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H.R. 84 (115th): Knife Owners’ Protection Act of 2017

Gun rights are having a huge boost recently, with Republican control of Congress and most states. What about knife rights?

Context

At least 21 states this decade have repealed or weakened laws regarding knives. And it’s not just Republican states — it includes purple or even blue states such as Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.

But the biggest restriction is the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act, a prohibition on interstate travel with automatic knives such as switchblades. There are 44 states with some such travel restriction — even though many or most of those states allow such knife possession within the state itself.

What the legislation does

The Knife Owners’ Protection Act [H.R. 84 + S. 3264] would allow interstate travel with automatic knives like switchblades.

There are provisions explicitly prohibiting those who are barred from carrying such knives by law (such as certain repeat criminals), as well as restrictions on how the knives may be transported. For example, in an airplane the knives would have to be in a locked container.

The legislation was introduced in the House as H.R. 84 in January 2017 by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ5), and in the Senate as S. 3264 in July 2018 by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill allows for free movement of devices that are _already_legal within most states.

“The Federal Switchblade Act was an asinine idea when it was passed in 1958 in a wave of Hollywood-inspired politically motivated hysteria and has only become more irrelevant as time has passed,” Doug Ritter, chair of the advocacy group Knife Rights, said in a press release. “The majority of states have always allowed switchblade possession.”

“And with Knife Rights’ repeal of switchblade bans in 15 states in the past eight years, more than four-fifths of the states now allow switchblade possession to one degree or another,” Ritter continued. “It is way past time to repeal this law that only serves to interfere with lawful trade and commerce.”

Ritter’s quote that current restrictions were “passed in 1958 in a wave of Hollywood-inspired politically motivated hysteria” refers to laws passed after fears of knives as a result of such ’50s movies as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story.

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any quotes of explicit opposition to the 2018 bill. That doesn’t necessarily mean opposition doesn’t exist, but rather more likely that the legislation isn’t appearing on would-be opponents’ radar.

Odds of passage

The House version has nine cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Judiciary or Energy & Commerce Committees.

The Senate version does not yet have any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

A previous version was approved by Senate committee in 2015, but never received a full vote in the chamber. Interestingly, that version attracted 13 bipartisan cosponsors: seven Democrats and six Republicans. There’s no readily available explanation for why the current Senate version has no cosponsors.

A similar bill called the Interstate Transport Act [S. 1092] was approved by Senate committee in July 2018, but knife advocates fear that its protections are much weaker than the Knife Owners’ Protection Act, the bill they really want passed.

Last updated Oct 9, 2018. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 3, 2017.


Knife Owners' Protection Act of 2017

This bill permits an individual to transport a knife between two places (i.e., states) where knife possession, carry, or transport is legal. A knife must be securely stored during transport, unless it is an emergency knife designed to cut seat belts.

This bill prohibits the arrest or detention of an individual for a knife violation unless there is probable cause to believe the individual failed to securely store the knife during transport. An individual may assert compliance with this bill as a claim or defense in any civil or criminal proceeding.

This bill repeals provisions, commonly known as the Federal Switchblade Act, that prohibit the introduction of switchblade knives into interstate commerce. It also repeals the Ballistic Knife Prohibition Act of 1986, which prohibits the possession, manufacture, sale, or importation of a ballistic knife.

Finally, it amends the federal criminal code to eliminate two provisions—one that restricts the mailability of switchblade knives, and one that restricts the mailability of ballistic knives.