Fresh on the heels of their success in Wisconsin, Knife Rights has moved onto their next challenge, the State of Maryland.
It is hard to think of Maryland knife laws without thinking of the death of Freddie Gray and events that followed. Baltimore has blanket restrictions on switchblades with a definition broad enough that it covered Mr. Gray’s assisted-opener. This was the impetus for police to arrest him, and leading to his eventual death while in police custody.
While one cannot go back and change the past, knife preemption might help prevent a future miscarriage of justice. Baltimore’s ban would be preempted by more permissive State law, and citizens should hopefully be protected from arbitrary knife laws. I say should be, because we have seen police departments refuse to honor these laws either out of ignorance or out of spite.
February 10, 2016: At the request of Knife Rights, a bipartisan Maryland Knife Law Preemption bill, SB 653, has been introduced by Senators Wayne Norman and John Astle. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. We will let you know when it’s time to contact committee members on this bill.
Last year’s tragic Freddie Gray arrest highlighted the kind of problems that arise without preemption. Under Maryland law, Freddie Gray’s assisted-opening knife was clearly not a switchblade by standard legal definitions. Even if it was, switchblades are legal to open carry in Maryland and from the arresting officer’s account the knife and clip were clearly visible. However, Baltimore has both a complete prohibition of “switch-blade knives” and a unique and unusual definition of a switchblade that might conceivably include Gray’s assisted-opening knife, although we would contend that it does not. In any case, if knife law preemption had been the law in Maryland, then only state law would count and there clearly would have been no knife law violation upon which to arrest Gray. (Click for more details on the Freddie Gray knife, his arrest on the switchblade charge and Baltimore’s switchblade law.)
Knife Law Preemption repeals and prevents local ordinances more restrictive than state law which only serve to confuse or entrap law-abiding citizens traveling within or through the state. Preemption ensures citizens can expect consistent enforcement of state knife laws everywhere in a state.
Knife Rights passed the nation’s first Knife Law Preemption bill in Arizona in 2010 and has since passed preemption bills in Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
When Knife Rights sends out an action alert, we will be sure to pass it along. Have your fingers ready to dial, tweet, and email. We will let you know when it is go-time.