California Weapons Laws.


Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Aug 28, 2001
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Terre Haute, IN
D.Cobb wrote:

I read somewhere that kali sticks are not classed as a weapon in California....... Unless you put tape around one end. The tape constitutes a handle, which then converts the stick into a billy club, and they are illegal.

I lived in California for a while and know they're strict about weapons. (I had to take mace training at a local community college to get a permit to carry it, which I only wanted for teaching self-defense classes. I never did end up using it for that though.) But does anyone know if the above is correct?
one of my old students is a cop, he told me it is not illegal to carry a stick, unless you are going to use it for a weapon to hurt a person. if you are a martial artist, you can carry it to class, but its better if you have a case for it. when a cop pull you over its up to him and what he thinks, to how you are carrying the stick.

if you are walking down the street with one, how you are dress will say if the cops will bother you. if you are running, but you tell him you carry if for stray dogs, that is no problem to. my advice if you want to bring a weapon with you is carry a cane )old man's cane), because you can bring it anywhere, and it is a stronger weapon that arnis sticks.
Haveing lived in Sothern Calif. I can tell you from personal experence that many of the laws are open to interpatation by the oficer. The stikes are concered a flail and there for technicly illegal to carry openly. However if you put them in a case then they can be considered a conceled weapon.
I calif. any knife that cnbe opened with the flick of the wrist, push of the thumb., is spring loaded , etc. are all illegal. There for most of the pockect knives that are sold today can get you haulled into court for carrying a "switchblade" (that's how they classify the above)
I just want to ask how about sword? Should it be in a case or trunk or maybe I get a licence for it?

I am afraid there is no such thing as a blade license.:( A sword would best be locked in a trunk, and only carried to and from a class. Sticks are a grey area. There is case law saying that a table leg could be an illegal weapon if carried with intent. Keeping it out of ready use when in public is probably the way to go.

Best regards,

Originally posted by argyll
A sword would best be locked in a trunk, and only carried to and from a class.

I think that this is good advice. (See also my post with postid #3804 in this thread.) I am curious to hear more about the stick and when it is and isn't considered a weapon however!
As far as I remember the stick is a weapon if:
you use it, look like you are going to use it, verbaly or by action suggest that you may use it, point it at a person, defend yourslef with it, etc.
In other words if it is displayed it had better be a cane and you had better be walking with it otherwise it can and will be considered a weapon.
Took me a little while to pull up the relevant California law, but here it is. If your not interested in the legalese just skip to the end.

California Penal Code section 12020 says in part that any person who possesses "any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sap, or sandbag, . . . or who carries concealed upon his or her person any dirk or dagger shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison...."

In regards to sticks, the key is the prohibition against weapons known as a "billy." The California Supreme Court has held that a broken baseball bat with a taped handle, which the defendant admitted was being kept in his car as a weapon, was an illegal billy. The court explained that that possession of the sometimes-useful objects can be illegal if the circumstances, including the time, place, destination of the owner, and alterations to the object indicate that the person possessed it as a weapon. "Accordingly the statute would encompass the possession of a table leg, in one sense an obviously useful item, when it is detached from the table and carried at night in a 'tough' neighborhood to the scene of a riot. On the other hand the section would not penalize the Little Leaguer at bat in a baseball game." (People v. Grubb (1965) 63 Cal.2d 614)

In a more recent case a California Court of Appeal held that a person carrying a padlock on the end of chain for purposes of self defense was in possession of an illegal "slungshot." Again circumstances and the admission that it was intended as a weapon made the difference between a legal and illegal object. "Intent to use a weapon is not an element of the crime of weapon possession. Proof of possession alone is sufficient. . . However, if the object is not a weapon per se, but an instrument with ordinary innocent uses, the prosecution must prove that the object was possessed as a weapon. The only way to meet that burden is by evidence indicating that the possessor would use the object for a dangerous, not harmless, purpose." (People v. Fannin (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 653.)

Other courts have held that police batons and collapsible or telescoping batons are also prohibited for civilian use as a billy.

So where does that leave escrima sticks? If used in a martial arts class, they are arguably sporting equipment, if carried to a rumble, they are arguably an illegal billy, if found in your car it is a matter of circumstances and demonstrated intent.

Just one person's opinion. You can look up the law yourself at

Best regards - Argyll

PS In regards to switchblades, the California Penal Code 635k was amended to make clear that "'Switchblade knife' does not include a knife that is designed to open with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade."
Argyl, Could you please tell me when penal code 635k was amended.
I notice the balisong would still be considered a swithblade.
Originally posted by tshadowchaser

Argyl, Could you please tell me when penal code 635k was amended.
I notice the balisong would still be considered a swithblade.

In response to knife industry lobbying the law was amended in 1996 to allow thumb studs and spyderco-type holes. The law was more recently amended in 2001 to require that such knives have a "detent" that biases the blade back towards its closed postition, as most pocketknives do.

Best regards,
Originally posted by argyll

thumb studs and spyderco-type holes.

As an aside, how do people feel about those holes in single-hand open knives? I much prefer the thumb stud, though the holes certainly look cool.

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