Knife rights part of Outdoors beat

Second Amendment

Boyd Ward’s letter criticizing us for writing about knife laws on Feb. 20 gave us a graceful opportunity to make a correction.

We incorrectly credited Latetia James, New York’s attorney general, for leading a bi-partisan effort to reform New York’s knife laws. Worse, we mistakenly attributed the statement to Todd Rathner, vice-president of legislative affairs for Knife Rights, an organization that advocates for the rights of knife owners.

“Letitia James did not lead the effort to repeal bad knife laws in New York,” Rathner wrote in an email. “The effort was led by NY Assemblyman Dan Quart and Knife Rights. James urged [N.Y. Gov. Andrew] Cuomo to sign it after it was passed, so she joined the effort as opposed to leading it.”

That was the lone political element in an otherwise fascinating exegesis about the evolution of American knife law.

Curiously, Ward disputed our premise that the Second Amendment applies to knives. He called that statement “a stretch,” given the Second Amendment does not mention knives. Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the Second Amendment also does not mention firearms and examine the concept’s legality.

“Knives and the Second Amendment,” written by David B. Kopel, Clayton E. Cramer and Joseph Edward Olson, was published in 2013 in the “University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform.” According to the standard that the U.S. Supreme Court applied in the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller, knives satisfy the Second Amendment definition of arms.

“Heller makes it clear that the type of arms which are protected are not solely those which are suitable for militia use,” the authors wrote.

By Heller’s reasoning, they continued, “Any weapon that can be used for either militia duty or for private self defense qualifies as an ‘arm.’ Although militia use is not necessary to show that something is a Second Amendment ‘arm,’ militia use is sufficient to do so. Knives are indisputably militia arms.”

Of course, a bayonet is a military weapon, and thus an arm. Case law also applies that definition to switchblades and Bowie knives. Because of the manner in which they were often used, the Bowie knife and especially the Arkansas Toothpick were the AR-15 equivalent of their genre, and thus more regulated than other knives.

Two cases reinforce the point, State (Oregon) vs. Delgado (1984) and State (Oregon) v. Kessler (1980). In Kessler — citing Delgado as precedent — the Oregon Supreme Court held that the term “arms” is not limited to firearms. It also includes hand-carried weapons commonly used for personal defense, including switchblades, which were regulated by the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act.

We could go on and on, but terseness reins us today.

We do concede one of Ward’s arguments. Indeed, there is no push locally or nationally to tighten knife laws. The trend is to liberalize them.

Finally, Ward twice admonished us to write only about things we know, namely hunting, fishing and Game and Fish regulations. We would unreasonably expect Ward to be familiar with the articles we’ve written for knife industry publications, and also for firearms trade journals. It’s dry, inside baseball stuff that gets deep in the weeds about industry trends. We’re interested in these and many other topics that are out of our usual lane. They expand the scope and quality of information we share with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers.

The Outdoors section is a four-lane highway, and we use them all. We also are prone to go off-road at times. Our role is not to shield our readers from information and viewpoints, but to make them available. Our readers are tough. They can handle it.

As to Ward’s assertion that the aforementioned column was a sop to the National Rifle Association, a Google search reveals that I have mentioned the NRA twice since 2007. The other time was in 2018. The 2007 incident was ugly. The NRA backed a proposed constitutional amendment (Senate Joint Resolution 7) that would have eliminated Amendment 35 and transferred the Game and Fish Commission’s duties to the legislature.

We opposed it, and it was soundly defeated. The NRA didn’t like that and subjected us to a national action alert that resulted in our inbox being flooded for about a week with emails demanding that we change our position.

We had almost forgotten about that. Thank you, dear reader, for jogging our memory.

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