The Consequences of Prohibition (of Knives)
The Baltimore police now imply Freddie Gray's arrest was necessary because he was carrying an illegal knife. But why are taxpayers paying the government to arrest people for carrying knives? What about the right to own and bear knives?
The defense offered by the now-indicted police officers in the Freddie Gray case will likely at least touch on their claim that Gray was carrying an illegal knife. Gray was allegedly carrying a switchblade, which is — apparently — illegal (under federal law, no less). As Steve Chapman notes: "Even if it was, Gray's possession of the knife wouldn't justify his being chased and arrested, since the police had no grounds to suspect he had it."
In any case, we're left asking ourselves why the state claims for itself the authority to confiscate personal property without due process if that property happens to be a spring-loaded knife. In a country where hand guns are pretty easy to come by, a prohibition on knives as an essential safety measure strikes one as absurd, if not laughable. Chapman also writes: "Switchblades are no more lethal than any other knife, and the automatic opening is not likely to make a difference to a criminal intent on mayhem. On the other hand, that feature makes them useful to anyone (say, a handyman or hunter) who needs to open a knife with one hand."
Moreover, thanks to general acceptance of prohibition of yet another type of personal property, one can easily run afoul of the law while behaving in a perfectly peaceful manner and without even knowing that one is in violation of the law (since common sense would indicate that one is in compliance with the law). For example, one doesn't need to have an illegal knife to be convicted of having an illegal knife under ambiguous New York laws:
UPDATE: reader SP adds some nuance to the legality of these knives:
The federal law only prohibits interstate commerce in automatic knives (switchblades). It says nothing about possessing them.States are left on their own in terms of defining legality for switchblades, as are cities and towns. For example, switchblades are legal to own in many states, but illegal to carry in many localities.Different from switchblades and gravity knives are many types of "one hand opening" and "assisted opening" knives - popular manufacturers include Spyderco and Kershaw. "Gravity" knives are actually quite uncommon, as most knife users prefer the one hand and assisted opening knives.
Interestingly, I also see that Oklahoma just legalized switchblades.