In the news surrounding Freddie Gray’s murder and the ensuing outcry in Baltimore, one thing has shocked me. It’s really sad that only one thing has shocked me. It ought to shock me that the police would arrest someone without cause and then kill that person while transporting him to jail. It ought to shock me that the police officers involved would fail to show any remorse for what happened. And it ought to shock me that the police union and other powers that be would blindly support the police officers involved. Unfortunately, those are all common enough occurrences that they don’t shock me. The thing that shocked me was learning about America’s knife laws.
The police officers that arrested Freddie Gray are claiming that they were justified because Gray was carrying an illegal knife. Let’s ignore the fact that he was not attacking someone with that knife, he was not brandishing it or talking about it or threatening anyone with it. He was simply carrying it. When I read that, I started to wonder about what can make a knife illegal. Did he modify it in some way? Did he buy it on the black market? Was it too big? Too sharp? Not sharp enough? This was partly curiosity, and partly practical. I like to fish, and I have been known to carry knives with me on fishing and camping trips. Have I been breaking the law? I know knives can be dangerous, but I try to be safe with them. I certainly never thought I was doing anything illegal.
Like everything else in the United States, knife laws vary greatly from place to place. If I understand the law correctly, an automatic knife can be owned in Maryland, but it cannot be carried. An automatic knife is apparently a knife like a switchblade. The police are claiming that Gray’s knife was an automatic knife while the lawyers representing Gray’s family say it was not. They say it was spring assisted, but not automatic.
I think it was the phrase “automatic knife” that got my attention. It seems that the reasoning behind the illegality of carrying an automatic knife is that it’s sole use is as a weapon. The same is true of stilettos and even brass knuckles. This would seem to be sound reasoning until the moment we remember that guns are weapons, too.
Every time there is a law restricting guns, people, led by the NRA, go crazy. It is supposedly an infringement of our second amendment rights to disallow carrying handguns or requiring a license for concealed carry or banning large magazines or banning automatic guns. But, the thing is, none of those things have any use other than as weapons. The NRA argues that they are used for self-defense, but why can’t a switchblade be used for self-defense?
The second amendment says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It doesn’t say a word about guns. It just says arms. That would include swords, knives and bayonets, especially when looked at from the point of view of the founding fathers. It is incredible to me that the courts and legislatures allow sensible knife control when they steadfastly refuse to have sensible gun control. At least I’ve now done a little research and know that I have not been acting illegally. In my state, it is legal for hunters and fishermen to carry knives, provided those knives are being used for hunting or fishing.