For years, Hollywood used the switchblade knife as the thing to tell you the character was a bad dude. They might as well have named him Corn Pop, he was that bad.
The knives, which pop open with the push of a button and feature a dagger-like blade, have been around for a long, long time.
And they were associated with youth gangs back in the day. As a result, a lot of places outright banned them.
One such place was, unsurprisingly, Massachusetts. It’s not just guns they don’t like there.
Now, the Massachusetts State Supreme Court is considering whether the ban is constitutional or not.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday appeared perplexed about whether the right to bear arms applies to switchblade knives in an appeal brought after last year’s landmark change in Second Amendment jurisprudence that could be sent back to a lower court.
The justices seemed to need more clarity on how to apply the Supreme Court’s new precedent in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which has been widely criticized by legal scholars for its vagueness.
“Should we just wait them out and see what they do on the domestic violence case and see if Bruen goes away?” Justice Frank Gaziano asked at oral argument, before clarifying that he was being “facetious.” He was referencing United States v. Rahimi, a case currently before the Supreme Court that may resolve some of the questions Bruen did not answer.
Canjura’s case rests on whether knives were intended by Congress to be considered in their definition of “arms” protected by the Second Amendment. Fighting knives, which include switchblades, date back to the Stone Age, and the framers of the Constitution clearly intended to include them, the defendant said in a brief.
Although prior case law “is about firearms, it’s not limited to firearms,” Gerber said. “The Second Amendment applies to any weapons” that are generally owned by law-abiding citizens for legal purposes, the brief said.
The state claims in a brief that “handguns clearly fall under the Second Amendment’s protections; knives do not.” The state hasn’t historically considered knives arms, and even if switchblades were arms, they wouldn’t be protected “because they are weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”
Well, no, they’re not, because they’ve been banned in so many places and there’s a perception they’re banned nationwide. So, as a result of that, most law-abiding citizens aren’t tripping over themselves to pick up one of these.
Yet switchblades in the form of single-edged automatic knives (which is probably what we’re talking about here) have a ton of lawful purposes. I’ve been quite glad to have one when I needed an open knife while one hand was occupied, for example. Someone who needs a knife off and on all day might opt for an automatic just for convenience.
More importantly, though, is the question of whether they’re considered arms or not, and I think we have to look back at the time when the Second Amendment was written. During that time, there were all kinds of bladed weapons carried by people for defensive purposes, including by troops on the battlefield. Swords were still a thing, though generally not someone’s go-to. Many others fought with tomahawks and knives.
That makes them arms, meaning the Second Amendment applies to them as well.
I know that Massachusetts would love to keep their switchblade law in place and they’ve never shown any real willingness to accept the idea that the Second Amendment means they don’t get to tell people how they can defend themselves, but I don’t think this will go the way some anti-Second Amendment folks think.
We shouldn’t be subject to the whims of politicians in deciding how we wish to be armed. While a knife is never an ideal self-defense solution, that’s not my call to make for anyone else. It’s also not a politician’s call, either.