January 27, 2009
Senator Les Ihara, Jr.
9th Senatorial District
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 220
415 So. Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
RE: Hawaii Senate Bill 126 (Introduced 1/22/09)
Dear Senator Ihara:
The bill you introduced last week (HI S 126) would make de facto criminals of tens of thousands of your law-abiding citizens and potentially millions more who visit your beautiful state each year. It reads, in part …
A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO DANGEROUS WEAPONS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. Chapter 134, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to part III to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
“Section 134- Pocket knives; sale prohibited; penalty. Any person who knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports a pocket knife in the State shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
As used in this section:
“Pocket knife” means a knife with a blade that folds into the handle and which is suitable for carrying in the pocket.”
On behalf of the American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI), which represents the $1 Billion sporting knife industry in the United States, I would ask two things of you.
First, please call me at your earliest convenience to discuss this proposed legislation. I understand you have introduced the bill at the request of a constituent. It would be important to understand your goals and those of your constituent. While passing a knife law might seem a simple issue, there are grave consequences if it is vague, discriminatory, highly discretionary or simply so broad it is unenforceable.
AKTI has worked successfully with lawmakers in several states to make sure their knife laws support the goals of law enforcement, mesh with the needs of a diverse and strong economy, preserve the heritage of men and women who hunt, fish, and enjoy a broad variety of outdoor recreation, allow the construction industry to function at a high level, and preserve the rights of ordinary citizens who may have carried a knife their entire life to open letters and do some pruning in the rose garden.
I can be reached at … 715-209-7389 (Central Time).
My email address is … email@example.com
Secondly, I would ask you to consider just a few issues that might give you some new insight into the issues that your bill raises.
Broadly, AKTI supports rational, equitable knife laws. Simple possession of a knife should not be punished. Knives do no harm unless used by someone who intends to harm. But we do support significant punishment of anyone who uses a knife in the commission of a crime.
Every five years, our U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service documents the impact of hunting and fishing in each of the 50 states. Released in the fall of 2007, its 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation documents that, nationally, hunters and fishers spend more than $76 Billion annually (State statistics page attached).
Hawaii benefited from an estimated $163,363,000 spent by hunters and fishers in 2006. Since most hunters and fishers carry knives, we should not subject them to prosecution for knife possession or jeopardize that vital revenue.
Your marine and sport fishing industry is heavily dependent on knife usage. To forbid pocket knives on the docks and marinas of Hawaii would be an economic disaster and an enforcement nightmare.
Speaking further about economics, AKTI published its own report in 2007 entitled The AKTI State of the Sporting Knife Industry. Projections from the AKTI study peg annual sporting knife revenue at the manufacturer/importer level in Hawaii at $41,686,375.
Sales at Hawaii distribution and retail outlets would nearly double that number to some $82 million. That’s a lot of jobs, taxes and economic vitality. When you run those dollars through all the local economies affected, the total economic impact of the sporting knife industry in Hawaii approaches $492 million annually.
The construction trades are heavily dependent on workmen using knives. They carry them from homes to job sites and back again daily … millions of times each day. I am not an expert on the Hawaiian construction trades, but ask yourself how many of these people could keep Hawaii building and growing without all their necessary tools.
Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, farm workers, greenhouse staff, lawn care workers, tree trimmers, nursery and garden center staff all use knives daily. Scientific research is significant in Hawaii where pocket knives are commonly used to procure samples. Then there are thousands of gardeners throughout the islands, many of whom carry a knife on their person. To bust every grandmother in her rose garden for carrying and using a pocket knife would be a social disaster beyond measure.
I have been to Hawaii several times. My small folding knife goes into checked baggage when I fly but then I carry it when I go biking or whale watching. Multiply me by millions of visitors who hunt, fish, hike, rock climb, bike, kayak, canoe, deep-sea fish, snorkel or scuba. Do you really want to threaten all those law-abiding visitors with arrest for carrying a small pocket knife? Whether they come from the continental U.S. or the Pacific Rim countries, their tourist dollars are very discretionary dollars and they can take them elsewhere.
Knives are man’s oldest tools. We don’t ban automobiles or cameras or computers because they have become more complex in mechanism and materials, more sophisticated in design, more aesthetically rich, and focused on ever-narrower market niches. We don’t ban baseball bats or golf clubs because they can cause physical injury.
Ideally, AKTI’s position is that knife possession of any sort should be permitted. AKTI’s ideal law would read … A knife is illegal only if it is carried with the intent to assault or harm another person. However, I recognize that Hawaii already bans switchblades (and I have attached your current knife statute).
AKTI and AKTI members urge you to withdraw your bill since, as it is written, it would be a broad-brush attack on millions of law-abiding Hawaiian citizens and visitors. Its economic impact on several vital industries would be disastrous, especially given our current economic climate.
American Knife & Tool Institute
Current Hawaii Knife Statute …
S134-52 Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being 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, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a switchblade knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony. [L 1959, c 225, S1; Supp, S264-9; HRS S769-1; ren L 1972, c 9, pt of S1; am L 1990, c 195, S4]
The Response from Hawaii
January 29, 2009
Dear Mr. Kowalski,
In Hawaii, only legislators can introduce legislation. When a constituent has an idea he/she would like introduced, they need to approach a legislator to act on their behalf. It is Senator Ihara’s duty to introduce ideas his constituents request. If you would note, he introduced this particular bill “by request”. That indicates that he is simply responding to a request that he perform his legislative duty. He has no intention of requesting that this bill be heard. Without a hearing, the bill cannot become law.
Should you have any further question, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Heather Bolan, Office Manager
Senator Les Ihara, Jr.
ph: 586-6250 fax: 586-6251
AKTI’s Follow-Up Communication
January 29, 2009
Ms. Heather Bolan
Hawaii Senator Les Ihara, Jr.
Hello Heather Bolan:
Thank you for explaining Senator Ihara’s responsibility to constituents and the process of initiating bills in Hawaii.
I hope my response can be forwarded to the constituent(s) so they might better understand the vast negative consequences of their broad anti-knife proposal directed at innocent, law-abiding citizens.
We certainly hope the Senator will not reverse himself and be persuaded to push Bill S 126. AKTI will continue to monitor the legislation and I can tell you the outpouring of support for our position expressed to me has been significant. You may get additional feedback on the bill from our individual members and member companies.
For individuals the cost of defending your innocence in court can amount to thousands of dollars, job loss and public stigma. Unfortunately, the foundation of our legal system (innocent until proven guilty) has been eroded by the very strong marketing of “they wouldn’t have been arrested if they weren’t guilty of something” mindset.
For law-abiding, responsible corporate citizens, attempting to attach a stigma to a needed tool is unfortunate. We need to replace our widespread search for making scapegoats of entire industries and citizen groups with vigorous prosecution of those who use or intend to use weapons in the commission of a crime.
Once again, thank you for your prompt response.
American Knife & Tool Institute