Federal Judge Clobbers California's Silly Ban on Billy Clubs in Devastating Ruling

Gavel in courtroom. (Credit: Wesley Tingey/Unsplash)

A federal court has made a critical ruling related to the Second Amendment and the concept of self-defense. The decision strikes at the heart of California laws intended to limit one’s ability to protect themselves against violent criminals.

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Judge Roger Benitez handed down a ruling in the case of Fouts v. Bonta on Friday, striking down a ban on citizens possessing or carrying billy clubs and other forms of less lethal weaponry. In his decision, Benitez questioned the legality of the statute, which criminalized Californians simply for owning a billy club, a tool that is commonly used by members of law enforcement, but is also used by civilians for personal defense.

"Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms, whether firearms or less lethal arms,” the judge wrote, also arguing that “The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution ‘guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.'”

The ruling underscores a fundamental tenet of American liberty: The right to keep and bear arms. It is commonly assumed that this only refers to carrying firearms, but the reality is that it protects one’s right to possess the means by which someone can protect life and property. In this case, it allows people to use alternatives to guns to safeguard themselves and others.

In his ruling, the judge explored a hypothetical scenario in which a vulnerable person might need such a weapon.

A young girl is walking home from school one evening. She is walking through a part of town where robberies, assaults, and rapes have occurred; where youth gangs are known to frequent; and where unrestrained dogs are known to roam.

The young girl is wearing a baggy, oversized sweatshirt sometimes associated with gang affiliation. In her hand, she is holding a billy—a baton just like the ones law enforcement officers often carry for their protection. An officer sees her walking and sees that she is in possession of the baton. The officer arrests her for violating California Penal Code § 22210. She is handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, transported to the police station, booked, fingerprinted, and initiated into the juvenile court system.

Although there is no evidence that she has ever struck or threatened to strike anyone with the baton or that she is in danger of hurting herself with it, her mere possession of it is enough. That she was in possession of the billy to protect herself in self-defense from human or animal predators is not determinate. It is irrelevant. And why does California elect to make this girl a criminal? Because there is a risk, no matter how small, that the girl might use it for an unlawful purpose, or that others may use similar weapons for unlawful purposes. The United States Constitution prohibits such intrusions into an otherwise law-abiding citizen’s choice for self-defense.

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The decision draws heavily from historical analysis and precedents, including the 2016 Supreme Court case Caetano v. Massachusetts, which acknowledged the constitutional right to carry stun guns. Benitez extended this logic to billy clubs, pointing out that these weapons fall under the umbrella of arms protected by the Second Amendment.

Benitez continued, noting that the Founding Fathers “anticipated that as our nation matured circumstances might make the previous recognition of rights undesirable or inadequate” and that they “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.”

Benitez’s ruling was the right call. California’s laws restricting responsible gun owners are already ridiculous and tyrannical enough. Prohibiting people from carrying billy clubs and other types of weapons is even more infuriating given the increased crime rates the nation is experiencing at the moment. For the Golden State’s elites and those in other states, it was not enough to make sure people couldn’t use firearms to protect themselves; they wished to stop people from protecting themselves altogether.

The fact that this legislation ever existed in the first place further demonstrates California’s dedication to shielding criminal elements by making it harder for their victims to defend themselves. Let’s hope we see more rulings like this one.

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