Gravity Knife News
In another constitutional case of mine, Cracco v. Vance, I challenged the application of New York’s ban on “gravity knives” to certain folding knives. The challenge was based on the doctrine of vagueness rather than on the Second Amendment. On March 27, 2019, Judge Paul Crotty of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted my motion for summary judgment, holding that the statute is unconstitutionally vague when applied to knives that require more than one or two wrist-flicks to open. A copy of the decision may be found here.
The legislature repealed the gravity knife statute following the Cracco decision. Governor Cuomo, noting that the “legal landscape” had changed (a reference to the Cracco decision), did not veto that measure as he had done with the two prior attempts to reform the statute, but signed it into law in late May 2019.
The Cracco decision was nevertheless appealed to the Second Circuit. DA Vance initially moved to have the appeal declared moot and the decisions below vacated, which motion I opposed, with an amicus brief also having been filed jointly by The Legal Aid Society and Knife Rights Foundation, Inc. opposing the motion. On November 12, 2019, the DA’s dismissal/vacatur motion was “DENIED without prejudice to the mootness issue being further addressed in the parties’ appellate briefs along with the merits of the appeals. In addition to all other matters the parties wish to address in their appellate briefs, they must address the scope of declaratory relief granted by the district court and the current and potential use of the definition of ‘gravity knife’ in New York Penal Law § 265.00(5) in prosecutions and other proceedings under other provisions of law.”
Vance filed his substantive appellant’s brief on January 31, 2020, and I filed my appellee’s brief on May 22. I argued that the decision is not moot because the definition of “gravity knife” remains “on the books” at New York Penal Law § 265.00(5).
December 18, 2020
Old News about the Nunchaku Case (with IMPORTANT WARNING)
On December 14, 2018, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York rendered a final decision in Maloney v. Singas, my pro se constitutional case, striking down virtually all of the provisions of the New York Penal Code that ban the possession, sale, manufacture, or transfer of nunchaku. In doing so, the Court granted relief somewhat beyond what I had asked for (but I am not about to complain). Thanks to the many who have helped in many ways along the way. It has been a path with heart.
A pdf copy of the Court’s December 14, 2018, findings of fact and conclusions of law (the decision) may be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.
The decision was not appealed, so it is now legal to possess nunchaku in New York. But...
IMPORTANT WARNING: Displaying, swinging, or twirling nunchaku in public within the State of New York could still give rise to criminal charges (menacing, disorderly conduct, etc.). Please respect those around you by practicing only in safe and private locations where no bystanders can be injured or intimidated.
Watch the Newsday video clip here.
Read my NY Daily News OpEd piece here.
--Jim Maloney (aka “Professor Nunchucks”)
January 26, 2019
Opening statement (January 9, 2017)
The trial we are about to begin concerns the right of the people to keep and bear arms. As recently as ten years ago, the Supreme Court still had not given meaning and content to the provision in the Constitution that sets forth that right, although the Second Amendment has been part of our Constitution since 1791. Today, the balance between the exercise of that right and the recalcitrant plague of gun violence in America is finally beginning to be worked out. It will probably take decades for the courts and the legislatures to strike that balance in a way that protects us all from such horrific incidents as mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, and airports, while at the same time guaranteeing that the Second Amendment, which was first applied to the states only 6½ years ago in McDonald v. Chicago, is given real meaning and substance. Actually, we may never get it right, but I try to be an optimist, because I believe that the “path of the common law,” as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. put it, is also, as Carlos Castañeda put it through his character Don Juan, a “path with heart.” Nothing in this case has anything to do with guns, or with carrying weapons on the street, or with mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, or airports. And yet, this case has everything to do with all of those things, because the path of the common law is also in some ways like the path of a particle in a quantum physics experiment: it travels in many different directions, all at once, because precedents are often applied in ways that aren’t always foreseen, or even reasonably foreseeable, when they’re made. So there is actually a lot more at stake here than might meet the eye at first glance. Can we get it right? Well, we can try. Right now the only question before us is whether the nunchaku, an ancient martial arts weapon, is commonly used for lawful purposes today. In a few years, the key Second Amendment questions may be somewhat different, so I ask the Court to be patient if it appears that at times I am straying from the path the Court has defined in order to establish a record that may become relevant down the road. And I also ask the Court to remember that the relief I’m seeking here, and have been seeking for nearly 14 years now, is real, and personal, separate and apart from all those big-picture considerations I’ve just described. But I have a duty, I think, to try to address both. Is it possible for me, one human being, acting alone, to fulfill that duty? No.