The Right to Bear Nunchucks and Throwing Stars in Colorado


The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto television in America in 1987, launching the characters into mainstream popularity and becoming one of the most popular cartoons in television history.

Being ninjas, the four anthropomorphic talking turtles each have their own personalized martial arts weapons: Leonardo, the blue-masked leader of the group, wields two katana swords; Donatello, the purple-masked inventor, wields a bō staff; Raphael, the red-masked sarcastic comedic relief, dual-wields two sai; and Michelangelo, the orange-masked, pizza-eating, “Cowabunga!”-shouting, party-dude, swings around a pair of nunchucks.

Nunchucks, or “nunchaku,” consist of twin sticks joined by chain or rope, and supposedly originated as a grain thrashing farm tool from Okinawa, Japan. They were first introduced to the Western world as a weapon by martial artists like Bruce Lee. Lee famously used nunchaku in his 1972 film Fist of Fury.

Even though the Ninja Turtle cartoon was set in New York City, in 1974, the state of New York banned the possession of nunchaku. It was not the only state to do so. In what may now be seen as a hysterical overreaction to the perceived threat of ninjas, lawmakers in Arizona, Massachusetts, and California also banned nunchucks completely.

Not to be outdone, in the United Kingdom, nunchucks were so taboo, that when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies came out in Britain, the word “Ninja” had to be removed, and only brief glimpses of Michelangelo’s signature weapon were allowed to be seen on screen. The censorship was so strict, that a scene in which Michelangelo comically used a pair of sausage links as faux nunchucks was edited out.

“The ban on nunchaku arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity ‘of “Kung Fu” movies and shows,’ ‘various circles of the state’s youth’—including ‘muggers and street gangs’—were ‘widely’ using nunchaku to cause ‘many serious injuries.'” Maloney v. Singas, 351 F. Supp. 3d 222, 228 (ED NY 2018).

“Indeed, while concerns about unlawful violence by ‘street gangs’ involving the use of nunchaku evidently motivated the [New York] state assembly to pass the nunchaku ban into law, there are no specific examples or crime statistics regarding these alleged ‘street gang’ nunchaku crimes cited in the legislative materials.” Maloney v. Singas, 351 F. Supp. 3d 222, 228, FN 20 (ED NY 2018).

In 1984, just three years before the Ninja Turtles cartoon first premiered, Colorado legislators passed a law making it a crime when someone “knowingly aims, swings, or throws a throwing star or nunchaku […] at another person, or […] knowingly possesses a throwing star or nunchaku in a public place except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition or pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class.” C.R.S. § 18-12-1-6(1)(e).

“That law also makes it a crime to even carry or transport nunchucks in anything but a “closed” and “non-accessible container.”

Illegally using or carrying a nunchuck is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado, with a potential penalty of from 3 months to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For a second or subsequent conviction within five years, it becomes a class 5 felony with a potential penalty of from 1 to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. C.R.S. § 18-12-107.

To save people from the dangerous temptation of these insidious weapons, the town of Denver actually made it unlawful to display nunchaku in any shop window facing the street. Muni. Code Art. IV Div. 2 §§ 38-116 & 38-122. And the municipality of Sheridan went a step further and banned the actual buying and selling of nunchucks at pawn shops. Muni. Code Art. III § 22-91.

In 2018, in Maloney v. Singas, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a New York resident who argued that the state’s ban was unconstitutional because it prevented martial artists from training with nunchucks. The court agreed, and went even further to say that the ban violated the Second Amendment right of all New Yorkers to bear arms.

For the time being, however, Colorado still limits its residents’ right to bear nunchucks. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime involving throwing stars or nunchucks, we can help. Contact Rodemer | Kane today to ensure your rights are properly protected.