For years now, law enforcement in New York has had authority to arrest law-abiding citizens for carrying common knives used for work. With the wording of the current weapons law, almost any folding knife could be considered a gravity knife. As gravity knives are illegal, those accused of possessing one could face criminal weapons charges.
The New York Assembly understands that the law, as written and currently enforced, is unjust and leading to the arrest of otherwise excellent, hardworking citizens. For four years in a row, lawmakers have passed bills that would amend the definition of gravity knives and help protect those in trades that require the use of blades, like construction. Unfortunately, all previous attempts have gotten blocked, most recently by a gubernatorial veto.
What is a gravity knife?
Under the current New York law, a gravity knife is any folding blade that opens through the force of gravity. Currently, these blades get tested with a “wrist flick” when found by law enforcement. The issue is that many standard folding knives that are not truly gravity knives can get opened with a strong grip and forceful wrist flick.
Many professionals carry blades that could fall under the definition of gravity knives for opening boxes, scoring drywall, cutting paper or cardboard, and many other normal uses. Possessing or carrying these knives is illegal, even if you’re carrying them for work. As many as 4,000 people each year get arrested and prosecuted under the gravity knives law. Clearly, reform is needed.
Workers shouldn’t face weapons charges
There are a range of professionals who need to use blades and knives as part of their every day work. These individuals should not be subject to arrest and prosecution merely for carrying the tools of their trade in their pockets or on their person.
Many blades that overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors claim are gravity knives are simple utility knives, openly sold at home repair, hardware and sporting goods stores around the state. If the knives are legal to buy and sell, they should also be legal to possess.
Reforming the law to be more specific
Lawmakers are trying to remove a reference to centrifugal force in the definition of gravity knives. The inclusion of that term is what permits law enforcement to use a wrist flick to open the knives. The proposed amendment would also add the word “solely” to the section describing how the knife gets opened by gravity. If manual effort is needed to open the blade, it would no longer fall under the state definition of gravity knives.
This reform could prevent a number of professionals from unnecessary arrest and prosecution in New York. In the meantime, those who carry knives for work could still be at risk.