“Nationwide, knife laws vary in neighboring towns, counties, cities and states,” writes Jesse J. Holland for the Associated Press. “This mishmash makes it difficult for citizens to comply.”
The AP’s interest in knife laws stems from the recent death, in police custody in Baltimore, of Freddie Gray. Police justified Gray’s arrest by claiming he was carrying an “illegal” switchblade knife. It turned out that the knife was a perfectly “legal” blade.
That aside, Holland is wrong in any case. Knife laws don’t vary from town to town, county to county, state to state. There’s one federal knife law. It applies to all levels of government in the United States, and unlike most laws these days it is simply written and impossible to misunderstand:
“[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
You may recognize that as the operant clause of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. And you should recall that the US Constitution proclaims itself the “supreme law of the land,” superseding all others which conflict with it in any way. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Madison v. Marbury, “an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void.”
Freddie Gray’s knife was not illegal, because in valid US law there is no such thing as an illegal knife (or gun). State, county and local ordinances which infringe on the right to own or carry any weapon are plainly unconstitutional and therefore void. They are also indescribably stupid and evil.
Stupid, because laws are only effective if they are obeyed. Since criminals don’t obey laws, the sole effect of laws prohibiting possession of weapons is to disarm victims.
Evil, because in the priority of rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — life comes first. You can’t be free, nor can you seek happiness, if you’re dead.
Indisputably corollary to the right to life is the right to defend that life against any and all threats. Lacking the anatomical defenses found in other animals (claws, poison glands, etc.), we must instead rely on wit and invention. To forbid us possession of the tools of self-defense is to preemptively deny us the exercise of our primary right.
There’s no such thing as an illegal knife. There’s no such thing as an illegal gun. That claim, made explicit in the 2nd Amendment, is implicit in the laws of nature.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “There’s no such thing as an illegal knife,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Muscatine, Iowa Journal, 05/18/15
- “There’s No Such Thing as an Illegal Knife,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 05/18/15
- “There’s no flexibility in Second Amendment,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Mountain View, New Mexico Telegraph, 05/21/15
- “There’s no such thing as an illegal knife,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Gulf Breeze, Florida News, 05/21/15
- “There’s no such thing as an illegal knife,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Nogales, Arizona International, 05/26/15