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A new state law signed by Gov. John Lynch on Tuesday removes the penalty for carrying or selling Switchblades, along with stilettos, dirk and dagger knives.
“All we did was get rid of an old, antiquated law that was enacted in the 1950s,” said Rep. Jennifer Coffey, R-Andover, prime sponsor of the legislation. “We need laws on criminal activities, not on objects.” The bill took shape after Coffey, the vice president of the Andover Rescue Squad, was looking for a new tool for her job an emergency medical technician. She was looking for an all-in-one tool with an automatic mechanism, a knife that would free up use of one hand. As she shopped around, Coffey said she discovered what she wanted she could not legally buy in the state. And though state law provided an exemption for EMTs, along with law enforcement, hunters and others, she found the exemption would not apply when she was off-duty. Coffey said there are more than 125 occupations or hobbies in which knives are primary tools. “We don’t need to penalize hunters, fisherman, mountain climbers,” she said. The more she researched, the more Coffey said she found the old law was being selectively enforced. It had to be, she reasoned, given the many blades, automatic or otherwise, that are used daily by people. Coffey said at the state’s popular Highland Games, people dressing in Scottish attire with a traditional Scottish dirk were technically in violation of the law, but were not rounded up and arrested. But people elsewhere were being brought up on charges.
Abe Foote, of Abe’s Awesome Armaments in New Hampton, was one of them. He said he was arrested, charged and taken to court in 2002 after he sold a knife to a police officer. Foote estimates the case cost him about $7,000, including legal costs, fines and loss of inventory and sales. Foote, who testified in support of Coffey’s bill, said the law was antiquated and selectively enforced. “It was a good thing that this law was repealed so that no other law-abiding citizen has to go through what I went through,” he said last night.
The bipartisan bill sailed through the New Hampshire Legislature, with committees hearing support for the change from law enforcement officers, wildlife groups and outdoors people. As Coffey put it, “There are enough laws on the books to cover criminal intent.” The old law subjected a person guilty of carrying or selling switchblades, stilettos, or dagger and dirk knives to a misdemeanor, and the knives were required to “be confiscated to the use of the state.” The prohibition in RSA 159:16 still holds for blackjacks, slung shots (a weight on the end of a flexible piece of cord or chain) and brass knuckles, and it is still illegal for a felon to have a knife, said Evan F. Nappen, a Concord attorney who has literally written the book on the subject, “New Hampshire Gun, Knife, & Weapon Law.” Nappen said the old law was vague to begin with, possibly as part of the regulatory rush on switchblades by federal and State governments in the late 1950s. For example, he said, the law called them “switch knives,” not switchblades, and they were not properly defined in statute. They are also known as automatic knives.
The state Legislature has recognized that how a knife opens has no bearing on whether the knife is good or bad, said Doug Ritter, chairman of Knife Rights Inc., a non-profit advocacy group, who testified in support of the bill. He said there are 27 states where automatic knives are legal and he believes the New Hampshire law is the first complete repeal of knife restrictions in a state.
“It makes a clear statement that people in this great country are fed up with irrational and illogical laws that restrict them for no good reason,” he said. “It is a real statement that this is a country where freedom counts, where we don’t penalize honest, law-abiding folks just because some people have an emotional reaction against something.” The “emotional reaction” came from what Ritter called the Hollywood exploitation of switchblades. Nappen, who also provides counsel to Knife Rights Inc.,
gave a similar nod to the rival gangs in “West Side Story” to try to de-mystify the switchblade. “The Sharks and the Jets are in their 80s now,” he said, “I don’t think we have to worry about them.”
By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader
Now I have cited this article for it’s clarity and simplicity and not to in some way PLAIGERISE….Dan Tuohy. He wrote an excellant piece and I intended to give you all of the facts as recorderd in the media in the state where this law was inacted.
I have entered this debate because of the excellant work of Knife Rights Inc…and a good friend over on Maine Hunting Today’s Forum…………Rev Jeff!! He posed a question on the site about how we should be reacting to this and other efforts to insure our rights under the constitution to keep and bear arms. Arms as in armaments. Look the word up and you will see that arm does not just mean the gun…it means “weapons” or armaments. Arms is just an abbreviation or slang of the term armaments.
I am obviously in support of any affirmation of my rights to keep and bear arms.
But should we be lifting all restrictions on weapons od all types. Should your son have the right to take his Claymore sword to Scottish recognition day at school……..or be able to where it all the time?
Are we going to loose a storm of debates on obscure uses and muddy the water on the ever continuing expansion of gun restrictions. Should gun law also follow Rep. Coffey’s statement…”we have enough laws covering criminal intent.” Therefore we lift all regulation on arms of all kinds?
If you have an opinion on this I challege you to come over and debate it with us on MHT………pro or con!!!