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?