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Attorney General Bonta and District Attorneys of Merced, Ventura, and Yolo Counties Reach Settlement with Walmart over Brass Knuckles Illegally Sold to Californians

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira, Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, today announced a settlement against Walmart over allegations that illegal weapons — specifically brass knuckles — were sold to California consumers by Walmart and by third-party sellers through Walmart’s website. As part of the settlement, Walmart will pay $500,000 and be required to prevent the sale of illegal weapons, including by third parties, on its website. Today’s announcement is the result of an investigation conducted by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) in partnership with the District Attorney’s Offices of Merced, Ventura, and Yolo Counties. Examples of brass knuckles sold on Walmart’s website can be found here and here.

“Illegal weapons have no place in California. The settlement we have reached with Walmart makes crystal clear that online retailers are responsible for what they are allowing to be offered for sale in our state,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I’d like to thank the legal team from our Consumer Protection Section as well as Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, and Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko for their partnership.”

“Brass knuckles sold online are just as dangerous to our community as if they were sold from a store counter,” said Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira. “Online retailers must put safety over profits. We are encouraged by the steps taken by Walmart as a result of our investigation and confident that today’s agreement will put an end to future sales.”

“It was too easy for our investigators to make online purchases of illegal brass knuckles,” said Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko. “Walmart, and other retailers need to take a hard look at their online sales practices and ensure that they are in compliance with California law.”

“Upon being notified by our offices, Walmart’s upper management, IT, and attorneys moved quickly to address the root cause of these weapon sales,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. “Walmart’s actions have gone a long way in halting what were initially alarming issues and we are looking forward to building upon this good work going forward.”

Walmart’s website, Walmart.com, allows the retailer to sell products directly to consumers and serves as an e-commerce platform for third-party sellers. The Attorney General’s complaint alleges that approximately 250 products that may be classified as brass knuckles were sold through Walmart’s website. The complaint further alleges that approximately 60% of those brass knuckles were sold directly by Walmart, and the remaining 40% by third-party sellers. 

Under the settlement, Walmart will: 

  • Pay $125,000 to DOJ as well as each of the three district attorneys’ Offices — for a total of $500,000 — in civil penalties and costs;
  • Be prohibited from selling brass knuckles on its website;
  • Be required to prohibit third-party sellers from offering or exposing for sale or selling illegal weapons on its platform;
  • Be required to implement and maintain policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent sales of illegal weapons by third-party sellers;
  • Be required to provide a mechanism on each individual product page to allow customers to report the offering or exposing for sale or sale of unlawful weapons to California;
  • Be required to take reasonable steps to identify California consumers who have purchased unlawful weapons from Walmart and send a notice to those consumers notifying them that the item may be unlawful and that they may contact their local law enforcement agency for information on how to properly surrender the item; and
  • Be required to provide compliance reports for five years on a semi-annual basis for the first year and on an annual basis thereafter.

Under California law, brass knuckles are classified as a deadly weapon. Offering or exposing for sale brass knuckles is a violation of Penal Code section 21810 and is punishable by imprisonment up to one year. In addition, the offering or exposing for sale of metal knuckles and other dangerous weapons in violation of applicable Penal Code sections violates the unlawful prong of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200.

A copy of the complaint and proposed judgment, which details the aforementioned settlement terms and remains subject to court approval, can be found here and here.