Sunday, July 21, 2024

The knife-rights lobby has some less than sharp defenses of their positions. (Photo: Alex France)

Let’s take a break from development issues and other Cambridge nuttiness to gawk at what’s going on outside our borders — you know, where the really weird people live.

Arizona, for instance, has become a haven for knife carriers, according to Sunday’s New York Times, but is only one example of how “the knife rights lobby, the little-known cousin of the more politically potent gun rights movement,” is making strides all over the country. Reading through this story by Marc Lacey provides a few opportunities for perverse delight.

First, here’s a quote from D’Alton Holder, an Arizona knife maker:

“It’s ridiculous to talk about the size of the knife as if that makes a difference. If you carry a machete that’s three feet long, it’s no more dangerous that any knife. You can do just as much damage with an inch-long blade, even a box cutter.”

I can’t say Holder is wrong, of course, but I can say I have no idea what he’s talking about. Surely a trained soldier or martial artist can do as much “damage” with an inch-long blade as the average person could do with a machete, but is that really the scenario we’re pursuing? I can think of a time when blades were the best weapons humans had, yet I seem to remember plenty of people wielding sabers when, apparently, all they needed was a toothpick.

This might be unfair, since a knife is not a sword, but skilled cooks demand a range of knives for different purposes, and surgeons have different kinds of scalpels, so Holder’s theory about how I can do as much “damage” with a box-cutter as with any of those, let alone a 30-inch katana, seems quite a stretch — but is perfectly in line with the quantum thinking of the gun nuts for whom guns don’t kill people, people kill people. This is why, I guess, 13-year-olds should be able to play with butterfly knives as well as use X-Acto blades to cut out parts for model airplanes. (If 13-year-olds still make model airplanes.)

Then another knife advocate, New Hampshire state Rep. Jennifer Coffey, doubles down on the weirdness by citing to the Times what she sees as the hypocrisy and foolishness of bans on certain kinds of blades.

“We had certain knives that were illegal, but I could walk down the street with a kitchen knife that I used to carve a turkey and that would be legal,” Coffey said. “I’d be more scared of a kitchen knife than a switchblade.”

This fear of kitchen knives, while not explained in the Times article, almost makes sense in the context of gun rights. That’s because in that context a ban on assault rifles is an attack against folks who go rabbit hunting on weekends, even though that makes no sense in the real world where meeting a hunter wearing a neon orange vest and bearing a rifle in a field in daylight is, in fact, different from coming across a gang member wearing a mask and carrying a Saturday Night Special in an alley at night. We get that any knife can be used for purposes good and evil, but more people have innocent uses for a kitchen knife than a switchblade.

What Coffey says also makes no sense when compared with Holder’s comments, since he was the guy who taught us all knives are equally dangerous.

Finally, the Times article makes note of a case in Seattle where a police officer fatally shot a man whom he thought was carrying a knife. The knife — used for carving wood — was found closed, though, and this somehow “shows how volatile knives continue to be.”

It’s unclear who’s using this story how, since there are also examples of police officers shooting people who were reaching for their wallets. Even if someone can do as much damage with a vinyl wallet as a leather one, can any wallet do as much damage as a knife? You never hear about the wallet-rights crowd talking about how volatile an issue billfolds continue to be.