Tuesday, July 21, 2009


You can find out what happened in the legislation from a variety of sources.

For me it started in the pit at the Blade Show, just after the Blade Show banquet, when I ended up sitting beside Rod Bremer, owner of Columbia River Knife and Tool, and he explained that in some of the reorganization of Customs (now combined with Border Security under the Dept. of Homeland Security), a review was made of the ruling that allowed assisted opening knives. I also I heard it was more of a review under a new person rather than any kind of edict passed down from the current administration, but the again we never know if the unnamed bureaucrat that made that decision didn't decide it might be time to curry some favor.

So this unnamed bureaucrat decided by his personal opinion that assisted openers were covered under the Switchblade Act of 1958, and were therefore illegal. Of course to do that Customs/Border Protection also had to back up and withdraw the four previous rulings and the letters giving that permission. (Makes one wonder which time were they wrong?--as they had to be one of the two options).

Time table was the letters were issued on May 25. Blade show was the following weeks, so the bigger boys, with the most to lose, pitched some serious money into the kitty, AKTI and Knife Rights stirred up the troops for the mailing protest, legal counsel was retained, and an appeal was made for the extension of the 30 day comment period.

According to the Washington Times in their report about the ban, the extension is usually a common courtesy. Not thing time. Customs dug in their heels, and unofficial word came back that they were willing to go to the wall with it, since the case would be decided in a New York based court.

The ruling that backed up this decision was 63 pages, and is available to read from links at KnifeRights.org and some other sites. What was most alarming was some of their consideration was quoting New York State law as the basis for the ruling--while totally ignoring the Oregon vs. Delgado decision that banned the Switchblade Law in that state.

I called my congressman, senators, and got two call backs. Meanwhile through AKTI the cutlery industry shakers and movers hired some Washington based consultants and things started to roll. A protest letter was sent to the head of Homeland Security signed by 80 US Congressmen. My congressman said he'd not received the letter, then said he was going to sign it, and then they called back to tell me that the letter had been sent on without his signature. So perhaps if you're in Tennessee you could suggested how your vote should go for Zack Wamp (who is planning a run for Governor I'm told).

Along the way others realized the assault this was on our freedoms, not the least of which was the National Rifle Association and the Safari Club. I was told by a knife buyer at the Kenner, LA gun show that a National Sheriffs Association had protested the ban as well.

What we heard back from Customs Border Protection? Nothing.

I am a little in shock why my own country, in this economy, would be doing things to put more people out of work. But no one ever said reason and sense came out of Washington.

The big change came when eight US Senators (naturally with some help) drafted an amendment to the Senate Approiations Bill that would amend the 1958 Switchblade Act and specifically exempt one hand opening knives and assisted opening knives from the law. It passed the senate (and there are some Democrat sponsors of this bill as well as Republicans), and it is now in committee.

Most of the industry has given a sigh of relief.

Not me. A lot of good things die in committee. We are not out of the woods until that change is added, voted on, and signed. So it is still possible we could be in the soup. The ban was supposed to go into effect July 21, which is now folks, and no one has any notification that the ban is NOT going into effect. So the only thing we do know for certain is that at this moment assisted opening knives are banned from import until further notice.

As knife collectors I would caution you with one other thing. No matter how this thing plays out we have made the knife community very visible to Customs Border Security---and along with that Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I predict that at some point in the near future someone somewhere is going to be facing some serious legal problems over automatics.

Case in point. Spyderco was bringing in a spring for the clasp on their bali-song knife. Everything else was US made. However, Customs has ruled that when you hold one end of a Bali-song and let the handle fall, that exposure of the blade means the knife is "open", and is therefore a switchblade. (I was an expert witness in that case on behalf of Taylor Cutlery).

Based on this ruling the folks at Spyderco opened their door one day to a dozen or so ICE officers, fully decked out in helmets, flack vests, and automatic weapons. They hearded everyone into the Spyderco conference room where the occupants were held under guard for nearly four hours while the factory was searched for the offending spring. Once found, Spyderco was cited, and fined a very large amount of money.

So does anyone want "test case" beside their name?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Knife Shows and Knife & Gun Shows

The weekend following a trip to Texas to seen the grandson I was thumbing through a gun magazine and noticed an ad for a gun & knife show.
Having been on the knife show circuit for years, I knew the frustration of telling someone about my being in the knife business, and having attended a knife show the prior weekend, they would look at me and say, "I've been to some knife shows."
To which, interested, I would ask, "Great! Where?"
And they would come up with something like, "Well the local gun club puts on a gun and knife show each year." I just had to shake my head, because they are two different worlds, two different types of exhibitors. More so these days than ever before.
Years ago, when knife shows first started, there was quite a bit of overlap, and as knife only shows were new, we knife dealers were still having to go to gun and knife shows, or simply gun shows, in order to find knife collectors.
Make no mistake in my saying this. Gun collectors are not necessarily good knife buyers. If you go to a gun show as a knife dealer, you are not going to sell knives to the gun enthusiasts, as it will not work. You are going to sell knives to the knife collectors that will be there because they like both knives and guns.
There are fewer knife collectors at a gun & knife show they there are at a knife only knife show. So as things evolved, with a larger number of knife shows it became common for many knife dealers to forego the gun & knife show unless it was local.
And from this came a new group of knife dealers that specialize in gun and knife shows more than knife shows.
And it was conversations with some of them, coupled with nostalgia of travels with old knife dealers who have now passed on when we did go to the gun show circuit, that was going through my mind shortly after my trip to seen my grandson and daughter.
When my wife got up, as she was having her coffee this Sunday morning, I asked her, "Did you do anything this weekend?"
"Why do you ask?" she said, defensively.
"Well I have accomplished very little. I've been hearing a lot about how gun show are getting better in the mad rush for AR-15's and ammo. We might plan on taking in a gun show or two, especially shows between us and the grandchild, so we can expense at least part of the trip and perhaps make gas money along the way, get out there in the field. "
"We could do that," she commented.
So the next few weeks I began my research of planning on stocking a quantity of knives that I could see selling on the gun show tour. I discovered that what sells at most gun shows is totally different from knife shows. A new niche, genre, has developed.
With they advice of my friends who had attended some shows, I ordered a small truckload of China made lockbacks, some closeouts, and in general leaning toward the tactical.
I decided to give it a year. And unlike many of my endeavors, I plan to chronicle that year in this blog.
My first show was a return to the Alabama Gun Collectors, which was a 3 hour drive and had always been one of our stops in the old days. At various times the show had held within the show a Vulcan Knife Club show, and was a sanctioned show of the Knifemaker's Guild. Not now.
It was adequate, I bought a single nice Randall from someone walking the show, and in general wrote it off as a learning experience. It was near break even.
But we had stayed in the nice hotel next door, had a couple of really good meals in expensive restaurants. We were talking to a friend who was also there and we were told when we mentioned where we were staying, "Well we don't stay in that kind of hotel when we're gun showing--we have to watch our expenses much closer."
Re-learning the first rule. Watch you expenses. You're not a knife show.
A few weeks later we took in a show in Baton Rouge, en-route to see the grandson. Rule No. 2. Always research the shows. I sold four knives that Saturday (we had already told them we had to leave Saturday night). One of those was to a knife collector friend on our auction mailing list who just happened to be in town visiting his grandchildren.
As we left I told Debbie our only hope on that show being worthwhile would be someone picking up a show flyer and perhaps consigning at some point in the future. We won't know that until next year.
My next gun show was one nearby in Athens, TN. In a National Guard Armory, on Mother's Day weekend. (Again it would be a Saturday show, as Sunday I had to be at Mothers!). It was larger and better attended than Baton Rouge. And it made money, primarily because made a few trades, and as it was driving distance to home, and the tables were $25.00 each, these biggest expense was a tank of gas. Rule No. 3 is learned. Expenses are expensive. The less expense you have, the less chance you have of losing money. (Did I say that some of these rules are pretty basic?).
I just came back from the NKCA Knife show at the Drawbridge Inn in Ft. Mitchell, KY. It did reinforce my theory that the gun and knife show versus the knife show is a different world. I sold an old knife or two, to knife collectors. And I even sold a few knives from my boxes of China made tacticals. But this time I realized those buyers were gun show attendees who just happened to wander through the knife show.
More later!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Everyone has said I needed to start a blog--so here it is.

This will be a far-ranging blog that will get into more than just knives, but knife people, and will say things that doesn't fit in my job as editor of Knives Illustrated Magazine or as owner of J. Bruce Voyles, Auctioneers.