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Bill that lifts legal restrictions around owning nunchucks goes to Gov. Ducey

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will decide whether to let people own nunchucks after lawmakers voted Thursday to lift restrictions on the weapons used in martial arts.

Arizona allows people to have nunchucks to prepare for competition, but supporters say those who practice martial arts shouldn't have to worry they'll face charges for possessing the weapon made of two sticks or rods connected by a rope or chain.

"The average person can do far more damage using a baseball bat than nunchucks," said Rep. John Kavanaugh, a Republican from Fountain Hills. "They're not dangerous to anybody. And we really should let kids and adults who want to do martial arts activities legally possess them."

Arizona has some of the nation's most permissive laws around weapons, and lawmakers regularly consider legislation to loosen remaining restrictions.

Critics of decriminalizing nunchucks say they can cause serious harm. Some have said lawmakers should focus on reducing gun violence.

"Instead of figuring out ways that we can save lives, we're wasting time on nunchucks," said Rep. Athena Salman, a Tempe Democrat.

Nunchucks are classified as deadly weapons along with bombs, gun silencers and automatic firearms, which means it's illegal to make, possess, transport or sell them in most circumstances. Violations can bring felony charges.

Rep. Jennifer Longdon, a Chandler Democrat who taught martial arts before she was paralyzed from a gunshot wound, said she's a strong advocate for gun control but sees no reason to restrict nunchucks.

"I don't think they are linked in any way," Longdon said. "I don't believe that we are going to see a sudden spike in the use of nunchucks in violent crime. And I think that this bill is overall very benign."

The office of the Republican Ducey did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he'll approve or reject the bill.