Knife laws in the United States aren’t known for being straightforward or consistent. A patchwork of federal, state, and city laws overlap and even contradict one another. Somewhere, deep within this maze of legalese, are laws so absurd that they defy belief. And whether they make you laugh or sigh, these two laws are 100% real.
Despite recent reforms in many states, the 1958 federal switchblade act still makes it a crime to carry or sell an automatic knife under certain circumstances, punishable by up to a $2000 fine or a five-year prison sentence. On any land managed solely by the federal government – like a non-tribal Indian reservation – carrying a switchblade can still land you in hot water. UNLESS.. you have only one arm. Yes, you read that right – the federal law makes several exceptions: mail carriers, the armed forces, and one-armed people. Presumably, this clause was included to allow one-armed people the ability to operate a folding knife one handed, at a time when most folders were slipjoints that required two hands to open and close. Despite the fact that most modern folding knives can be opened with one hand, the 1958 law persists. So if you have only one arm, go ahead and carry your switchblade with impunity. Just keep it under 3” in blade length, or it becomes a crime again.
Organizations like Knife Rights and the American Knife and Tool Institute continue to work to simplify, protect, and expand the right to own and carry knives in the USA. It’s a tough job, but they’ve made great strides amending restrictive knife laws across the country. But, in California lawmakers have gone out of their way to ban certain kinds of knives including one that literally does not exist and never has. Called “air gauge knives,” these imagined blades are supposedly hidden within air pressure gauges, like the ones used to check tire pressure and should not to be confused with the WASP Injection Knife. The actual text of the law defines an ‘air gauge knife’ as “a device that appears to be an air gauge but has concealed within it a pointed, metallic shaft that is designed to be a stabbing instrument.” According to knife law expert Evan F. Nappen, author of Knife Laws of the U.S.: Loopholes, Pitfalls & Secrets, these knives simply don’t exist in California or anywhere. How did they become banned? You may need a law degree to figure that out.
Knife featured in image: Remington ACC Advance Combat Cutlery AUTO