Arkansas Repeals Anti-Knife Statute
AKTI Successfully Sponsors Arkansas Bill That Repeals Knife Ownership As a Weapons Offense and Protects More Than One Million Residents and Recreational Visitors
Little Rock, AR (February 12, 2007) – The American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI) continues to move forward in its defense of individual knife owners. More than one million Arkansas knife owners and knife-owning visitors can now breathe easier, thanks to House Bill 1235, introduced by AKTI and signed into law by Governor Mike Beebe on Friday, February 9, 2007.
(Photo: Thanks to the wisdom of Arkansas lawmakers and Governor Mike Beebe, the state recently repealed its anti-knife statute that made it a weapons offense to carry a knife with a blade of 3 inches or longer. Governor Beebe is shown signing Act 83 of 2007 (H 1235) on February 9 that repealed Arkansas Code 5-73-121. Supporters and co-sponsors looking on were (l-r): Chuck Lange – Association of Arkansas Sheriffs; Rep. Jim Medley; Rep. Shirley Walters; Senator Denny Altes; Senator Jerry Taylor; AKTI lobbyist Preston Bynum; and Rep. Roy Ragland.)
The new law totally repealed Arkansas Criminal Code section 5-73-121 which stated, in part … “(b) If a person carries a knife with a blade three and one-half inches long or longer, this fact is prima facie proof that the knife is carried as a weapon.” Rather than try to rewrite the statute, members of the House Judiciary Committee actually recommended that the entire statute be repealed.
Quick, Decisive Action Taken
The bill started in the House with 18 co-sponsors, many of whom were on the House Judiciary Committee. Introduced the week of January 22, HR 1235 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and went to a full vote of the House on January 31, 2007. It passed a vote of the full House by a margin of 94-1. In Arkansas, bills keep their same number throughout the legislative process. It went to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 7, where it passed out of committee unanimously. The bill then passed the full Senate on Thursday, February 8 by a unanimous 35-0 vote.
Governor Mike Beebe was expected to sign the bill quickly. He received it Friday morning, February 9, and gave it his signature by the end of the day.
Lobbyist Preston Bynum, who guided the bill through the two chambers on behalf of AKTI, credits broad prior support with quickly moving the bill to a positive conclusion. “We had active support at the committee hearings from the State Fish & Game Department, as well as support or the promise of no objections from the District Attorney’s Association, the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association, and the State Police Director,” he said.
AKTI Defends Individual Knife Owners
AKTI estimates that more than one million state residents and visitors who own or use knives have been taken off the “potential criminal” list by the repeal of the statute. “Most hunters and fishermen carry knives with blades of 3 inches or longer,” David Kowalski said. Kowalski, the Communications Coordinator for AKTI, added that “lawmakers across the country who have enacted legislation making it a criminal offense to carry a knife have generally overlooked the fact that huge classes of people, professions and hobby groups carry knives to be able to participate in multiple types of recreation or to more efficiently perform their job duties. We applaud the wisdom of Arkansas lawmakers who recognized the arbitrary nature of this statute and set it aside.”
The clear winners here are the more than one million Arkansas hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers, canoers, kayakers, gardeners, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and responsible knife users who depend on their knives every day.
Estimates of various Arkansas sportsman and hobbyist populations are hampered by the state’s delay in posting relevant data. Here, for example, is data available in early 2007 on the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission website (www.agfc.com) on deer hunting participation in the state. Based on this 10-year-old data, we conservatively estimate that there are 300,000 residents per year who hunt in the state, and, perhaps another 100,000 non-resident hunters….
“In Arkansas, white-tailed deer are undoubtedly the most important big game animal (Heller 1985). License sales have remained relatively stable during recent years. Since 1980, between 275,000 to 290,000 hunting licenses have been sold annually. During the 1996-97 season, 94% (265,425 individuals) of the 282,398 Arkansas residents who purchased hunting licenses, hunted deer (Responsive Management 1997). In 1996, Arkansas deer hunters generated approximately 200 million dollars in retail sales supporting nearly 6,000 jobs, which resulted in a total economic contribution of 374 million dollars (Southwick Associates 1997). The importance of deer and deer hunting in Arkansas is also evident in survey results found in the 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census 1998). In this survey Arkansas hunters 16 years of age and older spent $339 million dollars. Since almost 80% of the estimated 379,000 hunters in 1996 hunted big game and most big game hunters hunt deer, it’s obvious that deer contribute immensely to the state’s economy.”
Arkansas also attracts in-state and out-of-state hunters of quail, rabbit, squirrel, wild turkey, black bear and migratory birds. In fact, Arkansas describes itself as “the duck hunting capitol of the world.”
With a total 2005 population of 2.78 million people, a large population group who earn their living in the construction and automotive trades, and an equally large segment of the population who have discovered the joys of gardening, our estimate of one million knife users in the state is conservative.