British Medical Experts Say Knives Too Pointy, Call For Ban

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Citing a wave of stabbings in early 2005, a group of British medical experts have called for laws requiring knives to be blunt. Not all knives, of course—that would be stupid—but at least the kind of long, pointy knives often used by chefs and apparently also by British people who want to stab someone.

Writing in an editorial in the British Medical Journal, doctors at the West Middlesex University Hospital in London argue that banning the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives would help reduce “knife crime.” (How that differs from “stabbings,” I’m not sure—is there another kind of knife crime, other than stealing one?) They noted that violent crime in Britain is up 18 percent over last year, and that there were 31 knife crimes in Britain during the first two weeks of 2005 alone. (Welcome to England—I bet there were 31 knife crimes in the first 31 minutes of 2005 just in New York.)

The authors helpfully provide an analysis of why long and pointy knives are dangerous, but blunt ones are not: “When using a knife to harm, a blunt nosed knife is unlikely to cause serious injury, as penetrating clothing and skin is difficult with it.” I see, doctor. Please continue. “A dagger type knife, however, can penetrate deeply.” Because of its sharpness, I presume. But can you tell me why deep penetration is a problem? “Once resistance from clothing and skin is overcome [by the sharpness], little extra force is required to injure vital organs, increasing the chance of a fatality (likened to cutting into a ripe melon).” I’m a little confused about how melons got involved, but then I’m not a doctor.

Plus, knives don’t have to be pointed, they argue. The authors interviewed 10 chefs, which seems pretty thorough, and “none gave a reason why the long, pointed knife was essential.” They say that the pointed knife tip is a hold-over from the pre-fork era, when people had to use the knife tip to spear meat. King Louis XIV, who had so many great ideas, noted the association between pointy knives and violence and ordered all knife tips ground down in 1669. (As his grandson found out, the edge of a blade can be a problem, too. I bet he remarked on that irony as he briefly looked up out of the basket.) According to the doctors, forks and blunt table knives were introduced in the 18th century precisely in order to reduce the injuries that were resulting from arguments in public eating houses.

To that I say, knives don’t kill people, arguments kill people. Or, how about, knives don’t kill people, people with knives kill people, or at least they kill people without knives. If everybody carried a long pointy knife, the rate of long-pointy-knife crime would probably drop sharply. (No pun intended.)

I bet that’s an answer Wayne LaPierre would agree with. Actually, both sides of the gun control debate (there is apparently no knife-control debate here, yet) found the proposal pretty amusing. LaPierre, executive VP of the National Rifle Association, asked, “Are they going to have everybody using plastic knives and forks and spoons in their own homes, like they do in airlines?” And a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence joked, “Can sharp stick control be far behind?” (Next week’s headlines: “Conservatives Demand Right to Pointy Knives on Airlines” and “Liberals Seek to Deprive Americans of Right to Sharpen Sticks.”)

American chefs weighed in against the proposal. One called it “yet another sign of the coming apocalypse.” I don’t think anything like this is actually in Revelations (“And in that time, the moon shall turn red as blood, and all knives shall be blunted”) but people use that phrase pretty loosely these days. Chef Anthony Bourdain said that chefs’ knives are “extensions of our arms, and in many ways, our personalities.” He also said of the proposal that “Where there is no risk, there is no pleasure.” Hm. Sounds like maybe he sees his knife as an extension of something else?