Kansas residents may now carry switchblades, daggers and other types of knives in most public places without fear of arrest under a new law that a lobbying group says makes Kansas one of the nation’s blade-friendliest states.
Legislation lifting the state’s prohibition on several types of knives was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback in April and took effect July 1. The Senate approved it 40-0 after it was amended to clarify that school districts, jails and juvenile detention facilities could keep their bans in place. The House passed it 95-26.
The driving force was a national group called Knife Rights, which contends the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear bladed instruments as well as firearms.
Knife Rights lobbyist Todd Rathner, who traveled to Topeka to speak for House Bill 2033, praised the Kansas law’s prohibition on enforcement by local governments of any type of knife ordinance.
“In terms of knife law, Kansas is darn near perfect now,” Rathner said.
According to Knife Rights, Kansas joined Arizona, Utah, New Hampshire, Georgia, Alaska and Tennessee as states that have enacted such “pre-emption” statutes preventing regulation of knives.
“In some places it’s an incremental task,” Rathner said of promoting the right to carry any type of knife. “In other places like Kansas we can accomplish a lot more in a single legislative session.”
The Kansas Association of Police Chiefs testified against the bill. Rathner said that should not concern the public because he has heard from law enforcement officers anecdotally that kitchen knives are more often used in crimes than the types that were previously banned.
Opposition in the Kansas House came partly from lawmakers reluctant to remove local authority to regulate knives.
“I think when we say local control is important we should vote that way and that just isn’t happening very often,” said Rep. Annie Tietze, a Democrat from Topeka.
Other House Democrats cited safety issues. Jim Ward, a former Wichita prosecutor, said switchblades were banned decades ago because they were used mostly by gangs and criminals. Ward said the potential for harm from the weapons outweighs any good from legalizing them.
But proponents said switchblades can be useful for emergency workers, farmers and others who need to open a knife with one hand while holding something with the other.