Today I Learned: An odd exemption to switchblade prohibition


The exemption section of the Federal Switchblade Act. (an additional exemption protecting assisted flippers and others was added in 2009)


I occasionally visit /r/knives Reddit to keep an eye out for post ideas. At the top of the list for a chunk of the day was the post “TIL according to federal law if you have one arm you are legally exempt from any penalties if you are in possession or are transporting a switchblade.” I didn’t give it much thought until I was researching my post on Maine legalizing switchblades (as of Oct 15, 2015- don’t get in trouble), and I discovered that Maine’s knife statute contained the same exemption.

This morning I was unaware that such exemption exists. I honestly hadn’t paid close attention to the Federal Switchblade Act. I knew that the 2009 exemption specifically protecting assisted flippers from a power-grab by the US Customs Service was the first major victory for KR’s Chairman and founder Doug Ritter has stated that the repeal of the 1958 law in its entirety is one of the organizations ultimate goals.

While the exemption for amputees makes sense for compassionate reasons, the very concept of exemptions from prohibitions bothers me. While an automatic is certainly wonderful for an amputee, there are plenty of situations where anyone else might find one useful as well.

Prior to Tennessee’s knife law changes last year automatics were completely verboten and I could only carry a knife longer than 4″ if I was “engaged in legal sporting activities”. 

I have a serious problem with having to justify my actions to the State to see if I fit in a loophole or not. It sets up a presumption of guilt until the authorities say I am OK. That turns the proper relationship of the citizenry and the government on its head. They are accountable to us. Not the other way around.

It defies logic that if I were to make a 45 minute drive to fish in the Smokies and I brought my Mora I would be fine, but if I stopped just 5 minutes short on that same drive and went shopping, I would be breaking the law. This despite the good State of Tennessee fingerprinting and background-checking me and feeling sufficiently comfortable to grant me “permission” to exercise my God-given right to bear a firearm in public.


  1. The exemption for amputees was put in place after WWII to take into account wounded combat veterans, or so I understand from reading on the subject.

    1. The act was passed in 1958 as a reaction to pop culture and perceived delinquency. Korean War vets would have been included.

  2. Pat Carver says:

    Because one armed people are more trustworthy than the rest of us.

  3. cmeat says:

    i’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.
    benchmark will ship auto knives to you if you register as a first responder. this also qualifies you for a 30% discount…

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Today I Learned: An odd exemption to switchblade prohibition

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