By Nathan Baker
A proposal in the state Legislature to end the ban on switchblades and other prohibited knives has been held up by some lawmakers and local industry leaders as beneficial to business and an issue of protection, but those who enforce the state’s laws, including Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes, say it could put more officers’ lives at risk.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who introduced the bill, described the legislation as an extension of the Second Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
“Spring-loaded knives were outlawed in many states 30 to 40 years ago, not due to any statistical evidence that they were used in crimes, but I would say outlawed because of hysteria caused by Hollywood movies,” Bell said shortly before the bill was passed by the Senate last month, 27-3.
Tennessee law prohibits the possession, production, transportation, repair or sale of switchblade knives under all circumstances and the possession of knives with blades longer than four inches unless “hunting, fishing, camping, sport shooting or (conducting) other lawful activity.”
Bell’s bill would remove those restrictions and preempt any existing local laws governing knives.
In the House, its companion bill, introduced by Savannah Republican Rep. Vance Dennis, was approved by the Criminal Justice Committee and is scheduled to be considered by the Finance, Ways & Means Committee today before a full floor vote.
During discussion in the Criminal Justice Committee, Reps. Jeremy Faison of Cosby and Tony Shipley of Kingsport, said the bill could help spur economic activity at knife distribution centers in their districts.
“They are actually making knives right now that they can’t sell in our state because of this section of the code,” Faison said of Smoky Mountain Knife Works, a Sevierville-based distributor and retailer. “So this is not only just a good thing to do to help good honest people not be charged with intent to carry, this is also a jobs bill.”