The flurry of arrests of several New York City knife retailers in late 2003 and early 2004 appears to be just that. A flurry that lasted about three months and stopped. A special police task force raided several stores, citing owners under New York’s “gravity knife” statute, which makes it illegal to possess or carry a knife which can be opened by centrifugal force.
AKTI responded to the situation by contacting the head of the task force directly, explaining that gravity knives have not been produced in this country for some 50 years. We also provided materials and referrals for attorneys representing various defendants.
One retailer had more than 350 knives confiscated, including several models of the most popular brands of folding knives. He reported to AKTI recently that the knives have still not been returned to him. Their claimed retail value was in excess of $50,000. This retailer also took videos of police officers during the raid on his store, showing them grabbing knives by the blade, then swinging the handles open into a locked position. According to the arresting officers, that was a legitimate method to open the knives and
sufficient to have them declared gravity knives. A judge agreed with them, finding the defendant guilty, in this case, of a misdemeanor and levying a small fine.
“That raid effectively put me out of the knife business,” the retailer said. “I had been selling approximately $150,000 per year in knives, many to police officers, firefighters and other rescue personnel. Now I only sell Swiss Army knives and Leatherman tools,” he said.
The fact that large quantities of knives were never returned to the retailer has also reportedly gotten the attention of NYPD Internal Affairs officials. The retailer in question is currently negotiating with them to get his knives returned in exchange for the video tape of the raid.
AKTI also contacted a New York state knife distributor familiar with knife sales in Manhattan. “The large, high-end knife retailers were apparently never a target of this police task force. But those arrests have intimidated a large number of small- to medium-sized retailers in the five boroughs of New York City,” he said. “The loss of business for them and for the industry was unfortunate,” he added, “but even more
chilling is that the police could decide to do the same thing again, wrongly using that statute.”