We covered the case City of Seattle v. Evans back in 2014 when the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that while some knives may be considered arms, kitchen knives like the paring knife being carried by Mr. Evans at the time of his arrest do not deserve such constitutionally-protected designation.
Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court also ruled against Evans, yet left open the same loophole for knives of a more defensive design to possibly be classified as arms.
City of Seattle prosecutors charged Evans with unlawful use of weapons under a city ordinance declaring it illegal for anyone to “carry concealed or unconcealed … any dangerous knife.” Dangerous knives are defined as any fixed-blade knife and any knife having a blade longer than 3 ½ inches.
Evans was convicted of the misdemeanor following a jury trial. He appealed the conviction, claiming the city ordinance violated his constitutional rights.
Wiggins said in the opinion that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against local government gun restrictions doesn’t extend constitutional protections to small knives. The majority found that cooking knives don’t qualify as “arms.”
“It is true that some weapons may be used for culinary purposes, as it is also true that many culinary utensils may be used when necessary for self-defense; but it does not follow that all weapons are culinary utensils or that all culinary utensils are weapons,” Wiggins said in the majority opinion.
“If a kitchen knife is a protected arm, what about a rolling pin, which might be effectively wielded for protection or attack? Or a frying pan? Or a heavy candlestick?” he continued.
Law Professor and blogger Eugene Volokh notes the same loophole remains in the Supreme Court decision that was present in the Appellate ruling:
” The court also expressly noted that “many knives banned under the Seattle ordinance may be arms deserving constitutional protection…. In a different case under appropriate facts, the ordinance’s ‘broad prohibition’ on carrying arms for purposes of self-defense may well be constitutionally infirm. We reserve judgment on this issue for an appropriate case.”
It seems ludicrous for the court to enshrine vaguery into law. What is the dividing line and who gets to decide? I can carve a pineapple with my CRKT Minimalist, as well as with my CRKT Halfachance machete. I used 10 different knives including my Gerber Propel switchblade to cut chicken wings. It doesn’t matter. Knives at the time of the Revolution were often used for all tasks kitchen and otherwise.