The Public Policy

A Switch

Blade-running may no longer be necessary.

By 8.13.09

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There may be 35.6 million Americans with knives in their pockets and thousands may be illegal, according to the U.S. Customs. Thereby hangs a story that is going virtually unreported by a media fixated on the hubbub health care has wrought. A couple of years ago there were some personnel changes in Customs that brought about a verbal re-definition of switchblades that would, according to its critics, "include all folding knives and make defacto criminals of millions of knife owners."

"Assisted-opening knifes and/or those opened by inertia" would fall under the new switchblade definition.

The State of Texas swiftly produced a law to negate such a finding. The American Knife and Tool Institute was joined by the NRA, the congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and others in protesting and several sent complaints to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose outfit supervises U. S. Customs these days.

American Knife and Tool President Goldie Russell says her outfit is "committed to protecting the public's right to carry those knives which are in daily use all over this country." So far, the knife folks have one significant victory: the U.S. Senate passed the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill by 84 to 6 that contains an amendment (1447) echoing the Texas Law undoing the Customs folks' switchblade characterization. The appropriations measure is in House committee, must still be approved by a Senate-House conference committee and eventually be signed by the President.

Mindful of Yogi Berra's "it ain't over 'til it's over" (that was Berra, wasn't it?), American Knife and Tool's communication coordinator David Kowalski says, "The customs fight over folding knives is not over." For proof he offers a communiqué from an importer with 22 cases of assisted-openers that were seized by Customs.

The knife-fight on Capitol Hill will undoubtedly be overshadowed and whelmed by the ruckus over health care, as another of those little grabs for power that almost succeeded and was scarcely noticed.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.