too late to prevent that injury.'” The Founders of our country anticipated that as our nation matured circumstances might make the previous recognition of rights undesirable or inadequate. For that event, the Founders provided a built-in vehicle by which the Constitution could be amended, but a single state, no matter how well intended, may not do so, and neither can this court.

Alan Beck and Stephen Stamboulieh represent plaintiff.

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