Knife legislation in Nashville will no doubt cut two ways

Knife legislation in Nashville will no doubt cut two ways

March 14th, 2013 in Opinion Times

It's not enough that Tennessee gun laws are being blown away.

Now it may also be a breeze to walk the streets with every crazed cowboy who thinks of himself as a vigilante James Dean, Zorro or Jim Bowie, too.

Last week, the state Senate, led by our own Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, drove a 27-3 vote to allow residents to carry a switchblade and all knives with blades over four inches -- machetes, swords, daggers, etc. -- anywhere and anytime we like, except on a school grounds. That one prohibition was tacked on as a late amendment. The state House of Representatives may take the bill up this week.

Bell told his fellow lawmakers (or in this case law repealers, as it now is against the law to carry any knife other than a pocket knife in most public places other than game-hunting grounds):

"This bill is an attempt to rewrite the knife laws ... to benefit our citizens and also to comply with what I believe to be the correct interpretation of our Second Amendment."

Ah, yes. We're wrapping special interests and fear-mongering into the holy cloth of freedoms we already have and are not losing. The gun and knife makers of the world just want us to think we are. Because if we do, they will sell, sell, sell.

Don't you feel safer already?

If a "citizen wants to carry that type of knife with them for self-defense, they should have that right," Bell said, noting that people "need" knives for self-protection. He even used his 18-year-old daughter as an example. She especially needs a knife because she's too young to obtain a state-issued handgun-carry permit, he said. Handgun permit holders must be at least 21.

This madness -- sliced and diced by groups such as Knife Rights Inc. and the American Knife and Tool Institute -- is not happening just in Tennessee. In the past several years, Arizona, New Hampshire, Utah and Georgia also have relaxed their knife laws.

The knife drive began after the U.S. Congress in 2009 updated the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958 which had outlawed the importation and interstate trade of spring-loaded "automatic" knives. The ban came amid a panic about youthful hoodlums like those portrayed in the Broadway play "West Side Story" and the movie "Rebel Without a Cause."

The 2009 bipartisan amendment, signed by President Obama, ensured that knives that can be pushed open with one hand -- an estimated 80 percent of non-kitchen pocket knives sold in America -- are not classified as switchblades. That action was taken after the knife lobby emerged to fight a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency proposal that would have reclassified many pocketknives and pocket tools as switchblades. The congressional action blocked that move.

Meanwhile knives remained regulated by a patchwork -- some admittedly contradictory -- of state and local laws. But soon it will just be the Wild West again.

The National Rifle Association, of course, is gleeful. It has a new partner. The knife fighters, like the gun pushers, say it's "irrational" to believe that if we ban certain types of knives "criminals will somehow stop being criminals."

In December, Mother Jones reported that Knife Rights Inc. was boasting 2,200 members, and its legal arm was funded mostly from the knife industry. Its chief lobbyist sits on the National Rifle Association's board of directors, and its website has endorsements from Ted Nugent and NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.

Perhaps we shouldn't be so uptight about the loss of all these laws intended to protect us.

Perhaps we should just ask Sens. Bell and those from our region voting with him -- Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; Bo Watson, R-Hixson; Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma (and Marion and Sequatchie counties); Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey (and Bledsoe County); and Ken Yager, R-Harriman (and Rhea County) -- to think about giving us some more freedoms.

Let's just drop the requirement for all drivers to have a driver's license, for example. After all, it's irrational to expect that requiring a license means only licensed drivers will drive. Do we think those people driving with lapsed, revoked or suspended licenses will somehow stop being lawbreakers? And by all means, let's let youngsters drive as soon as they can hold the wheel.

While we're at it, let's drop the prohibition on drinking and driving. After all, we all know that law doesn't keep drunks off the road. And if there are more accidents, car makers will sell more cars.

Let's hear it for car rights!