Ridiculous, Racist Knife Bans Reinforce Inequality

Ridiculous, Racist Knife Bans Reinforce Inequality
Knife bans
Pictured: a deadly weapon (if you’re a potato).

On May 3 in Scotland, a man was arrested for carrying a potato peeler. That’s right, a potato peeler. He was charged for carrying “an article which had a blade or which was sharply pointed, namely a potato peeler.” Maximum penalty: four years imprisonment.

Knife Bans Are About Control

Knife bans, like gun control, are not about saving lives but controlling them—including controlling the economically disadvantaged, people of color or others the state wants to keep “in their place.” (The potato peeler violator, by the way, was said to suffer “from significant learning difficulties.”) More to the point, knife bans are designed to keep the people down.

For proof, consider the New York Police Department’s biased enforcement of New York State’s gravity knife statute involving the poor, black and Hispanic. According to The Legal Aid Society of New York City, from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2015, 84 percent of its clients prosecuted for alleged gravity knife possession were black and/or Hispanic. Intent to use a gravity knife unlawfully against another was charged in fewer than 5 percent of gravity knife prosecutions, so it appears the vast majority of the 84 percent did not use the knives as “deadly weapons.”

Knife Bans and Inequality in the Justice System

The inequality of policing and prosecuting for possession of gravity knives by black and Hispanic men is most striking in NYC’s Union Square. There, according to Legal Aid, such men consist of only 11.5 percent of the population but account for a whopping 52 percent of those arrested and prosecuted for gravity knife possession. Moreover, the New York County District Attorney’s Office (DANY) exacerbates things by often classifying gravity knife possession as a felony, a charge that carries up to seven years in prison. From July 1-Dec. 31, 2015, DANY charged 65 Legal Aid clients with felony gravity knife possession—four times more often than all other NYC prosecutors combined!

Magnifying the inequality of the situation is the fact that NYC chain retailers sell folding knives designed and marketed as work tools, yet when Legal Aid clients are found with those knives in their pockets, the knives are suddenly “illegal” and the clients are arrested as criminals. Such inconsistent application of the law ensures a regular money flow to the local big box stores via sales revenues and to government through sales taxes and fines, while simultaneously keeping the victims “in their place.” As Doug Ritter of Knife Rights noted, knife bans help ensure that the circle of inequality remains unbroken.

“Repealing knife bans removes another excuse to engage in such biased arrests and prosecutions for the innocent carry of some otherwise arbitrarily illegal or allegedly illegal knife,” he observed.

Great Britain, Canada Lead the Way on Knife Bans

Racist knife bans
When knife bans disproportionately impact minority populations, something is wrong.

While Knife Rights continues to fight NYC’s inequality of knife law enforcement, knife control has raised its ugly head among the rank-and-file citizenry of London, England, and Canada. In January, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal upheld a Canadian Border Services Agency decision that classified most folding knives as prohibited weapons to import, even though the knives are legal to sell and possess in Canada.

Meanwhile, despite—or perhaps because of—its long-time ban on guns, for the first time in over 200 years London recently overtook NYC in terms of the murder rate. Though it is currently illegal in Britain to carry a knife longer than 3 inches in public “without good reason,” in early April London Mayor Sadiq Khan infamously said, “No excuses: there is never a reason to carry a knife. Anyone who does will be caught, and they will feel the full force of the law.”

The vast majority of those who will feel the full force of Khan’s edict as well as that of knife bans in general are the economically and other of the disadvantaged, or the simply not quite so advantaged. What better way to keep them all down than to arrest, fine and jail them for carrying knives?

Download BLADE's Knife Guide Issue!NEXT STEP: Download Your Free KNIFE GUIDE Issue of BLADE Magazine

BLADE’s annual Knife Guide Issue features the newest knives and sharpeners, plus knife and axe reviews, knife sheaths, kit knives and a Knife Industry Directory.

Get your FREE digital PDF instant download of the annual Knife Guide. No, really! We will email it to you right now when you subscribe to the BLADE email newsletter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here