Sacramento, CA (August 1, 2001) – Governor Gray Davis of California issued an announcement today that he had signed SB 274, the American Knife and Tool Institute-sponsored bill that further clarifies the definition of a one- hand opening knife so they are not wrongly classified as switchblades, which are banned in California if they are two inches or more in blade length.
Here is the text of SB 274 with AKTI-proposed revised and/or new language inserted next to it….
Every person who possesses in the passenger’s or driver’s area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public, carries upon his or her person, and every person who sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives to any other person a switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor.
For the purposes of this section, “switchblade knife” means a knife having the appearance of a pocketknife and includes a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife or any other similar type knife, the blade or blades of which are two or more inches long in length and which can be released automatically by a flick of a button, pressure on the handle, flip of the wrist or other mechanical device, or is released by the weight of the blade or by any type of mechanism whatsoever.
“Switchblade knife” does not include a knife that is designed to opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife utilizes a detent or other mechanism that (a) provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or (b) biases the blade back toward its closed position.
For purposes of this section, “passenger’s or driver’s area” means that part of a motor vehicle which is designed to carry the driver and passengers, including any interior compartment or space therein.
Even in the final month before passage, questions continued to be raised about the intention and implication of the bill. It did pass through appropriate committees in the Assembly and Senate prior to signature but AKTI and its lobbyist believed that an attached letter from the Senate sponsor, Betty Karnette, read into the official record, would minimize future attempts to misapply or misinterpret the new law.
Here is a draft of the Senator’s letter that was ultimately published….
LETTER TO THE SENATE DAILY JOURNAL
July 5, 2001
Mr. Gregory Schmidt
Secretary of the Senate
The purpose of this letter is to express the Legislature’s intent in enacting my SB 274, which makes amendments to Penal Code Section 653k.
Section 653k makes it a misdemeanor to make, sell or possess upon one’s person a switchblade in California. The statute was enacted in 1957 and provides a length definition of a switchblade knife. In 1996, AB 3314 (Ch. 1054) an exemption was created for one-handed folding knives. Recently, there has been concern that the language of the exemption is broadly read to apply to knives that are essentially switchblades, but are designed to fall under the language of the exemption.
In order to ensure that only legitimate one-handed opening knives are covered, SB 274 narrows the language to only allow knives to fall under the exemption from the switchblade law if that one-handed opening knife contains a detent or similar mechanism. Such mechanisms ensure there is a measure of resistance (no matter how slight) that prevents the knife from being easily opened with a flick of the wrist. Moreover, a detent or other mechanism is prudent and a matter of public safety as it will ensure that a blade will not inadvertently come open.
Although some one-handed opening knives can be opened with a strong flick of the wrist, so long as they contact a detent or similar mechanism that provides some resistance to opening the knife, then the exemption is triggered. These knives serve an important utility to many knife users, as well as firefighters, EMT personnel, hunters, fishermen, and others utilize one-handed opening knives.
The exemption created in 1996 was designed to decriminalize the legitimate use of these extremely functional tools by law-abiding citizens. SB 274 is not intended to interfere with those knife owners and users. The amendments to Section 653k accomplish this important purpose by establishing more objective criteria for determining whether a knife meets the intended exemption to the switchblade law.
Senator, 27th District”
In his announcement of the signature of SB 274, Governor Gray Davis used the following language to describe the substance and intent of the new language in the bill….
“SB 274 by Senator Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) clarifies the definition of a ‘switchblade knife.’ This legislation will assist law enforcement agencies with efforts to confiscate illegal knives from criminals by eliminating a loophole that effectively exempts certain knives from statutory weapons prohibitions.”
AKTI President, CJ Buck of Buck Knives, when he saw this announcement stated, “I hate how they worded the description of SB 274, but it does tell us how this political body feels about knives. We have to continue to be on guard here.”