Instead of repealing Tennessee knife laws, legislators accept state standard

Switchblade knives will remain illegal in Tennessee despite a push from Illinois-based interest group Knife Rights to legalize these knives and others. Image Courtesy Direct Knife Sales

Switchblade knives will remain illegal in Tennessee despite a push from Arizona-based interest group Knife Rights to legalize these knives and others. Image Courtesy Direct Knife Sales

A proposal that would eliminate almost all of the state’s laws about carrying a knife was ultimately watered down in response to push back from the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association. 

Instead of dropping the state’s ban on automatic switchblade knives and restrictions of blades longer than four-inches, the new proposal only prevents local governments from having more strict rules than state law – known as “preemption.” The watered-down proposal has passed in the House and must be reapproved by the Senate before heading to the governor for his signature.

The legislation was originally written by Knife Rights, an organization calling for nation-wide loosening of knife laws. The Arizona-based group is currently working in five other states to eliminate knife restrictions, with successful passage in Kansas and Alaska.

Knife Rights president Doug Ritter says Tennessee is the first state where the organization has had a set back in repealing knife restrictions.

“We certainly will be back next year,” Ritter said.

Ritter says “preemption” does lay the groundwork for making changes to knife laws in the future.

Instead of debating the merits of carrying a knife, discussion in the House was primarily about local control.

Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah) is the sponsor and says Tennesseans shouldn’t have to worry about crossing county lines with their knives, and being subject to different knife carry laws. For instance, Clarksville restricts blade lengths to three inches instead of the four inches allowed in state law.

“The reason [for preemption] is to provide uniformity across the state in relation to knives in exactly the same way as we do with firearms,” Dennis said.

Democrats accuse Republicans of being inconsistent concerning local control.

Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) says he’s happier with where the bill ended up in terms of preserving the state’s knife laws. Still, he’s concerned with taking away local control.

“I think we need to be consistent with local control, and with this bill it doesn’t happen,” Fitzhugh said.

 

Chelsea Mihelich

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