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New Knife Legislation: Pointless or Dangerous?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Eric Soderblom sells about 100 knives a year as the owner of Ruff’s Sporting Goods in Flagstaff, Arizona, and thinks that new legislation proposed by the Customs and Border Protection Agency that would potentially outlaw any spring-assisted or auto-opening knife is “pointless.”

“I would say that most criminals would probably not use an auto-opening knife because the cost of the knife is so much more,” said Soderblom. “A good quality auto-knife starts at about $200 and can go to $500, versus the same kind of knife in a non-auto version, which would cost $75 to $100.”

According to Soderblom, the proposed legislation, which would constitute a revision to the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958, is “another case of the government trying to put legislation in there that has no bearing on the real world.”

The new regulations specify that a “spring-and release-assisted opening mechanisms” would be “prohibited from entry” into the United States. The wording is vague on two counts: “spring-and-release assisted” is not a common way of describing any kind of knife, and “prohibited from entry” could not only mean a ban on imports, but also on general use.

Pro-knife advocacy groups say “spring-and-release assisted” could potentially include any type of folding knife, meaning any knife which has a blade connected to its handle with a pivot. Any knife that was opened with a spring, or could be opened with one hand, would certainly be subject to scrutiny.

Some of these knives are already outlawed by state regulations. Customs and Border Patrol officials have insisted that the regulations will not, in fact, open the door to their prohibition on a national level. But Republican lawmakers are skeptical.

“Everyone… our first responders, law enforcement officials, boy scouts, and hunters… will be affected by this regulation. It is unacceptable to think that we as citizens cannot carry a pocketknife for work or recreation purposes,” said Rep. Bob Latta, (R-Ohio).

Latta and Democratic Whip Walk Minnick (Ida.) teamed up to try and block the legislation, which had been slipped into a spending bill last month. Their efforts were unsuccessful, and the bill now goes to the Senate.

Sixty-one of the 275 members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to rescind the proposals, and Second Amendment lobbyists are in the midst of compiling signatures from the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, an alliance of sportsmen groups. That letter pointed out that some 35.6 million Americans carry and use some type of utilitarian knife which opens with one hand, and that 80 percent of all knives sold can be opened with one hand.

“I don’t understand what the intent of the law is,” said Soderblom. “It doesn’t have an effect on anything.”

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