Someday soon, that folding knife you’ve carried around in your pocket for years might actually become legal.
Unbeknownst to many New Yorkers, common pocket knives of the type sold in Wal-Mart and in hardware stores are often classified by police as gravity knives, leading to the arrest of their hapless owners.
New York’s gravity knife law makes a blade illegal if it can be opened using gravity or centrifugal force (such as “flicking” the knife open). Almost any knife, with enough attempts, can eventually be flicked open in this way, however.
State Sen. Diane J. Savino (D-Brooklyn/Staten Island) and Assemblymember Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) announced on Wednesday that the Senate has passed what they referred to as “common-sense” gravity knife reform legislation.
The legislation will prevent the “needless arrest of thousands who use folding knives as tools,” the officials said in a release. The bill had previously passed the Assembly, and will now head to the Governor’s desk for signature.
The current law, which the officials called outdated, resulted in thousands of arrests of people possessing a common folding knife.
In the 10-year period between 2003 and 2013, roughly 60,000 people were arrested for carrying a common folding knife. Many of those arrested use knives in their work, officials said.
Last June, Bernard Perez, an electrician from Brooklyn, was arrested after an NYPD officer found a folding knife in his car, according to NBC New York. Perez said the arresting officer could not open the knife with one hand even though he made “approximately 15 efforts over the course of several minutes.” Perez, who uses the knife to strip wire while on the job, was awarded $57,000 after he sued the city.
“When it comes to the use of common folding knives, our working men and women are being senselessly targeted, for nothing more than doing their jobs,” Sen. Savino said.
Assemblymember Quart said the outdated knife law had unnecessarily sent thousands of New Yorkers through the criminal justice system.
He also noted that the Legislature affirmed that state laws should be enforced uniformly across the state. “If a knife is legal in Hamilton County, it should also be legal in New York County,” he said.
The bill would narrow the legal definitions of “switchblade knife” and “gravity knife” to ensure that the law’s original intent — to ban dangerous weapons — is upheld, while protecting the use of folding knives, the officials said.