At some point I’ll be forced to admit that the overarching strategy of the government (at all levels) is to just regulate, restrict or prohibit so many things that we simply won’t have enough hours in the day to fight them all. When it comes to weaponry our attention is obviously focused largely on gun control, but what about knife control? I was aware that there were specific regulations regarding knives in certain places, but it seems there are quite a few more than I realized. In New York City, for example, there is a debate underway regarding long standing state prohibitions against gravity knives. Legislation has been introduced to either roll back or loosen the laws, but it’s being blocked. And not by who you might think.

As the legislative session in Albany winds to a close — and despite being extended an extra 24 hours — a bill to amend New York’s gravity knife law appears to be dead in the state senate.

What’s surprising isn’t so much the bill’s demise in a busy legislative session, but the breakdown of the votes, and the ideological bizarro-world the measure has created in the state legislature.

For the second year in a row, a liberal, downstate Democrat has proposed a bill designed to end the over-criminalization of pocket knives — a subject the Voice has covered extensively. And for the second year in a row, almost all the opposition to the measure has come from the Republican side of the aisle. In some cases, second-amendment-supporting Republican legislators were actively sponsoring bills to roll back restrictions on firearms even as they helped ensure that New Yorkers — overwhelmingly New Yorkers of color — continued to be arrested for possessing knives.

I suppose the first point of contention here is the need to identify exactly what a “gravity knife” is. This is the best, most general definition I was able to find.

A gravity knife is a knife with a blade contained in its handle, and which opens its blade by the force of inertia or gravity.[1] As the gravity knife requires gravity or spinning motion to propel the blade out of the handle, it differs fundamentally from the switchblade, which opens its spring-propelled blade automatically upon the push of a button, switch, or fulcrum lever.[1] The main purpose of this opening method is that it allows opening and closing to be done one handed, in situations where the other hand is occupied.

You learn something new every day I suppose. The curious thing here is that the New York laws don’t even put a limit on the length of the blade. It just has to be a folding knife which can be flipped open with one hand. As an aside, I competed in competitive knife and ax throwing for quite a few years and I have a fair collection of blades, including some steel Dragon Knives which are a foot long, but do not fold. This is a picture I just took of the Gerber folding utility knife I carry on a daily basis.


The Gerber needs to have a small, spring loaded lever in the base pushed to the side in order to unlock and open it or to close it again. It’s a two handed operation, so I suppose I’m safe on the gravity knife front. Still, the wording of the actual law is vague enough that a lot of utility knives could be (and apparently are) swept up in the net.

The real point here, though, is why do we still have these laws on the books anyway? If you are in favor of carry laws for guns, how do you make the argument that a folding knife should be prohibited? Other states, such as Tennessee, have done away with pretty much all of their knife laws, including prohibitions on switchblades. Maybe it’s just because this is New York and they have too many fond memories of watching West Side Story? I honestly don’t know.

Pulling a knife on somebody or stabbing them clearly has to be illegal. But carrying one? Plenty of folks use them on a daily basis for work or just general utility purposes. I’m sure there are more than a few criminals out there who use knives in crimes, but that doesn’t make the knife bad… it’s still the actions of the criminal which must be checked. Knives don’t stab people… people stab people.

There’s far too much hypocrisy on display here in New York. If the Democrats are willing to dump this law we need to get off the pot and join them in the effort.