Brass knuckles are legal in many states, but they are illegal in California, Michigan, Illinois and Vermont. South Carolina only bans brass knuckles if they are used with the intent to commit crimes. Other states only ban metallic brass knuckles or apply age restrictions to ownership of them. However, most states classify brass knuckles as concealed weapons that require permits.
Illegally carrying brass knuckles is a misdemeanor; however, using them in a violent crime can lead to felony charges. Brass knuckles are not usually deadly, but they can inflict serious injury, such as broken bones, cuts and eye damage.
Media and video games frequently feature criminals using brass knuckles, glamorizing them to some extent. Contrary to the name, brass knuckles can be made out of a variety of substances; acrylic, steel and hard plastic are the three most common materials used after brass. Consequently, some states have placed blanket bans on all types of knuckles, while others restrict only a few.
Brass knuckles are appealing because they deliver a powerful punch while protecting the user's fingers from damage. Some people have justified the possession and use of brass knuckles under the legal right to self-defense. Brass knuckles are typically legally carried by bouncers and bodyguards who have permits.