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NJ Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Edged Weapons as “Arms”

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Article first appeared at Ammo Land.

New Jersey-(Ammoland.com)- The decision is from the case State v. Montalvo where defendant Crisoforo Montalvo was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon for greeting an aggressive and threatening neighbor at the door with a machete in his hand. The New Jersey Supreme Court remanded the case for retrial, but there is a larger significance to the ruling.

Highly regarded Second Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh describes this significance in his piece for the Washington Post.

The New Jersey machete decision is important because it rejects a “spontaneity” requirement for arming yourself at home (the state’s theory that you could pick up a weapon against an imminent attack, but you can’t come to the door with the weapon just in case). But it’s also important because it reaffirms that the Second Amendment protects not just guns but other weapons as well.

This should be obvious, I think: The Second Amendment protects “arms,” and the D.C. v. Heller opinion discusses bows and knives as examples of such arms; opinions in the 1800s and 1900s dealing with state constitutional rights to bear arms also mention bladed weapons; and post-Heller opinions, such as from courts in Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin agree.

In 2013 ” Knives and the Second Amendment” was published in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (vol. 47, pages 167-215). Authored by noted Second Amendment scholars Dave Kopel, Clayton Cramer and Joe Olson, the paper makes the case for knives as “arms” protected by the Second Amendment, supporting one of Knife Rights’ foundational tenets. This decision furthers that position.

Volokh has a separate piece which excerpts significant pieces of the decision. One jumps out in particular.

Individuals may possess in their homes objects that serve multiple lawful purposes, including the purpose of anticipatory self-defense. In this case, Montalvo possessed at home a machete he used in his roofing job. He was lawfully entitled to possess that machete as a weapon in his home as a means of defending himself and his family from attack as well. The right to possess that weapon, however, does not mean that it can be used without justification.

An individual who responds to the door of his home with a concealed weapon that threatens no one acts within the bounds of the law. He need give no justification for what he is lawfully allowed to do.

This unanimous decision from the notoriously hoplophobic state of New Jersey is quite surprising. All is not, however, quite as simple as it appears. It’s not like the New Jersey Supreme Court suddenly became enamored of the Second Amendment and the rights it protects. Rather, they took this opportunity to reinforce the flawed concept that your right of self-defense stops at your front door. Decidedly opposing the right to carry outside the home in prior decisions, this decision allowed them to further emphasize that demarcation.

Thanks to Clay Aalders of The Truth About Knives for permission to republish portions of his write-up.

About Knife Rights:

Knife Rights is rewriting knife law in America. Knife Rights passed the nation’s first repeal of a switchblade (automatic) knife ban in 2010 in New Hampshire and has since passed repeal of switchblade bans (and repealed other knife restrictions) in Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

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