The “Swiss Army Knife” is neither the equivalent of an AR-15 type rifle nor the perfect home defense weapon. It is also not the equivalent of, or comparable to a “dirk or dagger.”
On June 4, a Federal District Court Judge released a 94-page explanation for his decision that the California “assault weapons” ban violates the U.S. Constitution. The case is James Miller et. al. v. Rob Bonta, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of California et. al. which has been pending in the Southern District of California since 2019.
Various news outlets and public officials have issued statements focused on three sentences at the beginning of that 94-page decision which read:
Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle.
- “There is no sound basis in law, fact, or common sense for equating assault rifles with swiss army knives.” G. Rob Bonta statement.
- “Overturning CA’s assault weapon ban and comparing an AR-15 to a SWISS ARMY KNIFE is a disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a direct threat to public safety and innocent Californians. We won’t stand for it.” Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, on Twitter.
- “No Judge Benitez. AR-15 rifles are not equivalent to a swiss army knife.” Bernard Sanders, U.S. Senator (Vermont) on Twitter.
The comparison as stated by Judge Benitez was more of a simile than a suggestion of equivalency. What we now refer to as a Swiss Army Knife was developed as a multi-use tool in the late 19th Century intended for military personnel in the field. It has long since become ubiquitous for individuals who desire the ability to remove bottle caps and wine corks, open cans, turn a threaded screw, or cut twine as they go about their lives – away from their homes.
If it is absurd, as implied, by Governor Newsom and A.G. Bonta, to suggest that pocketknives are a public safety threat, then why are most common pocketknives unlawful to carry in one’s pocket under California law?
A predecessor California A.G. sought to have the simple possession of a “Swiss Army Knife” treated as the possession of a “dirk or dagger. See People v Castillolopez, 371 P3d. 216 (2016), a decision by California Supreme Court.
The American Knife and Tool Institute invite all those in the California state government to examine California knife laws which a Court of Appeals judge in State v Hester, 272 Cal.Rptr.3d 648 (2020), stated is “bizarrely broad.” This decision released in December of 2020 upheld a conviction under the California dirk and dagger statute where the items in question were box cutters with blades one inch in length.
We also invite those who would comment publicly on the recent decision by Judge Benitez to do so based on its entirety.