Brass knuckles, also called knuckle dusters or knucks, have seen a big rise in popularity in recent years.
They are regularly featured in movies, TV fight scenes and even in novels where their use can cause serious harm to people, including broken bones, concussions and, in some cases, even death.
With brass knuckles being such a dangerous weapon, what’s the legal situation? Are brass knuckles illegal in Georgia? And what laws are there in place on the federal level and other states?
In this article, we explore the legality of knuckle dusters, the damage they can cause and how to safely handle them.
What Are Brass Knuckles?
Before we have a look at the legal status of brass knuckles, let’s see what exactly knuckle dusters are.
Despite their name, brass knuckles can be not just made of metal but any hardened material like rubber or plastic.
Harder than human knuckles, knuckle dusters wrap around the four fingers of your hand to create a fist.
This leaves the thumb free, and there is a portion to grip firmly, so the fleshy part of your hand can easily absorb any force of impact.
While sometimes knuckle dusters are also sold as harmless decorative items, like jewelry, accessories or ornaments, they are not harmful by themselves, like for example a knife with a sharp blade.
However, brass knuckles can be a dangerous weapon if used in the wrong way to hurt someone.
A Short History Of Brass Knuckles
Brass knuckles are not a new invention, and they have been around for some time.
The use of brass knuckles goes back as far as the 12th century when they were used by warriors and soldiers in Asia as well as Europe.
All kinds of soldiers and fighters used brass knuckles mainly for self-defense and to tackle an enemy on the ground directly.
Knuckle weapons were staples for all kinds of soldiers to take care of the duels and altercations. In the battleground, knuckles provided added protection as well as safety when handling swords or punching.
Roman and Greek warriors used them, and American Soldiers in World War I and II were also given a kind of brass knuckle for self-defense.
While the invention of guns slowed down the popularity of brass knuckles, they never disappeared.
Particularly during World War I, there was a big revival of knuckle knives which are a combination of brass knuckles with an attached blade.
Also known as trench knives, these weapons became increasingly popular for self-defense over time, and there are also collectors who value the different type of knuckle instruments.
Made in a simple and solid way, knuckle dusters have been a popular choice as weapon for good reasons.
Most of all, they are one of the most impactful weapon you can get when you know how to use them right.
Non-Lethal Weapons And Self Defense
There are many people who prefer to carry a type of weapon with them for self-defense. Carrying self-defense weapons is common among those who prefer an alternative to firearms as a way to protect themselves.
These types of weapons are well known as “less-lethal” or “non-lethal” weapons. For example, batons, tasers and chemical sprays are non-lethal weapons.
Less-lethal weapons are acceptable to carry in Georgia without a permit or weapons carry license.
Depending on the state where you live, brass knuckles are classified as non-lethal or lethal weapons.
The Legality Of Brass Knuckles
The legal status of brass knuckles vary widely across states, and there are no regulations or laws in place on federal level in the United States.
However, the majority of US states and cities have made owning brass knuckles illegal. Amongst these are New York, Rhode Island and Colorado.
Other states, however, may allow possession of brass knuckles if you collect them but there it’s illegal to carry them on your person.
All this makes the laws on metal knuckles and plastic knuckles very dependent on the state you live in.
Whether you buy brass knuckles for a collection or as a self-defense to carry on you, we would recommend that you do some research into regulations and local laws of your state before you purchase any type of brass knuckles.
Brass Knuckle Law In Georgia
The majority of laws for brass knuckles were implemented in the middle of the 20th century when weapons become more popular.
While these regulations have been in place for some times, states regularly update their weapon laws, for example, Texas updated their knuckle laws in 2019.
As the status of brass knuckles varies widely by state, the legality of brass knuckles is therefore a complicated issue.
It can very much depend on where you live and what the knuckles are being used for.
Some states make a clear distinction based on the exact material of the knuckles, such as whether they’re made of plastic or the material is harder and therefore more dangerous.
Yet other states base their brass knuckle laws on why and how they are being carried.
A lot of states also carefully consider whether the person carrying the brass knuckles is a minor, as there are some stringent laws in place for possession of weapons for individuals aged under 18.
In Georgia, the possession and carrying of brass knuckles is legal. However, you are not allowed to carry knuckle dusters in hospitals and schools.
In comparison, states like Missouri and Nevada prohibit the possession, carrying, selling and even repairing brass knuckles, as well as manufacturing them.
Other states, such as Arizona and Kentucky, don’t have any specific regulations in regard to brass knuckles in place. There, cases are assessed individually.
Similar to other weapons, in some states you are allowed to carry brass knuckles with you when you have a concealed carry permit or a weapons license.
However, make sure you understand the definition of “concealed” where you carry your knuckles, as “concealed” can mean different things in different states.
Some states define a weapon as concealed when it’s hidden fully from sight, whereas other states see an instrument as concealed when only a portion of the weapon is covered.
It’s also good to know that in some states you may be charged twice in other jurisdictions, for example, you may be charged for possession of the brass knuckles, plus for concealing the weapon on your person.
It’s prohibited in all states for brass knuckles to be used as a lethal weapon to harm others.
Do You Need A Weapons Carry License For Brass Knuckles?
One of the most commons misconceptions is that you need a weapons license for all types of weapons.
However, the law in the state of Georgia clearly defines a weapon as a knife or handgun, without specifically referring to knuckle dusters.
That’s why, you don’t need a weapons carry license for your knuckles in Georgia.
The same counts for knives with a 5-inch blade, batons, pepper spray and tasers. None of these non-lethal weapons require a license or permit in Georgia.
States Where Brass Knuckles Are Illegal
Some US states, like New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, have outright banned all types of brass knuckles.
The District of Columbia also made knuckle dusters illegal.
In these states knuckles are classified as illegal weapons, and possession, carrying, selling or handling brass knuckles in any way can incur serious punishment, including hefty fines and jail time.
There are even stricter rules in Michigan, Vermont, Illinois and California where the possession, use and sale of knuckles or anything that looks like knuckle dusters is prohibited.
Other states define knuckle dusters as dangerous weapons where possession and carrying could result in a misdemeanor.
These states are Arkansas, California, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, Washington, as well as Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
States Where The Law Isn’t Clear
Many states, however, don’t mention brass knuckles specifically in their laws and regulations. They leave the interpretation of what is a dangerous weapon up to the court.
This allows for a broad definition of the weapon itself, but also how it’s used and the criminal intent.
States with these laws include Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Utah, Montana and Idaho.
States With More Lenient Laws For Brass Knuckles
Some US states allow you to conceal carry weapons, and this also includes brass knuckles.
States with more lenient laws on concealed weapons include Arizona, Louisiana, Indiana and South Dakota.
South Carolina has the least restrictive laws when it comes to brass knuckles. There, it’s illegal to own brass knuckles only if you intend to commit a crime with them.
In 2019, Texas lawmakers lifted a ban on brass knuckles, making them legal to be carried there for the first time since 1918. The state has classified knuckle dusters now as a legitimate self-defense tool.
While some states are more lenient in their brass knuckle tools than others, the use of knuckles of any kind in a violent crime leads to felony charges, no matter state you live in.
Criminal Charges For Brass Knuckle Offenses
Like all US laws, the penalties for violating brass knuckle state codes vary broadly by state. Some violations can result into misdemeanors, whereas others count as a felony offense.
In many states, the possession and carrying of a concealed weapon, such as brass knuckles without a permit are commonly considered to be misdemeanors.
This law for concealed weapons applies in states such as Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and some other states.
In Hawaii, it’s a misdemeanor to carry brass knuckles in a vehicle.
In Oklahoma, Nevada and New York, it’s a misdemeanor to possess brass knuckles, while in New Hampshire, it’s a misdemeanor to sell or carry them.
If brass knuckles are used to inflict harm on someone or you are using them in the process of committing a crime, this falls under felony charges.
In Arizona, you find that using brass knuckles is a felony, although you don’t need a concealed weapons license.
The use of brass knuckles in South Dakota and Illinois is also a felony.
The simple possession of brass knuckles is a felony in Michigan, Missouri and Massachusetts, irrespective of what you do with them.
This means, even just wearing knuckle dusters as a belt ornament is prohibited in these states.
Delaware has a specific law to brass knuckles, and there you require a concealed weapon permit to carry them. Any violation of this law can lead to a felony charge.
Possible Fines And Punishment
If you have been caught possessing or carrying brass knuckles illegally, you may face a fine or a prison sentence.
In Colorado, fines can be as high as $1,000 and as long as a year in prison.
Brass knuckle laws in Maryland, Mississippi, Florida and New Mexico can state that you can face fines of up to $1,000 with a prison sentence of three years.
A violation of brass knuckle laws in Nevada, New Hampshire would lead to a slightly shorter prison sentence (6 months), but fines can go as high as $2,000.
New Jersey has one of the toughest penalties for brass knuckle felonies with up to $10,000 to $15,000 plus up to five years in prison.
How To Safely Handle Brass Knuckles
When it comes to self-defense, most people prefer an easy-to-handle weapon that gives you just enough time to fend off any attacked and run away.
Brass knuckles may not look like much, and they are certainly not as complex as some other non-lethal weapons, such as pepper spray, but they are easy to manage and very effective.
Brass knuckles don’t need any maintenance and with a little practice, they can help you protect yourself.
With their individual design fitting around four fingers, knuckle dusters give you a better grip, so the weapon doesn’t fall off your hand.
The finger rings are broad enough to cover your knuckles evenly. This way you can use brass knuckles to land a solid punch to disarm someone or throw them off.
Particular knuckle dusters made of brass or any other metals have more weight, and therefore much more impact.
It’s important that you understand the damage this non-lethal weapon can cause, as a punch on someone’s jaw, neck or other bony areas can result into broken bones, dislocated joints and concussions.
While the possession and carry of brass knuckles in Georgia is legal, laws and regulations in other US states vary widely when it comes to any types of knuckle dusters.
The US Congress has been trying to bring legislation in that would make it legal for residents of one state to carry concealed weapons in other states if they have permits in their home states.
However, the federal government hasn’t yet officially agreed on this and it’s uncertain when there may be a brass knuckle law on the federal level.
For the moment, it’s best to do as much research on your state’s laws as possible if you are considering the purchase of brass knuckles.
If you are a collector, you are most likely not carrying your brass knuckles around with you much, but it’s important that you also understand the laws on possession.
You may also want to consider investigating any laws of states that you are planning to travel to with your brass knuckles.
Bear in mind that the legal status for this type of weapon doesn’t stop at state level, but even some cities and localities have their own brass knuckle laws.