NY’S GRAVITY KNIFE LAW
We all know that it is legal to own a knife, but how do you know? I am
going to go out on a limb and say that you have not read a New York statute
that told you: It is legal to own a knife. You probably don’t really
know that it is legal to own a knife, but you assume it is legal to own
a knife because you can go to the store and buy a knife.
Every single year thousands of New Yorkers are arrested and charged with
possessing a “gravity knife,” around 60,000 in the last ten
years. Many of them have no idea what a gravity knife is. It is currently
a misdemeanor charge, but if you have a prior you could actually go to
prison for seven years for simply having a gravity knife in your pocket
(if charged as a felony).
A gravity knife is defined as if a knife that opens with “the force
of gravity or the application of centrifugal force” --think 1950’s
gang member holding a knife in one hand and being able to open it with
just the flick of his wrist. This law was, in fact, enacted in the 1950’s,
and while comical that lawmakers expected that the average person should
know what centrifugal force is, what’s more comical is that they
allow these knives to be sold. It is legal to buy one but to abide by
the law I guess after you buy it you have to immediately throw it in the
trash at the store after you purchase it.
A gravity knife is prohibited by New York penal law section 265.01 which
reads "A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the
4th degree when he possesses a... gravity knife"
Last year a bill that passed the Assembly,but did not pass the Senate, would require a suspect to have criminal intent in order to be charged
for carrying the knife. So you could buy it and possess it, you just couldn’t
use it to stab someone, make someone think you are going to stab them,
or I suppose pick a lock.
But you do not need to look far for the reason this was not passed: as
of March of this year, New York City police recorded 809 stabbing incidents,
up from 673 last year. There have been 20 attacks in the subways –
which is nine more than last year. It is too hard to convince anyone to
lighten up on the knife possession laws when stabbings seem to be increasing
at an alarming rate.
However, what law makers in opposition are failing to recognize is that
these knives are currently being sold and believed by the public to be
legal, therefore the only change in passing the law is that if you are
using it to do anything other than stab someone it is okay if you have
one in your pocket. There would not be more of them on the street if they
became legal—because everyone that currently owns one thinks they
are legal to own right now.
Those in support of making the knives legal: labor unions, public defense
organizations, the Office of Court Administration, the official body of
the state judiciary. Those wanting the knives to remain illegal but sold
in stores as if they are legal: law enforcement.