BUT … the legal and advocacy costs were staggering. AKTI Needs Your Financial Support to Pay for this effort and protect you in the future. There will be more battles as AKTI works to bring state laws in line with the new federal statute and continue our state by state efforts to eliminate restrictive knife laws.
Timeline Recap of AKTI’s Successful Opposition to U.S. Customs’ Effort – Federal Switchblade Act of 1958 Amended
The proposal by U.S. Customs to ban the importation of assisted-opening knives (and re-classify them as switchblades … as well as all folding knives that can be opened by inertia, we fear) generated a massive response in a very short time from AKTI and AKTI members across all levels of the sporting knife industry. With your help, AKTI fought this proposed new U.S. Customs re-definition of switchblades that would have included all folding knives, impacted interstate commerce and make de facto criminals of millions of knife owners.
The threat was forcefully brought to our attention at the 2009 Blade Show (5/27-31) only because an AKTI member’s law firm received notice a few days earlier. On October 20, after an amazing five-month odyssey for our entire industry, the full Senate signed off on H.R. 2892 that included AKTI’s sponsored language of Senate Amendment 1447.
Here’s the timeline (in reverse chronological order) from AKTI’s perspective* (includes only significant events we can publicly report).
- President Obama signs H.R. 2892 (10/28/09), the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill for FY 2010, that includes Senate Amendment 1447 (with the approval of U.S. Customs) – a permanent “fix” so that any folding knife with a bias toward closure cannot be declared a switchblade by U.S. Customs. (Knife owners note: you are still bound by the laws of your state and, when you travel to another state, you are bound by that state’s laws.
- U.S. Senate Votes YES … (10/20/09) The full Senate voted 79-19 to approve H.R. 2892.
- U.S. House Votes Yes … (10/15/09) The House Appropriations Committee in a conference with the Senate retains language of Senate Amendment 1447. Full House votes to pass H.R. 2892 on October 15, 2009 by a 307-114 margin.
- AKTI Visits D.C. … (9/15-17/09) AKTI representatives visit key House members and staffers in Washington, D.C. on September 16-17. The goal was to get key House committee chairs to accept the language of Senate Amendment 1447. Attendees included: AKTI President Goldie Russell (A.G. Russell Knives); AKTI Executive Director Jan Billeb; Rod and Peggy Bremer (CRKT); Mike Manrose (Meyerco); John Belniak (SOG Knives), and David Kowalski (AKTI Communications Coordinator). All meetings were set up by AKTI’s D.C. representatives with Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.
- AKTI working in U.S. House of Representatives (7/15/09) to get language agreement on Senate amendment to H.R. 2892.
- U.S. Senate ACCEPTS Amendment 1447… Full U.S. Senate votes (7/9/09) to pass Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2892) by margin of 84-6 that contains Amendment 1447 co -sponsored by 20 Senators of both parties. The 20 U.S. Senators who co-sponsored Amendment 1447 were led by John Cornyn of Texas, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Orrin Hatch of Utah. Senators essentially adopted AKTI’s Texas switchblade exemption language (unanimously approved by Texas lawmakers and signed by Governor Perry on 6/18/09). AKTI has prepared a full text of the Federal Switchblade Act showing the insertion of proposed exception (5) in Section 1244 (which was agreed to by U.S. Customs on 7/9 in session with several Senators prior to drafting of Amendment 1447 [PDF]. If this language was also adopted by House, AKTI attorneys agree it would protect assisted-openers and one-hand-openers with a bias toward closure from being declared switchblades by U.S. Customs.
- AKTI reaches agreement on 6/30/09 with NRA, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and KnifeRights on draft language for Senate initiative to block Customs funding for enforcement of proposal. Language used was AKTI’s successful Texas amendment to their switchblade statute [PDF] that passed unanimously and was signed by Gov. Perry on 6/18. AKTI’s advocacy firm attempting to get Senate sponsors for presentation on 7/8.
- AKTI member company executives hold D.C. meetings on 6/25 (arranged by AKTI’s advocacy firm) with representatives of 15 Senators and Representatives. Attendees included: Rod Bremer, President of CRKT; Mike Manrose, VP of Meyerco; John Belniak, SOG Knives, and Morgan Taylor and Brian Boyd of Taylor Brands.
- AKTI’s advocacy firm consults on a draft amendment supported by ID Rep. Minnick and OH Rep. Latta that would have stopped funding for Customs proposed action. Action blocked by chair of House Rules Committee on 6/23/09.
- Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus letter [PDF] (6/22/09) to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano shows bi-partisan support from 77 Congressional members.
- After consulting with AKTI, Safari Club International sends a protest letter [PDF] to Secretary Napolitano (6/19/09).
- AKTI’S advocacy firm generates letter to Secretary Napolitano from 18 sportsmen, hunting, fishing and shooting groups [PDF] that include NRA, NSSF, the Safari Club and 15 others (6/19/09). Direct NRA letter [PDF] also re-states their opposition to Customs’ proposed revocation.
- After consulting with AKTI, the International Assn of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and a long-time AKTI member, sends letter of protest to Secretary Napolitano (6/18/09).
- AKTI’s publicity and calls to action (supported by NRA, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and KnifeRights) generate more than an estimated 5,200 responses to Customs’ proposal. One retailer reports to us that at least 1,000 of his customers signed letters in his store that were boxed and sent to Customs (but Customs counted as only one letter). U.S. Customs is still attempting to sort and catalog responses.
- Law firm produces AKTI’s 38-page response to Customs [PDF] and delivers on 6/19/09. Several other companies and organizations send direct response letters to Customs.
- Contingent representing Oregon manufacturers goes to DC on 6/17-18/09 to discuss Customs action with lawmakers. They were: AKTI Board of Regents Jason Landmark, President of Gerber, and Les deAsis of Benchmade; and Kevin Keegan, Gerber/Fiskars Legal VP.
- AKTI’s Communication Coordinator appears on five radio broadcasts between 6/8/09 and 6/18/09 to discuss implications of proposed Customs ruling. Programs ranged from Lars Larson’s national program to Victoria Taft’s Portland, OR program to NRANews.com. Provided material for June 29 Congressional Quarterly article (positively rendered) on the proposed Customs action, as well as for several other publications and talk show guests.
- AKTI’s request for an extension of the comment period denied by Customs (6/10/09).
- Les de Asis, AKTI Board of Regent founding member, president of Benchmade, organizes an informational meeting for the nine major manufacturers in Oregon (6/10/09).
- AKTI hires nationally recognized advocacy firm in Washington, D.C. to present issues to U.S. Customs and federal lawmakers (6/10/09).
- AKTI sends out the first of several grassroots calls to action, providing measured and responsible sample letters to Customs and legislators. (6/5/09).
- AKTI produces “Knife User Data” showing there are at least 35.6 million individual owners of folding knives in U.S. who could be adversely affected by the broad new switchblade definition proposed by U.S. Customs. Other organizations and news outlets recognize the integrity of AKTI data and quote it widely (6/1/09). We also issue AKTI Talking Points [PDF] to clarify the threat from U.S. Customs.
- AKTI hires nationally renowned law firm to produce response to U.S. Customs (6/1/09).
- AKTI Board of Regents give presentation with a call for action and financial support from the entire knife community at the Blade Show Award Banquet (5/30/09).
- AKTI calls special meeting of industry companies at 2009 Blade Show (5/29/09) to discuss industry response. AKTI fears that broad new switchblade language would outlaw all folding knives and make them illegal under various interstate commerce provisions that would flow from Customs definitions. Customs is the only federal law enforcement agency currently enforcing the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958.
- U.S. Customs publishes proposed revocation [PDF] on May 21, 2009 of four ruling letters they issued between 2005 and 2008 to three companies to import assisted-opening knives because they were NOT switchblades. Customs now changes its mind and gives affected companies and sporting knife industry until June 21, 2009 to respond to proposal.
Recognizing its responsibility to communicate clearly to both the law enforcement communities and individual and corporate members, AKTI does not publicly discuss sensitive issues that are in process. Furthermore, we do not attempt to claim credit for successes that we did not inspire or direct; we do not encourage or publish inflammatory political diatribe; nor do we publicly respond to misrepresentations about AKTI. Only AKTI speaks for AKTI.
AKTI stands on its 12-year unmatched record of action on behalf of U.S. knife owners. We have successfully introduced legislation in five states (California, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas, as well as shut down a January 2009 proposal in Hawaii in seven days) that have all passed and have made life safer for law- abiding citizens and knife-owning visitors to those states. We conservatively estimate that AKTI’s legislative successes have contributed to the legal safety of more than 36 million knife owners.