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The Weaknesses of Knife Laws

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives. He also has a martial arts background.


We've got to give credit to our lawmakers. They are doing their best to protect hapless citizens from criminals. The problem is that they are doing it wrong! Take knife legislations for example. Knife laws vary among countries from allowing open carry to controlling what one can carry. And many people know about the infamous knife control laws in the United Kingdom. They slowly evolved into an increasingly complex and harsh legislation that many found to be ridiculous. The laws aim to reduce violent crimes, though police records show a 10% increase in crime since March 2017. And people still remember the switchblade ban in the US. Thanks to its portrayal in films, the switchblade became the iconic weapon of choice for violent teens, which lead to a switchblade ban by melodramatic lawmakers. Once again the crime rate failed to go down, because the ban simply made users switch to other weapons.

The weakness of knife control laws only demonstrates how little people know of knives and their users. A strong understanding of what drives people to commit crimes, not to mention how a knife functions is a better alternative than banning specific types of knives. Banning only ensures that the police will just confiscate blades from qualified people, while criminals roam free with their weapons.

Irrational Fear Is Behind the Formation of Most Laws

Again lawmakers tend to react to fear and emotions, more than anything else while creating knife legislation. This is exemplified by how the switchblade became the victim of knife-hating prejudices as a result of the image perpetuated by the media. A magazine article once described it as "The Toy That Kills," and Hollywood followed suit with various films depicting delinquents wielding the weapon.

James Dean with his switchblade

James Dean with his switchblade

Eventually the lawmakers reacted to the propaganda by passing laws prohibiting switchblade possession. Despite the implementation of anti-switch blade legislation, knife violence only went down from 23% to 12% in 2012, which was not so impressive considering the hysteria the switchblade created. As it turns out, gang members turned to other weapons to settle their disputes, including baseball bats and firearms.

In the UK knife crimes became a major national concern. The newspapers fed into the fears by reporting gravely about a deadly culture of youth violence spreading around the country. Some outlets reported that knife murders were a daily occurrence. The police even said that knife violence was a bigger threat than terrorism. People are now incredibly scared of knives and the sight of cabinet minister Harriet Harman wearing a stab-proof vest in public is not a good sign.

Harriet Harman in her stab vest

Harriet Harman in her stab vest

According to law-makers, the solution is a harsher knife ban!

The UK seems to be overreacting to knife violence. During 2008, when knife violence was purported to be an epidemic, only 19 deaths were reported for that year, which is low compared to most countries. The UK also had one of the lowest homicide rates that year, with only 0.9 instances per 100,000 people aged 10 to 29. Fast forward to today, knife legislation has only become harsher. Ironically violent crime has risen instead of decreased. Lawmakers have attempted to fight back by implementing more legislation, and have even banned zombie knives.

Violent crime rises last March

Violent crime rises last March

And speaking of zombie knives, one has never claimed a life. There's no evidence of a zombie knife being successfully used to kill someone in the UK. The public has simply overreacted to its menacing form.

These novelty blades got banned

These novelty blades got banned

And that’s the problem with some knife legislation. It is driven by fear and not logic. The lawmakers are only making laws and they aren't doing other things to help the public overcome the rising crime rates.

Knives Are Also Tools

Just to be fair I must point out that not all knife laws are irrational or unhelpful. Some knife legislations did take knives' status as tools into consideration. They didn’t ban knives completely because they acknowledged that the regular use of knives is part of a normal, functioning of society. Knives are as important as any other tools. When we have to cut something, we won’t use hammers or screwdrivers. Knives are also important survival tools in times of emergency.

In an attempt to balance public safety and utility, some knife legislations only limit what one can carry. The legal carry laws vary based on the sizes of blades to the locking mechanisms used. The conditions to carry knives are not all clear though. In the Philippines carrying all kinds of knives is illegal, even when it is something like a Victorinox. This approach does have weaknesses because one could easily find a peaceful excuse for carrying a machete. At the same time the authorities could confiscate knives from peaceful knife owners, on the grounds that they could be used dangerously. It happens all the time in the Philippines.

Let's turn our focus back to the UK.

Fortunately the UK didn’t pursue or establish a complete ban of knives, but who knows what the reasons are for that? Their complex knife laws already make it awkward for legit owners to carry pocket knives. In the United Kingdom it must be clear that your profession requires you to carry a knife to work to justify knife possesion. Therefore, if you are not a chef, you will be in trouble with the law if you carry around a large fixed blade. But in the end, your fate will be decided by the police. Just in case that happens, here are the conditions for the legal carry of knives:

  • The knife must be foldable
  • The blade must be 3″ or shorter
  • It cannot have a locking mechanism
  • It needs to be capable of manual deployment
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Banned blades include:

  • Any type of disguised knife
  • Stealth knives & batons
  • Swords
  • Zombie knives

Yet Knife Laws Are Easy to Break

Anti-knife laws are perhaps the easiest weapon bans to maneuver around. The majority of lawmakers are obviously non-knife users, because if they did use knives, they'd notice the obvious weaknesses of their laws.

Criminals or trained martial artists love using knives as weapons for one reason: their ease of concealment. It would take extensive and impractical frisking to find a hidden knife in one’s clothing. Even large chef’s knives are easier to conceal than a pistol if one is determined enough. Knives are also everywhere and obtaining one is as easy as purchasing candies in a store. You could even find one lying around in a trash pile. And speaking of availability, you won’t even need a functional knife to arm yourself. In the hands of a twisted individual, scrap metals and broken glass are good materials for makeshift shanks. And even if the common citizen submitted to the knife laws without pause, in the eyes of a criminal the knife laws are just another set of rules he or she will break. Therefore, all the knife laws simply leave the common people blade-less while armed criminals remain at large.

Improvised shanks

Improvised shanks

What Should Be Done Instead of Banning Knives?

Knives are just tools and they serve as an extension of the user’s hand. They are not the real danger compared to the people who wield them. Lawmakers could ban the longest of machetes or the smallest of neck knives, but the affect on the rise and fall of crime rates will be debatable. The users of these weapons will just turn to another weapon, which was the case with the switchblade ban. The increase of UK knife violence despite the harsh weapons ban should also be a wake-up call. Banning the tools won’t solve the issue, but controlling the gang members who use them is a more plausible solution. Bans are more of a band-aid solution that only provides short term relief. The root causes of crime should be tackled. What should the police do to crack down on this issue? Is poverty the cause or is it a lack of education?

The lawmakers should consider the users and not the tools before establishing new bans and laws.


Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 16, 2017:

Thanks Tamara! In my case I use my knife a lot at work when we tinker with machines :)

Tamara Moore on September 15, 2017:

Excellent article! I, myself, carry a knife and if I was being attacked, I would not be afraid to use it. I have various knives, a machete, a police stick (I have a good friend who is a police officer), and most of my family members are licensed gun owners. The guns are stored away in safes. My dad is a gun-collecter. I also have a stun gun.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 10, 2017:

Thanks Ajodo! Even here in the Philippines, our politicians are too emotional. Most often propose temporary solutions without long term results. I agree that lawmakers should focus more on nation building.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 10, 2017:

Thanks Mary! Actually I won't care if we have a certain degree of knife control. But the fact that most knife laws are in the grey area, based on scare or not properly implemented made me wonder if the lawmakers really knew what it's like to be in the street. And I'm against total knife ban as I need one to tinker with machines at work LOL.

Mary Wickison from USA on September 10, 2017:

You're right, it is a band-aid on the problem. It is politicians wanting to be seen to be doing something against crime. Those who wield knives to cause harm, won't care if there is a law regarding them. That said, if a crime is committed with one, then it gives the law and subsequent sentence more teeth.

Ajodo Endurance Uneojo from Lokoja, Nigeria. on September 10, 2017:

Good arguments Mamerto. When laws target objects insteat of the user of such objects. It shows one thing. How distant we are from reality.

Lawmakers around the world seem to emotionally react to issues. They appear not to be looking in the right direction.

Taking gangs off streets by whatever means should be a better solution as you rightly suggested. Government should invest more in building and providing facilities that keeps the idle mind off conceptualizing evil in the first place. As long as the negative thoughts are there. People will continue to devise new means and objects to hurt others.

Thanks for sharing!

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