EDC: Changes to Your Knife Rights in 2012

November 11, 2012

By Will Grant

When the fathers of the United States framed the Constitution as supreme law of the country in 1787, they granted each American citizen the unalienable right to keep and bear arms. While that clause of the Second Amendment is generally thought of as referring to the legal right to own and carry a firearm, it was originally based on a citizen’s right to defend him or herself. And that includes the right to carry a knife.

The rights of citizens to carry knives hasn’t seen near the level of legal or media attention that firearm restrictions have seen, but that is changing. Knife Rights, founded in 2006, is an organization dedicated to lobbying for changes in legislation that it feels unnecessary, irrelevant or outdated. And to that end, it’s a target-rich environment.

“There are many states with irrational knife laws,” says Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter. “Our concentration is on states where we feel like we can make improvements and achieve successes, and as we continue to do this we want to show other states that this is possible with it having a negative effect on crime rate.”

Consider the switchblade. Thanks to Rebel Without a Cause, released in 1955, and West Side Story, produced on Broadway in 1957, the switchblade became a symbol of unruly youth, of warring gangsters—a knife with no practical purposes. A year later, on August 12, 1958, Congress passed a law banning switchblades, defined as any knife that opened automatically.

As the years passed, it became clear that switchblades did have practical applications—such as a first responder needing to a knife that could open quickly with one hand for, say, cutting a seatbelt. Today, switchblades remain illegal in 14 states. But the broad shift toward more pragmatic legislation is an encouraging trend.

This summer, Knife Rights successfully lobbied for the repeal of the law banning switchblades in Missouri. The organization filed for similar legislation in Pennsylvania, though election-centric politics diverted attention from the effort.

“We generally do not comment on pending legislative efforts,” says Ritter, “however, I can say that we will be pursuing the exact same bill next year and that the effort is already well underway.”

There is perhaps no more irrational case of enforcing a knife law than Clayton Baltzer’s arrest this past spring in New York City. Baltzer, 20, is an online student at Baptist Bible College & Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, majoring in camping-ministry. He works full time as the food service manager of a bible camp in Millersburg, Ohio. And he’s carried a pocketknife since his uncle gave him one when he was 11 years old.

In March, his fine arts class took a trip to New York to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site, Times Square and an opera at Lincoln Center. And as he usually does, Baltzer carried his knife, a small Winchester knife with a pocket clip and blade about an inch and a half long.

While he was standing on a subway platform, two undercover policemen noticed the clip outside Blatzer’s pocket.

“They grabbed me out of nowhere,” Baltzer says. “It ended up with me with my hands on my head. I have definitely never been in trouble like that, so I was pretty scared. I didn’t really know what was going on.”

The cops took Baltzer up to the ticketing platform where they called more cops. The knife Baltzer was carrying is intended to be opened with two hands, but the cops were looking for a knife that could be flicked open with one hand, or a gravity knife. The first cop could not flick the knife open, nor could the second. But the third successfully opened the knife with one hand, and the cops had their man—graivty kniver are illegal in New York.

They handcuffed Baltzer and booked him with disorderly conduct. He spent five hours in jail and they confiscated his knife, the one given to him by his uncle.

In subsequent months, he made several trips to New York to appear in court. He was ordered to pay the court fees and given three days’ worth of community service.

“I definitely do not feel like ever going back to New York,” Baltzer says. “Not any time soon.”

Baltzer has since completed his community service, paid his debt to society. And the city still has possession of his small folding knife. It’s prosecutions like these that Knife Rights stands to correct.

“(Baltzer) is a poster child for the unreasonableness and ridiculousness of the prosecution of honest citizens carrying knives,” Knife Rights’ Ritter told The Columbus Dispatch in June.

In 2011, prior to Baltzer’s absurd arrest, Knife Rights filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to stop New York City from arresting law-abiding citizens carrying common pocketknives and t prevent t persecution of businesses, like Home Depot and Ace Hardware, from selling pocketknives. The city and the District Attorney of New York, Cyrus Vance, Jr., moved to have the case dismissed earlier this year. But a US District Judge denied their motion and the case will proceed.

Much of the road to more practical knife legislation has been paved by the firearms-rights organizations, according to Ritter. In that regard, the knife community is following in the footsteps of the gun community. Every year, there are positive changes to knife regulations that take into consideration not only law-abiding citizens, but also professionals who use and carry knives on a regular basis.

The biggest change to knife laws this year was the knife law preemption bill signed in Georgia. That law effectively eliminated a complex and confusing patchwork of local knife laws in the state. Within the knife community, that’s very good news. Particularly because Atlanta, home to BLADE Show, the largest knife show in the world, it was illegal to carry any automatic knife or knife bigger than three inches “readily available for use.” The new law means that people traveling to or from the show will no longer have to worry about inadvertently violating local laws.

Also this year, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation making assisted-opening knives, or switchblades, legal in the state.

Indiana also voted on more relaxed switchblade knife regulations, passing the Senate 46-1, but election-year politics preventing a hearing or vote in the Indiana House.

In South Carolina, State Representative Mike Pitts introduced HB4609, which would add knives to the state’s existing firearms preemption law.

As said, Knife Rights does not comment on on-going legislative or lobbying efforts. But it’s safe to say that we can count on continued efforts to make knife laws more practical to those who use them. And, most importantly, without detrimental effects on crime rates.

To read more about the efforts of knife rights, click HERE.

The post EDC: Changes to Your Knife Rights in 2012 appeared first on Dangerous Magazine.

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