Knife Rights Bill Whittled Down at Sheriffs’ Behest

Rep. Vance Dennis told fellow lawmakers that his bill to rewrite Tennessee knife laws has “drawn some sharp criticism” from law enforcement officers, so he proposed an amendment “to strip out the language sheriffs think is too pointed.”
Members of the House Finance Committee agreed and cut the bill (HB581) down to the size approved by the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement groups.
As passed by the Senate 27-3 last month, the bill repealed most of current state law on knives – including portions that now ban ownership of switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying knives with blades longer than four inches.
Those provisions were slashed from the bill by Dennis’ amendment. All that remains is a section that says no local government can adopt an ordinance regulating knives that is more stringent than state law.
The revised bill, containing only the “state preemption” provision, was approved by the committee and sent toward a House floor vote. Dennis told the committee he will oppose any attempts to change the bill back into the form approved by the Senate.
Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, said the Senate-passsed bill is “a real officer safety issue” as he could personally testify “having been up against a switchblade” while serving as sheriff of Wilson County.
Ashe said law enforcement officers were “uniformly” against the bill in its original form, once they had heard about it, and believe that leaving only the preemption provision is “a pretty good compromise.”
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said current state law effectively prohibits carrying a knife for self-defense purposes and the original bill would have allowed that.
In the House committee, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, R-Ripley, at one point proposed an amendment to give brass knuckles equal footing with knives, but withdrew the idea after Dennis’ proposed his revision of the bill.

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