Please call your local police department with any questions you have about all knife laws that are applicable to you.
Spring Assisted Knife Laws
A switchblade (also known as automatic knife, switch, or, in British English flick knife) is a type of knife with a folding blade that springs out of the grip when a button or lever on the grip is pressed. There are two basic types: side-opening and out-the-front (OTF). A side-opening knife's blade pivots out of the side of the handle (in the same manner as an ordinary folding knife). An out-the-front knife's blade slides directly forward, out of the tip of the handle. Many OTF (out-the-front) knives work with a dual-action mechanism that enables the user to extend and retract the knife in one press of the finger, with no cocking or priming action. However, some OTF (out-the-front) knives are single action, and require the user to manually retract the blade. A wide variety of blade designs may be found on switchblades, but the most common is the Italian stiletto style seen often in movies. However, the switchblade should not be confused with the butterfly knife (balisong), assisted-opening knife, or the non-automatic stiletto.
A spring-assisted knife is a knife that when you push on the thumb stud to open it a spring takes over and propels the blade open. Spring-assisted knives make a great alternative to automatic knives. A Spring / Torsion assisted knife is a type of knife which uses a spring assisted mechanism behind the blade. They open by the ambidextrous thumb stud on the blade with a slight bit of pressure. They are commonly confused with switchblades, but have one main difference. While a switchblade can be opened usually with the push of a button within the handle, the user of a spring-assisted knife must apply slight pressure to the thumb stud and the spring/torsion assisted mechanism does the rest. Once the knife has been opened about one-quarter of the way (45°), the mechanism will open the knife the rest of the way. A/O knives are Assisted - Opening which are also Spring - Assisted knives.
US Assisted Knife Law
50-year Old Federal Switchblade Act Modernized to Protect Americans with Knives.
Amendment (1447) to the FY 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill H.R. 2892 was passed by the House of Representatives and approved by the U.S. Senate on October 20th, 2009.
After nearly five months of intense AKTI-led legal and lobbying efforts, the bill including modernizing the Federal Switchblade was signed by the President October 28th, 2009.
From 2005-2008, U.S. Customs issued four separate ruling letters that declared assisted-openers were not switchblades and could be imported.
Then in May 2009 Customs proposed to revoke those earlier letters and included new definitions of a switchblade knife.
This started outrage in the knife community and American Citizens began making direct contacts with lawmakers of both parties.
In the end U.S. Customs became a supporter of Senate Amendment 1447 co-sponsored by 20 U.S. Senators. Amendment 1447 adds a fifth clause to section 1244 of the Federal Switchblade Act that exempts 'a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.'
U.S. Customs recognized that the clarification would actually help their field agents more easily evaluate knives with multiple and unique modern design features.
Spring Assist Knives are 100% Legal
California Penal Code Compliant - Bill SB 274
Legal in all 50 States To Own
But Remember That Local County & City Laws Can Be Harsher than the State Statues & Local Laws Take Precedence. So if you have questions about knives then phone your local police department and ask them about the knife laws that are applicable to you. Assisted Knives are completely legal to own but your local laws might restrict them from being carried into public or might have concealment or non-concealment laws.
CALIFORNIA where it all started with a school teacher gone Senator
California State Senator Betty Karnette of the 27th District is the author and who is responsible for Bill SB 274 and the legalization of Spring Assist Knives.
Senator Karnette realized that Spring Assist Knives are extremely functional tools by law-abiding citizens and that these knives serve an important utility to many knife users, as well as firefighters, EMT personnel, hunters, fishermen, and others who utilize one-handed opening knives, then the prohibition of such items is obstruction to justice & complete disregard to US law.
Spring Assist Knives are intended to save lives while an EMT, Firefighter, or Law Enforcement Officer is trying to get you out of an automobile accident or any other viable problem. They have saved skydivers lives that had to cut parachute lines. They have saved countless fishing poles when a line is needed to be cut. They are also essential to handicap individuals whom happen to have one arm. Special Thanks to Senator Betty Karnette is in order because if it were not for her we would loose more of our rights in this country and also not have tools that are lifesaving instruments.
LEGAL LAWS & STATE STATUTES OF CALIFORNIA
The rules on "what is a legal pocketknife versus a switchblade" are contained in Penal Code 653k. In it's entirety (current effective 1/1/2002):
653k: Every person who possesses in the passenger's or driver's area of any motor vehicle in any public place or place open to the public, carries upon his or her person, and every person who sells, offers for sale, exposes for sale, loans, transfers, or gives to any other person a switchblade knife having a blade two or more inches in length is guilty of a misdemeanor.
For the purposes of this section, "switchblade knife" means a knife having the appearance of a pocketknife and includes a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife or any other similar type knife, the blade or blades of which are two or more inches in length and which can be released automatically by a flick of a button, pressure on the handle, flip of the wrist or other mechanical device, or is released by the weight of the blade or by any type of mechanism whatsoever. "Switchblade knife" does not include a knife that opens with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife has a detent or other mechanism that provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or that biases the blade back toward its closed position.
Bill SB 274, clarifies the definition of a one-hand opening knife so they are not wrongly classified as switchblades. Bill SB 274 clearly states: For the purposes of this section, switchblade knife means a knife having the appearance of a pocketknife and includes a spring-blade knife, snap-blade knife, gravity knife or any other similar type knife, which can be released automatically by a flick of a button, pressure on the handle, flip of the wrist or other mechanical device, or is released by the weight of the blade or by any type of mechanism whatsoever. Definition of Switchblade knife does not include a knife that is designed to open with one hand utilizing thumb pressure applied solely to the blade of the knife or a thumb stud attached to the blade, provided that the knife utilizes a detent or other mechanism that (a) provides resistance that must be overcome in opening the blade, or (b) biases the blade back toward its closed position. In order to ensure that only legitimate one-handed opening knives are covered, SB 274 narrows the language to only allow knives to fall under the exemption from the switchblade law if that one-handed opening knife contains a detent or similar mechanism. Such mechanisms ensure there is a measure of resistance that prevents the knife from being easily opened with a flick of the wrist. Moreover, a detent or other mechanism is prudent and a matter of public safety as it will ensure that a blade will not inadvertently come open.
Read Senator Betty Karnette's exact words in a letter published to the Secretary of the Senate.
Published in the July 18, 2001 edition of the Senate Daily Journal on page 2070.
DRAFT - LETTER TO THE SENATE DAILY JOURNAL
July 5, 2001
Mr. Gregory Schmidt
Secretary of the Senate
The purpose of this letter is to express the Legislature’s intent in enacting my SB 274, which makes amendments to Penal Code Section 653k.
Section 653k makes it a misdemeanor to make, sell or possess upon one’s person a switchblade in California. The statute was enacted in 1957 and provides a length definition of a switchblade knife. In 1996, AB 3314 (Ch. 1054) an exemption was created for one-handed folding knives. Recently, there has been concern that the language of the exemption is broadly read to apply to knives that are essentially switchblades, but are designed to fall under the language of the exemption.
In order to ensure that only legitimate one-handed opening knives are covered, SB 274 narrows the language to only allow knives to fall under the exemption from the switchblade law if that one-handed opening knife contains a detent or similar mechanism. Such mechanisms ensure there is a measure of resistance (no matter how slight) that prevents the knife from being easily opened with a flick of the wrist. Moreover, a detent or other mechanism is prudent and a matter of public safety as it will ensure that a blade will not inadvertently come open.
Although some one-handed opening knives can be opened with a strong flick of the wrist, so long as they contact a detent or similar mechanism that provides some resistance to opening the knife, then the exemption is triggered. These knives serve an important utility to many knife users, as well as firefighters, EMT personnel, hunters, fishermen, and others utilize one-handed opening knives.
The exemption created in 1996 was designed to decriminalize the legitimate use of these extremely functional tools by law-abiding citizens. SB 274 is not intended to interfere with those knife owners and users. The amendments to Section 653k accomplish this important purpose by establishing more objective criteria for determining whether a knife meets the intended exemption to the switchblade law.
Senator, 27th District
Who is Senator Betty Karnette?
After working for over 30 years as a public school teacher, Betty Karnette served one term in the State Assembly then went on to be elected to the State Senate in 1996. She is a member of the board of directors of the Long Beach Memorial Hospital Children's Clinic and is also an Associate Board Member of Sage House in San Pedro, which operates adult day care programs.
Senator Karnette completed her Master's Degree at California State University, Long Beach while working full-time. A native of Paducah, Kentucky, Betty and her husband, Richard, have lived in Long Beach since 1952. They have one daughter.
UK Assisted Knife Law
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons)
The law makes no mention of ease or speed of accessibility to a blade, after all, simplistic and fast access merely makes a blade easier, safer and quicker to deploy; it does not make it more offensive as a weapon - it is still a blade, just more useful for legitimate users. Those who perpetrate crimes abusing knives have their blades drawn long before they intend to use them, as offensive crimes involving knives are almost entirely pre-meditated.
In the UK we do have a prohibition upon Switchblades (or full-auto's to give them their correct term). This law was passed 50 years ago in response to some quite horrific attacks by the so-called Teddy Boys of the era, and at the time the new law probably made sense. But even then, no mention of speed of blade deployment contributed to the prohibition - just the abuse of the style of knife.
In basic essence the main difference between a full-auto and a semi-auto is the external trigger, and the internal power source. A full-auto uses a spring to power the blade and a button to release the blade from the handle. By contrast, a semi-auto uses a pre-tensioned crescent shaped steel bar to provide the power, and the user is required to depress the blade in some way - either by the use of a thumb stud or some protrusion on the blade itself. Because the user’s hands are clear of the sharpened portion of the blade during deployment they are far safer than a traditional knife where the users hand must come into forcible contact with the blade.
Small differences admittedly, but differences nonetheless; and the law is all about detail. Thus a semi-auto is not prohibited in the UK in the same way that a full-auto is and logically this makes sense - ANY knife (or ANY other tool for that matter) can be dangerous in the wrong hands IRRESPECTIVE of configuration, size, ease of use, or geometry. This amounts to criminal abuse of what is just a tool let's not forget.
QUICK DRAW The Spring Assist Knife UK DEBATE
When Kershaw revealed the Chive at the Shotshow in America during 2003, people were amazed at the simplicity of it’s' design. After all, how could someone pack so much technological advancement into such a small package? Acclaimed American custom knife maker Ken Onion is the man behind this wonderful new design. But perhaps the origin's of Mr. Onion's marvel need a little more exploring.
Kershaw's little Chive has proved to be quite a controversial showpiece. So what's the secret behind it's incredibly easy-to-use blade deployment mechanism...
Some have questioned the legality of carrying something that opens so readily, yet the law is quite clear. The Dangerous Weapons Act that banned automatic knives defines an auto as 'any knife powered by a spring, or operated by a button or any other device attached to the handle'.
Strangely enough, this law was based on US California Law which has exactly the same legal definition. Of course, the Chive has neither a spring nor any device attached to the handle, relying instead on a pre-tensioned steel bar to provide the power (an invention pioneered by Blackie Collins on the Meyerco Power Assisted range). It also features an extended tang that protrudes from the handle, another idea developed from Kit Carson's Flipper system found on his Columbia River M16 models.
Combine the two ideas and ... wow! It's fast alright, but still within the limits of acceptability.
Some argue that this just exploits a loophole within the law, but I would point out that this is just extremely clever conceptual design and it should be appreciated as such. Kershaw promote the safety aspect of the design, and irrespective of whether it is fast or not, you can't escape the fact that the whole idea is to provide a tool which is easily and readily available for use with maximum safety in mind.
The ease with which the tool is useable in no way makes it any more or less 'offensive' than any other knife, just safer for the user and others in close proximity to it's use.
The automatic knife has accumulated a bad reputation over the years. Terms like 'flick knife' banded about by our tabloid press have not helped. Lets not forget that the original auto's pioneered by Schrade Cutlery during the 1920's were developed as a tool for fishermen to cut nets in extreme sea-going conditions where a rough swell and a snagged net could sink a trawler.
Canadian Assisted Knife Law
The Canadian Criminal Code states exactly this:
In sec. (84)(1)(b) "any knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force, or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device attached to the handle of the knife".
There are no other knife banning laws in Canada.
SPRING ASSIST ARE NOT GRAVITY OR CENTRIFUGAL FORCE, AND HAVE NO BUTTON ON THE HANDLE, WHICH MAKES THEM PERFECTLY LEGAL TO OWN, USE, AND CARRY.
(1) A flick knife (or other similar device) that has a blade which opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by any pressure applied to a button, spring or device in or attached to the handle of the knife .
(2) A ballistic knife that propels a knife -like blade of any material by any means other than an explosive.
(3) A sheath knife that has a sheath which withdraws into its handle by gravity or centrifugal force or if pressure is applied to a button, spring or device attached to or forming part of the sheath, handle or blade of the knife .
(4) An Urban Skinner push dagger or any other device that consists of a single-edged or multi-edged blade or spike that has a handle fitted transversely to the blade or spike and allows the blade or spike to be supported by the palm of the hand so that stabbing blows or slashes can be inflicted by a punching or pushing action.
(5) A trench knife or any other device that consists of a single-edged or multi-edged blade or spike that is fitted with a handle made of any hard substance that can be fitted over the knuckles of the hand of the user to protect the knuckles and increase the effect of a punch or blow, or that is adapted for such use.
(6) A butterfly knife or “balisong” or any other device that consists of a single-edged or multi-edged blade or spike that fits within 2 handles attached to the blade or spike by transverse pivot pins and is capable of being opened by gravity or centrifugal force.
(7) A star knife or any other device that consists of a number of angular points, blades or spikes disposed outwardly about a central axis point and that are designed to spin around the central axis point in flight when thrown at a target.
SPRING ASSIST ARE NOT GRAVITY OR CENTRIFUGAL FORCE, AND HAVE NO BUTTON ON THE HANDLE, WHICH MAKES THEM PERFECTLY LEGAL TO OWN, USE, AND CARRY. In the Handle it is in plain and clear English with no amendments stating otherwise.