Let me begin by disclosing that I have actively trained in several martial arts, (and more to come. Don't take that "Several" as cross-training. It's more a "Try this...Nah...That's not it...Move on." kind of thing. Still trying to find what is best for me. I in NO WAY consider myself adept, and rarely, if ever, refer to myself as an actual "martial artist.)
I'm also an enthusiast for swords, guns, knives, etc. and I have a permit to carry a concealed firearm, (because gun violence is a serious problem in this country, and criminals DO carry illegal guns, so I carry one legally. I hope to God that I'll never have to use it.)
Where I live, (the State of Ohio in the US, the place you only hear about once every 4 years because our electoral votes tend to determine the Presidential Election. Yes, our Electoral College is a stupid, archaic system,) you can be charged with "Assault with a Deadly Weapon," if you stab someone with a pen or pencil. This makes perfect sense to me. Weapons are tools, and ANYTHING used to harm another person is a weapon. So, the whip is LEGALLY DEFINED as a farming implement UNTIL it is used otherwise.
So, the best way for us to prevent whips being categorized or labeled as weapons is to not go around assaulting people with them, (and I haven't read about any "assaults with a bullwhip" in...well...ever.)
And as much respect as I have for Tom Meadows and the Latigo y Daga association, the idea of those whips being used as weapons in anything but drill sessions and kata isn't high. While I've read Meadows book, talked to folks who use them in the dojo, etc. etc. there are VERY few people who actually do Latigo y Daga SPARRING.
The only footage I've seen of Latigo y Daga have been handling drills, demonstrations, and katas. The ONLY place I've seen anything actually resembling COMBAT using the type of whips WE use is in the Australian sport of whip boxing. Everything else has been short riding crop/horse whip types of things where handling more resembles escrima stick or baton sparring.
I'm sure folks have read about Anthony DeLongis's infamous sparring session with the Dog Brothers, where a guy in motorcycle helmet, leather jacket and gloves tried to close range on Anthony. But the style that Anthony practices is primarily his own. It is NOT Latigo y Daga, (though there's a lot of LyD in it.)
The LyD system, as BlessedWrath points out, uses short-handled, lead weighted whips of about 3-5 foot. DeLongis uses Terry Jacka long-handled whips of 7-8 foot with very little lead in them.
LyD teaches an "Against Bias" coil-under-the-handle orientation to the whip, (what I have come to refer to as a "Pronated" orientation.) DeLongis's "Rolling Loop" technique uses a "With Bias" coil-over-the-handle orientation, (which I conversly refer to as "Supinated.")
So, I don't think I've ever seen anything, short of "STAGED violence" that really shows the whip used as a weapon.
Will it work? Heck yeah. And I'd have to agree with Anthony DeLongis that if I HAD to carry a weapon into a fight, short of a gun, the whip would be my choice, (because of all of them, it is what I am the most comfortable with.) Now, I don't want to get into a debate about whip vs. gun, or whip vs. knife or sword, or any such nonsense. Those arguements are all hypothetical nonsense with as much bearing on real world situations as talking about who would win in a fight between the Star Ship Enterprise and an Imperial Star Destroyer.
And while I admire the workmanship and the engineering of Vic Tella's "Latigo y Daga" Viper whip, (with the steel spike,) it's a novelty. It's a wall hanging that can be admired, but is about as actually USEFUL as those elaborately hilted "Art Knives" from Gil Hibben and Kit Rae.
HOWEVER, something I WILL NOT BUDGE on, and THIS is where people seem to be getting all upset in the "Whips being called Weapons" argument, is that IN most martial arts, "training tools," no matter how impractical in a random encounter "street fight," are referred to as "Weapons."
Chain whips, tiger hooks, sai, tonfa, swords, war hammers, maces, pole-arms, etc. etc. etc.
Martial artists TRAIN with these, and REFER to them as weapons, but there is little consideration of carrying these things on the street to be deployed to actually DEFEND one's self.
On the occasions we see on the news where some moron with a sword tries to rob a convenience store, the guy picked it up at a pawn shop, and has NO experience in how to actually USE it, and typically hurts himself before he hurts others. The only reason it makes the news is because there are ratings in novelty.
More often than not, it is actually anathema to the TRUE martial artist to use ones weapons for ANYTHING but controlled training between fellow students and their instructors.
There is a saying in the art of Kendo, Kenjutsu, Aijutsu, (all Japanese samurai sword forms,) that the sword is a tool to cut away the impurities of the swordsman's soul, (similar to the old saying that is Japanese Archery that "The Target is the Self.")
Tai Chi, (which is labelled as a "Martial Art" and DOES have some defensive application, but has more merit as an excersise for mental and physical health,) uses a sword in many of its forms. But the GOAL of that sword form is NOT to learn how to kill one's enemies. The GOAL is to channel one's internal energies, (one's "Chi") into an object that is NOT a part of the body.
That is a mystical way of looking at it, but it has just as much to do with the the strictly biological aspects physical awareness, and for THAT I think the whip is a FAR more responsive, useful, (and unfortunately, less forgiving,) tool FOR that.
As I've said, I've worked with guns, knives, swords, and all sorts of traditional European, African, and Asian "Weapons," and I have never EVER handled a more responsive, "Live," and insight-inducing training tool than the bullwhip.
MY goals in whip cracking are NOT to cut targets or do fancy cracking routines. Those are secondary byproducts of the ACTUAL goal. The ACTUAL goal is to extend my physical awareness, (my willpower, chi, life-force, whatever you want to call it,) into the whip in such a way that cutting that target or doing fancy cracking routines is as second nature to pressing an elevator button without thinking or dancing.
We spend the formative years of our lives learning to extend our will into our own limbs. We start as infants by sitting up on our own, then learning to crawl, then walk then run, and then we begin to develop fine motor control. Later on, we learn to use our muscles to type without thinking about where the keys are, or playing a musical instrument, or dance or sing, etc. etc.
The GOAL of training with a martial arts "weapon" is more often than not, just EXTENDING that, (as I said above.) So, I do regularly refer to my whips as Martial Arts Weapons WITHIN that context, and in an emergency situation would USE the whip to deter an attacker. But that's about it.
In fact, if it wasn't for the entertainment industry turning whips into weapons in the early 20th century, I think it's doubtful that the North American Whip Artistry tradition would have survived until today, (I have an entire separate post about that, which I will regail you with...whether you want to read it or not...at some later date.)
So, there is my take, respectful of all other points of view, and convinced that regardless of what side of the arguement folks fall on, that each side has MUCH to learn from the other.
All the best, and happy cracking.