Knives as "Arms"

Volokh has an interesting examination of case law regarding whether knives are "arms" for Second Amendment purposes.

A lot seems to turn on whether a class of weapon is regularly used in "civilized warfare."  That standard would seem to make it proper to carry a Kabar, since it was military issue and is still regularly carried by soldiers, sailors and Marines...

...but not a Buck knife, which is primarily for hunting.  Yet the design is substantially the same, except the Buck 119 Special is a little shorter.

It's nice to know that swords still turn up as 'weapons of civilized war.' They're not as random or clumsy as a handgun, either.


E Hines said...

From Volokh's account the police confronted Griffin at the top of the basement stairs, they asked whether he had a knife.

This is the only statement of what the police asked Griffin; the rest of the exposition refers only to "weapons." Thus, it's not clear to me whether Griffin was asked whether he was carrying a "knife" (what would lead the officer to be that specific?) or a "weapon."

In the latter case, I'd likely deny I had a weapon, too, particularly had I just been using an eating utensil as a prybar in my basement. No thought of weaponry there.

But the larger problem is the definition of "arms" under the 2d Amendment. Certainly common weapons of war would count. But what is the purpose of the Amendment? Originally to allow an armed citizenry to protect itself from an overweening government. But also to collect food and to protect against brigands. And in that last case, it seems to me that anything that comes to hand--including such ordinary household implements as a hammer or a screwdriver--or a homemade circuit tester, consisting of a length of cord with a plug on one end and a light bulb on the other, with the socket ripped off in the emergency--would constitute an "arm." Or a steak knife or a fork.

I have no principled objection, though, the the government setting certain parameters on my possession and carrying of a weapon, at least of the "ordinary" kind, rather than the tool bent to a use in an emergency. Certainly there's a public safety imperative in the state insisting that I demonstrate a threshold level of skill in maintaining and using the weapon I might choose to carry, be that a .40 cal Sig, or a Bowie knife, or a Legionnaire's short sword, just because I think that might be cool to run around with.

But I shouldn't need a separate license to carry concealed.

Eric Hines

raven said...

Civilized war. Hmm.

The only person I ever encountered who had been in an action where swords were employed had little regard for them as a weapon. He found the BAR and M1 far superior . Although he had to use his Kabar several times, as the pesky Japs had a habit of coming through the lines at night looking for trouble.

All the parsing and obfuscation employed by the anti-weapon cabal of fools just shines a spot light on their abysmal (calculated) understanding of American history.
The essence of it is simple- the reason someone wants to disarm you, is because they intend to do something to you , that they would be unable to do if you were armed. Insert long list of personal and historic examples here.

bthun said...

"They're not as random or clumsy as a handgun"

While I'll admit that I am now clumsy, I must say with sufficient practice the use of a sidearm does not have to be either random or clumsy. I think I know what you mean, but I had to say it...

Anyway, this posting made me once again wonder what exactly our state law says WRT edged devices of a certain nature.

What a headache. I reviewed O.C.G.A. 16-11-127.1 and O.C.G.A. 16-11-125.1 which states (among other definitions),

(2) "Knife" means a cutting instrument designed for the purpose of offense and defense consisting of a blade that is greater than five inches in length which is fastened to a handle.

This is, I think, is a result of SB-432 being signed into law just recently with the intent to define ye old edged devices of a certain nature/length as weapons. And to prohibit local jurisdictions from making up more restrictive ordinances on ye old edged devices of a certain nature/length... willy-nilly...

Clearer than mud, mostly, as usual.

Grim said...

This is why people love lawyers.

The law explaining the concealed weapon permits says this:

Awesome! "Any weapon"!

Only, the entirely separate code section that defines words says:

"(5) "Weapon" means a knife or handgun."

So "any weapon" means "any knife or handgun." Or sword, I guess, since the legal definition for knife seems to include them.

Grim said...

Sorry, forgot to include the language from the license section:

Such license or renewal license shall authorize that person to carry any weapon in any county of this state notwithstanding any change in that person's county of residence or state of domicile.

bthun said...


On the plus side, they did not legislate against slings, combustible PVC projectile launchers, or trebuchets...

An oversight that will no doubt be corrected when the first whack job lays siege to an Outlet Mall.

E Hines said...

combustible PVC projectile launchers

If it's a tubed projectile launcher, it's a gun. If you made it by hand, it's a hand gun.


Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

I've relinquished more penknives than I can count at airport security gates. I keep forgetting they're in there. Apparently they're quite enough to turn me into a dangerous armed assassin.

I was surprised to find they have no problem with my crochet hooks, even the very fine ones, which are sharp enough that I've punctured myself with them accidentally more than once -- about like a shishkebob skewer. So, as hard as it is to believe, someone seems to have made a reasonable executive decision to leave the little old crocheting and knitting ladies alone. That's profilin', and that's wrong.

E Hines said...

That's profilin', and that's wrong.

That's also a problem with government (or any other entity) over-engineering a problem.

And it's an example of Rule by Law, rather than Rule of Law.

Eric Hines

bthun said...

"I've relinquished more penknives than I can count at airport security gates. I keep forgetting they're in there. Apparently they're quite enough to turn me into a dangerous armed assassin."

My first encounter with Zero Tolerance directive that states all pocket knives are potentially lethal was when I was hobbling into the county Court House a few years back, to renew my CCW, IIRC. As I emptied my pockets and surrendered my walking stick! to the Deputy at the security station by the entrance, he notes my Case blue bone medium Stockman in the dish now containing my assorted pocket stuff. Now the Stockman is one medium-small to iddy biddy pocket knife. The Deputy tells me I can either surrender the knife to the county --it will not be returned--, reclaim my possessions and leave, or go secure the knife in my truck and queue up for screening one mo time.

I initiated a brief conversation on the potential lethality of the knife versus someone proficient in the martial arts, mostly to vent my annoyance that I could not simply stow the knife with the Deputy and retrieve the 'lethal weapon' when I left the Court House. Walking any distance was very difficult for me at that time.

Upshot of my first attempt to gain access to the Court House that morning was the Deputy agreeing with me, he was very courteous and his bearing was all pro, but he executed the it's not my decision, I'm following orders eye-roll™, please don't be a PITA barely discernible projection. Since I'm a fairly chea... er, frugal person and besides, I'm right fond of and somewhat attached to every one of my edged devices of a certain nature, I hiked backed to my truck after the other deputy finished closely examining my cane to determine if it too was or was not a 'lethal weapon'.

At least I was allowed the use of my cane in the Court House. I suppose the author/enforcer of the lethal weapons list is not a fan of cheesy Chinese gung fu movies and does not realize the inherent lethality of a walking stick. =;^}

My how times have changed.

E Hines said...

I suppose the author/enforcer of the lethal weapons list is not a fan of cheesy Chinese gung fu movies and does not realize the inherent lethality of a walking stick.

I was thinking of how fine a spear a walking stick makes, in many respects better than one with a sharp, pointy end.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Walking sticks are even legal in China. I took one with me for that express purpose. It had a fine heavy brass knob, and was shod in brass at the end, too.

bthun said...

"Walking sticks are even legal in China. I took one with me for that express purpose."

Indeed. Even though I winked, a walking stick, in trained hands can be pretty lethal, or at minimum painful to the unaware assailant.

My footwork ain't what it used to be and would be a liability in a physical contest with another. I've had to learn to compensate via others means. The use of a cain for a purpose other than just as an aid to walk being but one.

bthun said...

This conversation reminded of a story I read a while back on, among others, Bill Jordan and Rex Applegate. Knowing this to be a topic you often mention Grim, I went rooting around and found a link to the original article.

In Colonel Applegate's case the thugs saw an old man who had to walk with the aid of a cane. What they didn't know is a cane in the hands of Applegate was not only a walking stick but also a very capable self-defense weapon. He caned both of them into a state of unconsciousness. Don't mess with the old guy.

The moral and title of the story, Don't mess with the old guy!

douglas said...

Now that reminds me of a clothing company whose products my father is fond of (and I'm getting to be).