The Fight for Your Knife Rights

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I'm betting most of us aren't aware of the fact that in many parts of the country, simply driving from point A to point B can make you a criminal. No, you're not bootlegging contraband, you're simply driving in the family car. And unless you have a traffic accident, you might never know you're breaking the law.


If you're carrying your usual pocket "stuff" - and that includes a pocket knife, you might be risking being charged with a concealed weapons charge.

That's because there are so many goofy knife laws on the books that it isn't just difficult, it's darn near impossible to know if your pocket knife is going to be considered "legal" or "lethal" - as in lethal weapon.

The past weekend has been spent in Tempe, Arizona meeting with an organization called Knife Rights. And while I was aware of its work, I certainly wasn't aware of the mish-mash of bad knife laws around the country. While I laughed at some of the crazy regulations, others made me downright angry. Somehow, I don't think that politically correct laws that make culinary students and hair cutters and stylists criminals are amusing.

Think I'm exaggerating? I'm not. If, for instance, you are attending a culinary school, you already know your essential tools include a whisk and your personal knifes. In fact, you carry them with you every day. And a cutter or stylist working more than one salon does the same thing.

Well those expensive chef's knives and those outrageously expensive barber scissors are lethal weapons in many parts of the country. If, for instance, you're headed to culinary school in New York or Washington, D.C. and wearing those signature striped chef's pants, you might find the local police inclined to give you a striped jacket -in orange - to go along with your pants. Ditto stylists.

That's one of the things Knife Rights exists to try and remedy for all of us. Silly laws that make all sorts of edged implements illegal, depending on where you are.

Late last year, this fledgling organization fought- and won- a classic battle with a government bureaucracy- U.S. Customs. A little wording change in the customs regs was going to turn assisted-opening knives into "switchblades" - a no-no for importation in the United States for many years. Since a vast majority of today's knives feature some sort of assisted opening - and are imported - the ramifications would have been horrific for a very small industry.

Knife Rights challenged that proposed change- and Customs backed off. No small feat for any organization. But it was validation of the fact that many of this country's supposedly well-intended regulations really aren't well-intentioned; they're either stupid or downright invasive of the right to carry a pocket knife.

If you think about it, the pocket knife might be one of the most powerful symbols of independence. With one, you can do just about anything. Imagine trying to get by without a pocket knife. If you don't carry one, think opening a box at work - without a scissor, knife or box cutter. The irregular edges of a key won't open everything.

And if, like me, you're thinking "come on, pocket knives, that's a reach" -think about your friends in England. Carrying a pocket knife there is already a crime - and there are measures on the docket there that would make any knife long enough to reach a vital organ (about three inches) illegal- at home or away.

There are areas in this country where those moves are already underway- and that's where we all need to be aware of Knife Rights as an organization of individuals who are working to get some semblance of commonality in knife laws - at least on the state levels. Today, there are measures being introduced in two states that will call for uniformity of laws across the state.

And there's always the chance that the nanny state will decide that we're all too-irresponsible to be trusted with anything more sharp than a spoon. It's a radical notion, but crazier things have already happened.

That's why The Outdoor Wire - and our affiliated services - are supporting Knife Rights- not because we're supporting some out-there organization that is running around crying "wolf" - but because there are legislators and other well-meaning dunderheads out there crying "wolf" and pointing at us.

I'm joining Knife Rights as an individual - and I'd encourage you to do the same thing. To learn more, go to their website and read about it for yourself.

Then join. Or imagine scouting without a pocket knife. That fit your idea of their motto: Be Prepared.

Didn't think so.