Michigan

By Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Michigan is on the verge of repealing its antique ban on automatic knives.

Michigan was the first state to ban switchblades. It was an early test of the power of the post-war media to push emotional, irrational, legislation.

The law, which had an exemption for one-armed people, was passed in 1952.

The impetus for the ban is believed to have come from a November, 1950 article  by Jack Harrison Pollack. The Toy That Kills was published in  the Woman’s Home Companion.
Call it propaganda, yellow journalism, muckraking; it had little to do with fact, and everything to do with pushing legislation through emotion. Here is one of the passages.

“Designed for violence, deadly as a revolver — that’s the switchblade, the ‘toy’ youngsters all over the country are taking up as a fad. Press the button on this new version of the pocketknife and the blade darts out like a snake’s tongue. Action against this killer should be taken now. It’s only a short step from carrying a switchblade to gang warfare.

For 65 years property was confiscated, lives were disrupted and people were fined and jailed, for the “crime” of carrying a pocketknife. Many believe the law was selectively enforced against minorities.

An analysis of knife arrests for a similar law in New York, found that 86 percent of the arrests were of black and Hispanic suspects.

After Michigan passed the ban on switchblades, or “automatic” knives, other states followed. New York was the next in 1954. In 1957, the federal government banned the interstate shipment and the importation of switchblades.  In the 1950’s legislators and judges still believed that interstate commerce had to actually involve an item actually crossing state lines.

The switchblade ban became a template for future bans on guns. In 1968, the 1968 Gun Control Act forbade people from one state from buying guns in another state. This turned the prior premise of the Interstate Commerce Clause, which had been designed to prevent the states from interfering with interstate commerce, on its head.  Now the federal government used the clause to prevent interstate commerce.

Michigan legislators have overwhelmingly voted to repeal the offending law.  From detroitnews.com:

Lansing – Michigan’s Republican-controlled House on Tuesday unexpectedly voted to legalize switchblade knives for Michigan residents.

The legislation is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder and would scrap a longstanding ban on knives that use springs to open after the Senate OK’d the plan in April saying that the danger of such knives was overblown.

House lawmakers voted for the legislation 106-1, with Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, the sole dissenter. There was no debate.

The Michigan Senate voted to repeal the law 36-1.

The bill, SB-245, will be sent to Governor Rick Snyder.  It seems likely that he will sign it.  If he vetoes it, there is a good possibility of a veto override. The governor has 14 days from the time he receives the bill to sign it or veto it.  There is plenty of time left in the legislative session for a veto override if legislators decide to do so. If the bill becomes law, it will go into effect after 90 days.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.