Switchblades On The Rise In Tennessee

Photo credit: Iamthawalrus9 at Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Iamthawalrus9 at Wikimedia Commons

I came across this article from Nashville Public Radio recently, “Switchblades Return to Tennessee As Knife Rights Movement Quietly Grows” detailing the scene in the state now that it’s antiquated switchblade ban has been stricken from the books. It tries to remain balanced, but some “anti” bias does creep in.

Throughout the article, the authors assume that any automatic knife is exclusively a weapon, probably because most people think of Italian stiletto style knives (pictured above) when they hear the term “switchblade.” Of course, this is not always the case. A push-button deploying knife is just another way of opening a blade, with no practical difference from other one hand openers. They can range the gamut from those designed for combat to mundane box cutting tools.

The article does not see things this way. Check out this quote equating automatic knives to “high-powered rifles.”

From the article at nashvillepublicradio.org:

The monthly Bill Goodman Gun & Knife Show at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds has just about everything a weapons collector could want: Handguns and high-powered rifles, tomahawks and tasers – in colors that range from survivalist camo to hot pink.

But perhaps the most surprising find is at the table of dealer Eva Simmons: a 1970s-era switchblade, the kind with a black-and-silver handle and a curlicue guard. These were illegal in Tennessee until recently.

The article does mention that knife crime today is not what it once was. Terry Ashe, Executive Director of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, thinks he knows why knives are not as attractive to criminal element as they once were.

“It’s not as common as it was years ago because there are more guns now,” he says.

Frankly, I’m skeptical of anything Terry Ashe says. This is the same guy who managed to gut Tennessee’s first attempt at repealing their switchblade ban, feeding the emotional frenzy by saying a switchblade sounds just like a shotgun being racked.

The only number the article cites is for the last year of data available, with no numbers to support the assertion that knife crime is declining. Of course, raw numbers only tell part of the story. It would be interesting to see the actual percentages of violent crime involving knives going back to the original passing of TN’s switchblade ban, to see if the decrease coincides with the already falling crime rate, or if the percentage has indeed gotten smaller.

I think the big takeaway from the article is that we have some educating to do with regards to the general public’s perception of automatic knives.

Again, from the article:

“I’ve pulled out a knife before and opened it up and somebody said, ‘Ooh, why are you carrying a switchblade?’ And it’s like, it wasn’t even a switchblade. It was a manual knife,” says Chris Tenpenny, who owns Nashville Sporting Arms. “You know, there’s just a lot of strange perceptions out there.”

Speaking of perception, the term “switchblade” has all the connotations of “assault weapon” to those who are not versed on the subject. I prefer the term “push-button knife” as even use of the word “automatic” can connote a connection to guns.

The article may not be as neutral as I would like, but it is nice to see in the press anyway. You can listen to it using the Soundcloud player below, or follow this link to the transcript.


[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174760275″ params=”color=ff5500″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]


  1. Sam L. says:

    It’s NPR; of course bias comes in.

  2. Curtis says:

    The bottom line is that most people are uninformed and don’t take the time to get informed before making a judgement. When I was a kid our English teacher had us reenacting part of west side story. In one scene there was a stabbing and I asked what the big deal was. Taken aback, my teacher replied “he used a switchblade!”

    For personal friends, a quick demo with an auto vs a manual like a gerber mini-covert is usually enough to dispel the folly of an auto ban in this day and age.

    Groups like knife rights help convince the ones that matter (lawmakers) but I’m afraid that the unwashed masses might be a lost cause.

  3. Roy says:

    As they say, Tenneseein’ is Tennebelievin’.
    That said. Switchblades are legal in my state as well, and I’ve always wanted a good Italian Stilleto-type knife, if only because they look cool. Anybody have insight as to where I might find a decent one for under a c-note?

    1. Jon M. says:

      Frank Beltrame makes some stilettos for around a Benjamin, but I have no clue what steel they use in their blades, they just say “stainless steel”. Really not an issue for what is mostly a conversation piece, but I’m a nerd like that.

      I think the lowest price for a well made switch blade type knife would be the Protech Godson. Still somewhat spendy, but they’re really, really nice and use top notch materials AND you can use it as a knife.

  4. Curtis says:

    @Roy – Jon M is right with the Beltrame knives. BladeOps has them from time to time and they come in some nice horn scales and also synthetic styles as well. If anyone else has a source or brand to recommend I would love to learn more!

  5. Dave the Jeffersonian says:

    Switchblades are cool, but….

    I have never understood the panic about them.

    I can deploy my K-Bar Zombie killer just as fast as any automatic knife. Same for my other EDC folders.

    So why on earth is there so much panic about them? Goes back to “media conditioning” where people develop an irrational belief about something because of depictions in the the media rather than anything to do with real life. From West Side Story and the Wild One to any number of movies and TV shows the bad guy flicks out a 4 inch switch blade and with a single cut, kills someone.

    So, people got scared by the media and banned them. Not for any real reasons, but just because the media scared them.

    Now NPR, which I generally like, comes up with garbage like this. More media, using enhanced sound effects to scare people. To be clear, I know that my Mossberg ATP 500 makes a LOT more noise racking the slide than my Mel Pardue auto does opening.

    This beings to put us on the path that the UK has been testing.

    For honest citizens they have banned:

    – Most fire arms
    – Clubs of any type
    – Anything that resembles an EDC folder

    Now they keep crying about “knife violence” (although how a knife can in itself be violent is beyond me) and want to extend their ban to any knife with a sharp point.

    Keep in mind that in the UK if you are under 18 you cannot legally buy a butter knife, much less a Spyderco Matriarch. Now the Nannies want to ban the production and ownership of sharp pointed kitchen knives as well.

    Yes, I DO know that the initial legislation failed. But that is how you start. Try it out, test the bounds and then keep coming back.

    Time to gt back to our roots and stop BANNING things. This is supposed to be a nation of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    And cool sharp things make me happy.

  6. Sean Webb says:

    I live in VA where auto’s are illegal but it blows my mind why, when you consider that i can just as easily and quickly deploy any decent folding knife, or carry a small fixed blade that does not require any deployment at all.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Switchblades On The Rise In Tennessee

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email