The American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI) is the trade group for the production knife industry. While not all of the industry stalwarts are members, a significant number are. I have spent more time covering Knife Rights, which through grass-roots advocacy has been leading the charge for knife-law reform in America. I personally view AKTI as being somewhat late to the party. In January 2016 they announced an increased focus on the effort, issuing this press release.
Earlier this month AKTI announced the introduction in Congress of the Interstate Transport Act (ITA – S. 1092), which turns out to be a watered-down and dangerously ineffective alternative to the latest version of the Knife Owner Protection Act (KOPA – H.R. 84), conceived and authored by Knife Rights, which was introduced on the opening day of this congressional session. Both bills ostensibly aim for the same goal, “to protect the right of law-abiding citizens to transport knives interstate, notwithstanding a patchwork of local and State prohibitions.” KOPA would actually do just that, while the ITA fails miserably in that, and worse, actually endangers knife owners traveling the country. The question is, Why?
The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) today announced the introduction of the Interstate Transport Act (ITA), (S. 1092) sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi, R-WY, and Ron Wyden, D-OR. The bill will ensure federal protection for lawful knife owners traveling through the current patchwork of state and local knife laws. It is the continuation of an effort AKTI has lead for many years to better protect lawful knife owners traveling across the country.
After discussing AKTI’s ITA with Doug Ritter, Chairman of Knife Rights, he provided the following statement:
Knife Rights congratulates Senator Mike Enzi on the introduction of S. 1092, the Interstate Transport Act. We note that H.R. 84, the Knife Owners’ Protection Act, introduced by Representative Andy Biggs at the request of Knife Rights, provides knife owners more robust protections while traveling with knives. It also includes repeal of the Federal Switchblade Act.
Knife Rights is committed to work with Senator Enzi, all members of congress, industry and stakeholders to pass legislation that will ensure that law-abiding knife owners are not subject to often malicious prosecutions in states that ban certain types of knives and those in which knife laws are ambiguous. Knife Right is committed to doing what’s best for America’s knife owners and our friends in the industry.
Originally introduced by Knife Rights in 2013, the notable addition (as mentioned above in Doug’s statement) to this year’s edition of KOPA is the inclusion of language which would repeal the archaic and irrational 1958 Federal Switchblade Act (FSA). The ITA doesn’t include repeal of the FSA. As Knife Rights noted when KOPA was introduced, it is their opinion that this is a unique golden opportunity to go for the whole enchilada while there is across the board Republican control of the Federal Government. I personally agree with this assessment. There’s a window of opportunity here to get rid of the FSA that should not be missed and it only makes sense for these to get through this Congress together in one bill.
I have no particular need to be diplomatic. When compared to this year’s iteration of KOPA, I think AKTI’s ITA bill sucks. It is a terrible bill for knife owners as they would still be subject to arrest and prosecution. Why in the world would an industry organization promote a dangerously flawed bill that fails to accomplish its stated goal of safe transit for knife owners?
The Interstate Transport Act is fundamentally flawed in large part because it simply lifts much of its language from the court-eviscerated Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA). This 30-year-old law has proven horribly ineffective in preventing prosecution of innocent travelers who are in transit with their guns from freer states through bastions of hoplophobia such as New Jersey and New York (see Revell v. Port Authority; Torraco v. Port Authority and Ass’n of N.J. Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Port Authority ).
I have learned from my conversations with Doug, that KOPA was written in consultation with lawyers and gun rights organizations that had to fight those losing battles. KOPA incorporates the tough lessons learned from FOPA as gaping holes were punched in it by the courts. KOPA’s language plugs those holes and addresses those failings and would actually protect knife owners in transit. The Interstate Transit Act, like FOPA, will give knife owners a dangerous false sense of security, putting them at risk of life-altering arrest and prosecution. And, just as an aside, the NRA is backing a pair of bills in Congress this session (H.R 358 and S. 618) that would incorporate these exact same sort of changes into FOPA using virtually identical language. Yet AKTI’s bill goes in the opposite direction.
Also like FOPA, the ITA fails to include a dedicated right of action, which these same courts have ruled those seeking protection from a FOPA violation have no right to. In other words, even when a jurisdiction ignores the law and still arrests or prosecutes you, and you win, you have no way to claw back what it cost you. That is an invitation to abuse by these hoplophobic states and cities. Without it, knife owners are at a major disadvantage and likely to be screwed. KOPA includes a very robust right of action.
Finally, there is also quite a bit of “weasel language” in the AKTI bill which is not present in KOPA. Some examples include expanding some rulemaking authority – from just Congress to the vast and unaccountable Federal bureaucracy, or language that would restrict covered knives only to those that are both legal to “possess and carry” as opposed to all knives. Do we really want to trust unelected bureaucrats to make rules for traveling with knives?
So the question remains, why is AKTI putting forward a bill that endangers knife owners, their own customers? What do they see as the benefit to them, or their customers, in the passing of a deeply flawed and frankly dangerous bill? And, why would their press release paint such a rosy picture when the ITA fails completely to actually protect knife owners from arrest and prosecution?
I still don’t understand why would they not include repeal of the FSA like KOPA does, given this unique convergence of opportunity? A cynical view would be that it has to do with the protectionist barrier that the FSA provides against imported automatics. But, a number of the members of their Board of Regents are importers who would likely make millions of dollars off that change. Maybe they were out-voted. Maybe they had just watched a James Dean movie marathon on AMC. There just is not a down side to repealing the FSA and growing the market for automatics. This is a boon for both the industry and the consumer, and yet they won’t back the effort when the opportunity could not be better. Why not?
So the bottom line is that the ITA fails to actually protect knife owners, fails to repeal the Federal Switchblade Act, and squanders a golden opportunity to really see fundamental change in knife-law at the Federal level. KOPA would do all of these things. It really is a “grab the brass ring moment” and the AKTI is blowing it.
I don’t know if the fact that KOPA is a Knife Rights effort is behind AKTI’s decision to go another direction. By doing so however, they are doing a disservice to the industry, but more importantly their customers, in failing to join in the KOPA effort. Their support could be what finally breaks the dam and gets this thing done. I am sure that Knife Rights would welcome it. This isn’t about who gets credit, it is about seizing the moment. I hope that AKTI will do the right thing.
Otherwise, I am left wondering: Why not?
You can read the two bills here:
Summary: H.R. 84 (KOPA) vs. S. 1092 (ITA) (courtesy of Knife Rights)
|Right of Action to Protect Against Unjust Enforcement||Yes1||No||Normally available private cause of action under 42 U.S.C 1983 precluded by 2nd Circuit FOPA decision13|
|Covers Transportation via Any Means||Yes2||No||2nd and 3rd Circuit FOPA decisions exclude many airline travel itineraries and likely would be extended in these jurisdictions to exclude train, marine and other modes of transportation where travel may be commonly broken into segments12,13|
Interruptions in Travel
|Yes3||No||3rd Circuit decision does not provide FOPA protections in the case of normally foreseeable travel interruptions11|
|All Knives Covered||Yes4||No5||S.1092 ONLY includes knives that are BOTH legal to possess AND legal to carry at the beginning and end of the journey, ALL OTHER KNIVES ARE EXCLUDED|
|Prohibited Persons Exclusion Limited to Congress||Yes6||No7||Unelected Federal bureaucrats can establish additional “prohibited person” classes by “rule or regulation”|
|Prohibits Act from Protecting Criminal Activity||Yes3||No|
|Storage in Locked Container||Yes||Yes||In a motor vehicle without a compartment separate from the passenger compartment|
|Storage in Locked Console or Glove Compartment||Yes8||No9||Locked “console” or “glove compartment” provides the exact same safety and security as a locked “container,” no more or no less.|
|Emergency Knives Definition Covers all Applicable Knives||Yes14||No15||S.1092 covers only knives “blades of which consist only of a blunt tipped safety blade, a guarded blade, or both ” and “specifically designed for enabling escape in an emergency by cutting safety belts” artificially and superficially narrowing significantly the knives which someone might carry that are appropriate to the task.|
|Repeals the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act||Yes10||No||Switchblade knives are legal to possess to one degree or another in 43 states.|
1 H.R.84 Sec. 2(e)
2 H.R.84 Sec. 2(a)(1) &(2)
3 H.R.84 Sec. 2(f)
4 H.R.84 Sec. 2(a)
5 S.1092 Sec. 2(a)
6 H.R.84 Sec. 2(a)
7 S.1092 Sec. 2(a)
8 H.R.84 Sec. 2(a)(1)
9 S.1092 Sec. 2(a)(2)(B)
10 H.R.84 Sec. 3
11 598 F.3d 128 (3d Cir. 2010) Revell v. PORT AUTHORITY OF NY AND NJ
12 730 F.3d 252 (3d Cir. 2013) ASS’N OF N.J. RIFLE v. PORT AUTH. OF NY
13 615 F.3d 129 (2d Cir. 2010) Torraco v. PORT AUTHORITY OF NY AND NJ
14 H.R83 Sec. 2(b)
15 S.1092 Sec 2(b)(1_(ii)