Maine Bill Would Allow One-Armed Men to Use Switchblades

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Switchblade! Despite the chaos in the Middle East, rising sea levels and dwindling oil reserves, the asteroid that is likely hurtling toward Earth as you read this, and worst of all, the possibility that there might be another sequel to "The Matrix," is it still too much to ask that we stop for a moment to consider the plight of the one-armed man with no switchblade?

A legislator in Maine says no.

The Lewiston Sun-Journal reports that Rep. Sheryl Briggs has introduced LD 126, entitled "An Act to Allow a Person With One Arm to Possess Certain Kinds of Prohibited Knives." The bill would provide that Maine's "dangerous knives" law, which restricts switchblades, would not apply to the "possession or transportation of a knife . . . by an individual who has only one arm." This exception would allow single-armed Americans (male or female, of course, but probably male) the same access to folding knives that is enjoyed by the fully limbed.

According to the report, Briggs was asked to propose the legislation by a one-armed lawyer in her district, who pointed out that current law "utterly fails to accommodate" people who cannot use two hands to open a folding knife and who, I guess, have a need for that kind of knife rather than a regular one with a sheath or something for safety reasons. He also pointed out that a similar exception is already part of federal law.

Federal law indeed provides exceptions to the federal switchblade ban for members of the armed forces and for "the possession, and transportation upon his person, of any switchblade knife with a blade three inches or less in length by any individual who has only one arm."  29 U.S.C. § 1244. Federal law otherwise makes it a crime to make, transport, or distribute switchblades in interstate commerce, "Indian country" (an odd term of art), or in U.S. territories. 29 U.S.C. §§ 1242, 1243. The obvious difference is that the feds allow only blades of three inches or less, but under the Maine law there would be no limit on the size of a switchblade that one-armed Maine residents would be able to wield. (I don't know how big switchblades get, but probably several feet long at least.) Hopefully that dangerous loophole will be closed before this passes.

This is an unusual bill, but don't think I want the one-armed to be left knifeless. In fact, it's not even clear to me why switchblades are considered any more dangerous than a regular folding knife of the same size or larger. It's not like the extra second it takes to open one of those is going to give me much of a headstart. But if that's going to be the law, we should consider the rights of the disabled.

As a possible alternative to legislation, though, there are non-switchblade knives like this one that are designed to be opened with just one hand. This one costs ten dollars. That's all I'm saying.

By the way, it turns out that the rumor about "Matrix" sequels is bogus, so the other news is not all bad.