Weekend long-read: Why Switchblades are Banned

I have posted a couple of items from Wes Siler of the Gizmodo-spinoff blog Indefinitely Wild in the past. (here, here). A number of you came across this an forwarded it on, so I thought that it was worth putting up for the weekend perusal of those who might have missed it.

In the article Why Switchblades are Banned, Wes traces the intersection of hoplophobia and racism, with a healthy dose of media-sensationalized pearl-clutching.

From Indefinitely Wild:

During the early ‘50s, the white middle class became obsessed with the alleged danger posed by gangs of ethnic minorities allegedly roving America’s cities. That’s one reason for suburbia and the hysteria is what led to the Switchblade Knife Act, as well as the bans by individual states.

Urban street violence was the 1950’s version of The War On Christmas. Look over here while we develop the military-industrial complex! And the switchblade was sexy. What began with “The Toy That Kills” led to a raft of newspaper and tabloid stories, all vilifying the switchblade, then Hollywood got in on the act with Rebel Without A Cause, Crime In The Streets, 12 Angry Men, The Delinquents, High School Confidential, etc, of course culminating with the smash hit broadway musical, West Side Story. That debuted in 1957. It’s no coincidence that the federal Switchblade Knife Act was passed the next year.

The article goes into great historical detail, much of it previously covered here at TTAK, but there is a lot of information that is likely new to many of you as well.

Read the whole thing.


  1. Mike L says:

    I have to confess that many many moons ago when I worked in the “old” Customs Service, I destroyed a number of switchblades travelers brought to the border. A simple matter of putting the blade under your shoe and lifting the handle. The blades were notoriously brittle. Then Inspectors would hand the now defanged switchblade back to the traveler. Lord only knows what happens today. Probably enhanced interrogation and prosecuted as a terrorist.

    1. Roger says:

      The TSA Agents confiscate them, then they sell them on Ebay or keep them. Sometimes they’ll warn you about charging you with a crime, but usually it’s bs.

  2. David says:

    Ha ha! Dude brought [sneaked] a blade into court and everybody stayed focused on the argument at hand. Not sure of the courtroom protocols in the 50’s but I could see something like that happened as opposed to today.True its Hollywood, but definitely an instance where a good guy has a knife.

  3. Michael says:

    Right now in the state of Wisconsin there is a bill to legalize the carry of switchblades, if there are any readers here from the state call your elected state officials. I have.

    And now they should not be banned, like so many things are out of irrational fear.

  4. AW1Ed says:

    Carry a switchblade? I would never carry my 06 Auto, or Covert Folder Auto.
    Not me, nope.

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Weekend long-read: Why Switchblades are Banned

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