At the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting this year, knives are the new guns.
A growing movement recognizes that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms goes beyond guns, and also guarantees the right to have a knife.
The issue now has its own organization, which is participating in the NRA’s events in Indianapolis this weekend at the its 144th Annual Meeting. A number of NRA leaders have publicly expressed their support for Knife Rights, a growing organization promoting recognition and protection of the right to of law-abiding and peaceful Americans to carry knives as part of the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment “to keep and bear arms.”
Lead by its chairman, Doug Ritter, Knife Rights has been moving legislation at the state level recognizing and protecting the right of law-abiding Americans to carry knives. Laws protecting knife rights have already passed in a number of states, including Arizona, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and the NRA’s host state of Indiana.
Much of the credit for this legislation goes to Knife Rights’ lobbyist Todd Rathner, the head of Rathner and Associates, who also serves on the NRA’s board of directors. And the NRA’s popular former president, Sandy Froman–a longtime Rathner ally who still serves on the NRA board and holds a lifetime chair on the NRA executive council–has headlined Knife Rights events to advance this aspect of the Second Amendment.
NRA leadership support for the right to own a knife doesn’t end with Froman and Rathner. The CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, has publicly endorsed the Ritter/Rathner organization, saying, “Knife Rights is the second front in the defense of the Second Amendment. They are the premier grassroots organization protecting our right to own knives.”
Now recognizing the right to own a knife has gone to the federal level as well. In November 2013, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)–a conservative champion during the Clinton years who returned to Congress in 2012–introduced the Knife Owners’ Protection Act (KOPA). Salmon explains, “This legislation is long overdue. The Knife Owners’ Protection Act is a responsible and reasonable means of ensuring that knife owners throughout America can travel with assurance that their rights will be respected with equal respect for states with overly restrictive knife laws.”
So a new conversation has emerged regarding the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Criminals with a knife can use them to terrible effect, just like criminals with guns. The message of the NRA and like-minded individuals is that if a “bad guy” is going to have a weapon, every law-abiding and peaceable “good guy” has a right to have one, to protect themselves and their families. This is especially true regarding knives, which no legislation could ever ban because they’re used on a daily basis in kitchens nationwide.
This discussion raises additional angles few people–if any–regularly consider. How long can these knives be? Once they get long enough, they become swords. Do Americans have the right to walk down the street with a broadsword strapped around their waist like a medieval night? Or a katana like a Japanese samurai? Or a claymore like a Scottish highlander?
For that matter, what about other edged weapons? Does this also cover spears, or battleaxes? It was illegal under English common law to engage in what was called “affrighting,” which meant appearing in public with bizarre weapons that would tend to terrify people. For example, a person could not walk around with a headsman’s axe, the primary purpose of which is to decapitate people as they kneel on the executioner’s stand.
Where does the Second Amendment draw the line between a pocket knife and a headsman’s axe? Sooner or later a federal court may have to answer that question.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.