- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

As a fellow who spends the majority of his days outdoors, pursuing subjects that might be of interest to readers who hunt, fish, run around in boats or occasionally set up a camp to build a fire with pieces of wood, imagine my surprise when the federal Department of Homeland Security folks recently threatened to outlaw my pocketknife.

Yes, the same Case Lil’ Sodbuster pocketknife with a 3-inch blade, made right here in the United States. The manufacturer alone is noteworthy because you should try to find an American-made knife in local stores. Good luck - you’ll need it.

Hunters and fishermen can’t do without a knife. Small as it might be, my folding knife is invaluable when it comes to whittling pieces of kindling wood, cutting stubborn fishing line, slicing up smelly menhaden baitfish, sharing half a sandwich with someone who doesn’t care if the knife was used to cut bait, or tightening a loose screw in the butt plate of a shotgun.

Then, suddenly, come Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Office of Customs and Border Patrol, which want to alter the interpretation of the definition of switchblade knives to include spring-assisted or one-handed-opening knives as defined under the 1958 Switchblade Knife Act. This would include many run-of-the-mill pocketknives.

The influential Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus has urged Napolitano to withdraw a “notice of proposed revocation of treatment relating to the admissibility of certain knives with spring-assisted opening mechanisms by the Office of Customs and Border Patrol.” The change in the regulation unquestionably would have a severe impact on the possession of all knives, not just spring-assisted ones, and would designate these knives as switchblades, though the federal law definition does not declare these types of knives as such.

The Switchblade Knife Act of 1958, as amended by Congress and codified in 15 U.S.C. Section 1241, clearly sets forth the definition of a “switchblade” as “any knife having a blade which opens automatically (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both.”

Rep. Bob Latta, Ohio Republican and member of the sportsmen’s caucus, said, “This classification could render millions of law-abiding knife owners in violation of the law and expose major-market retailers, manufacturers, dealers and importers subject to possible federal felony charges, and could drive domestic manufacturers and importers out of business, potentially costing thousands of jobs.” My Case pocketknife could conceivably open if I shook it forcefully enough, using a swift downward motion while securely gripping the handle between thumb and bent index finger.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, Mark Pryor, Arkansas Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, would amend the definition of switchblade knives to eliminate the confusion.

“Customs and Border Patrol went overboard in trying to interpret an outdated statute regulating certain pocketknives,” Pryor said. “In Arkansas, firemen, construction workers, farmers, policemen, electricians, hunters and fishermen all took notice. A pocketknife for many people can serve as an entire toolbox, and the government really has no business taking that away from them.”

Meanwhile, if the Homeland Security people get their way regarding my pocketknife, what am I going to use to pop a walnut in half or show my grandsons how to make a nifty whistle from a finger-sized piece of green willow?

You’d think with all the problems that currently stare our country in the face every day, there wouldn’t be enough time for nonsense like that invented by the Customs and Border Patrol people.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide