The Senate has approved and sent to the House a bill rewriting Tennessee’s knife laws to eliminate a prohibition against switchblades and to assure that knives with blades longer than four inches can be carried for self-protection.
Current law makes possession of a switchblade a misdemeanor crime. Carrying a knife with a blade over four inches in length can be a felony if “for the purpose of going armed.”
Sen. Mike Bell, sponsor of SB1015, says that carrying a knife for self-defense meets that definition, though current law also says a longer knife can be legally used while hunting, fishing, camping and for “other lawful activity,” a phrase not legally defined. The bill repeals that provision and basically says all knives are legal in Tennessee.
The bill also prohibits city and county governments from enacting knife ordinances that would conflict with the new state knife statute. There are many local knife laws now and they widely from place to place, Bell said.
The overall result, Bell said, is confusion that has led national retailers to refuse to send knives with blades longer than four inches through the mail to Tennesseans, concerned that “a UPS deliveryman could be charged with carrying a knife for the purpose of going armed.”
Bell spent several minutes explaining the bill on the Senate floor, but there was otherwise no debate. He did add an amendment – suggested by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police – that says possession of knives on school grounds remains a crime.
The measure was approved 27-3 by the Senate. The no votes came from three Democrats – Sens. Charlotte Burks of Monterey, Lowe Finney of Jackson and Jim Kyle of Memphis.
It now goes to the House, where a subcommittee vote is scheduled next week under sponsorship of Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah.
The bill is supported by Knife Rights, a national organization that says on its website its purpose is “providing knife and edged tool owners an effective voice to influence public policy and to oppose efforts to restrict the right to own, use and carry knives and edged tools.
Bell said that court decision have established that the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms includes knives as well as guns and current law is widely ignored.
“Thousands of Tennesseans who otherwise would be law abiding are violating this law against carrying switchblade knives,” he said.
The Oregon Supreme Court, he said, has struck down a law in that state against carrying knives for self-defense.