Legislature votes to legalize switchblades

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing – Michigan’s Republican-controlled House on Tuesday unexpectedly voted to legalize switchblade knives for Michigan residents.

The legislation is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder and would scrap a longstanding ban on knives that use springs to open after the Senate OK’d the plan in April saying that the danger of such knives was overblown.

House lawmakers voted for the legislation 106-1, with Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, the sole dissenter. There was no debate.

A spokesman for Snyder said he would review the legislation when it gets to his office but has no position yet.

State law currently stops anyone from selling or owning a pocket knife that can be opened with a button or pressure on the handle and is punishable by up to a year in prison or a $300 fine. But that doesn’t apply to one-armed individuals who might need a switchblade. If Snyder signs the bill, it wouldn’t apply to anyone.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the bill sponsor and a former sheriff said the law is not strictly enforced and urged fellow lawmakers to update state law.

Some 43 other states allow some form of switchblade to be owned, according to Knife Rights, an Arizona-based knife advocacy group. Thirty states allow everyday carry and the group urged Michigan to repeal its prohibition and lobbied lawmakers in Indiana and Wisconsin to do the same.

Jones previously said the ban was inspired by fear of glamorizing gang violence after movies like “West Side Story” featured knife-wielding, deadly gang dancers.

Robinson, who voted no, said she thinks lawmakers should do a more comprehensive review of the state’s knife laws and argued that switchblades are just too dangerous.

“What they’ve done is cause more confusion,” she said, questioning why they voted to legalize switchblades but not other illegal knives.

“Why this? I think it’s inherently dangerous. You can be sliced and gutted, as we say.”


Twitter: @MikeGerstein