NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has passed a watered down version of a bill that originally would have lifted a ban on switchblades and knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
As amended under a bill passed 77-18 on Tuesday, the measure does away with those two provisions, but it still removes the power of local governments to make their own knife regulations.
Currently, local governments can pass their own ordinances restricting knives, although the maximum penalty they can impose is a fine of up to $50. The bill gives the state legislators the sole power to decide rules for the possession, transfer and transportation of knives.
Some representatives on Tuesday expressed concern that the bill removes local control of the issue.
“We need to just put this to bed about local control,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin. “We argue for it on one and then against it on the next one. Let’s get a little consistency.”
Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said he is usually “all for local control,” but this case is an exception.
“Any law that allows you to travel from one county to the next without breaking the law is good,” he said.
Rep. Vance Dennis is the House sponsor. The Savannah Republican said he expects the Senate to conform to the House version.
Speaking in favor of the original bill in March, sponsoring Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that citizens should have a right to carry switchblades and long knives.
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As passed by the Senate 27-3 last month, the bill repealed most of current state law on knives – including portions that now ban ownership of switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying knives with blades longer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.
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.”
Sen. Mike Bell has proposed what he calls “a complete rewrite of the knife laws in Tennessee,” repealing present provisions that effectively prohibit use of “switchblades” and apparently ban use of knives with blades longer than four inches for self-defense.
Bell’s bill (SB1015) would also override multiple city and county government ordinances that restrict knives. It was approved on a 7-1 vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with one member abstaining.
The Riceville Republican said he began looking into knife laws after a judge told him “a couple of years ago” he tried to order a knife from an online retailer and was told the company did not ship to Tennessee because it read state law to ban knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
He has since learned, Bell said, that “thousands of people throughout Tennessee” are violating state law by having “switchblade knives,” which he said are more properly called “spring-loaded knives.”
Bell said the present ban on switchblades, which are useful for people who need to open a knife with one hand in some situations, was banned in Tennessee and many other states after ” hysteria caused by Hollywood movies.”
Actually, he said officials of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say they are rarely, if ever, used in crime. Further, with only a slight variation in opening procedure, a knife can avoid the switchblade designation and be legal, he said.
The bill repeals several provisions of current law, including those on the crime of carrying a knife “for the purpose of going armed.” The law now forbids having a knife with a blade of more than 4 inches for such purposes, he said, unless it is used in hunting, fishing, camping or “other lawful activity.”
Effectively, Bell said, that means a person cannot carry a knife for self-defense. He said his 18-year-old daughter cannot legally get a handgun carry permit to possess a gun for self-defense and should be able to carry a long-bladed knife instead.
The only no vote on the committee Tuesday came from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, who said a law enforcement officer had contacted him with concerns about the bill.
Bell said pre-emption of local ordinances is needed to provide statewide uniformity in laws. Clarksville, for example, prohibits knifes with blades longer than 3 inches, shorter than the state standard. Knoxville’s city ordinance, he said, is roughly the same as current state law, though using an array of undefined terms that include “razor, dirk, Bowie knife or other knife of like form” and, in another place, “sword cane” and “ice pick” — if the named items are “for the purpose of going armed.”
Note: There is a national ‘knife rights’ effort, subject of a Mother Jones story. HT/Jeff Woods
A couple of wild turkey gobblers that had been chasing people and otherwise causing a nuisance were killed by TWRA Officer David Carr with a knife, reports the Johnson City Press. While the turkeys had upset some folks, the slayings upset others.
Initially, a special permit had been issued to a local resident that would have allowed the birds to be shot. Carr said the permit was never utilized. Instead, Crum killed the pair of turkeys with a knife Friday following another call from a nearby business that a patron had been chased around their vehicle. When he arrived at the business complex on Limited Centre Street where the mischievous birds were located, Crum had to act based on the fact businesses were open and located near a high-traffic area.
“It was unsafe to shoot,” he said. “They were dispatched quickly and humanely without the discharge of a firearm for public safety. It was just down the road from where the permit was issued. It would not have been a safe area to discharge a firearm.”
…Crum decided to slaughter the wild birds in order to rid the neighborhood of the terrorizing turkeys. The method used to dispatch the birds is a concern for some of the local fans of the deceased gobblers.
“To me, this is totally bizarre and unnecessary,” said John Conley, a broker agent at Century Pro Service Realtor, No. 3 Limited Centre. “I never had a bit of problems. A couple of agents were petting them earlier that afternoon (before they were killed).”
Conley’s workplace sits just across from the sidewalk stained with a trail of blood that shows evidence of the turkeys’ demise. Conley said he and fellow employees enjoyed seeing the turkeys and had recently watched them eat berries off neighboring trees.