Honing A Fine Edge On Knife Rights

By Russ Thurman

For all the right reasons, we devote a lot of attention to the anti-gun movement. Firearms are the centerpiece of this industry. How firearms are attacked, misrepresented and regulated impacts virtually every segment of the industry — and all of our businesses.

However, there are other important segments of the industry that are attacked, heavily scrutinized and overly regulated. Among these are knives, which directly affect a lot of us in our nation who consider a knife an essential everyday tool.

“Imagine Your Life Without a Knife.” It’s the opening statement on the American Knife & Tool Institute’s (AKTI) website — and something difficult to envision. The institute is on the frontlines to protect the knife industry, while ensuring clarity in a world of ambiguous laws.

“Our goal is to instill confidence in the ability of people to use our products,” said CJ Buck, Buck Knives CEO and AKTI president. “We do clarify rules and work to remove those no longer appropriate. If a law isn’t going to be enforced, it shouldn’t be there. Our goal is to remove the subjectivity out of laws and make them more objective so you as a citizen can feel confident in what’s legal, and you can carry your life-tools of choice with confidence.”

Formula For Success

AKTI was established in 1997, fueled by the success of co-founders CJ Buck and Les de Asis, Benchmade Knife Co. chairman, who fought anti-knife battles in California.

“In 1996, we were successful in at least changing the California dirk and dagger statue to say it couldn’t be a folding knife,” Buck said. “We also went after the switchblade law in California — the gravity knife, specifically. We were able to insert language that if the knife has a bias toward closure and is designed to open with one hand, it’s not considered a switchblade. The language — ‘bias toward closure’ — has been adopted in numerous states. It was a huge victory.”

Once formed, AKTI built a formula for success.

“It has taken us years to evolve ourselves,” Buck shared. “We have dialed-in our position, and we have been amazingly successful, so much more so than I ever thought possible 10 or 15 years ago.”

Last year, AKTI worked on Capitol Hill to successfully introduce two pieces of legislation.

The Interstate Transport Act (S.1092), sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi, (R-Wyo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will ensure federal protection for lawful knife owners traveling through the current patchwork of state and local knife laws. The Freedom of Commerce Act (S.1779), sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) will repeal the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958, allowing consumers to purchase any automatic knife legal in their state, regardless of where it was manufactured. The legislation will also remove burdensome prohibitions on free trade, interstate commerce and consumer choice.

Your Support Needed

Last September, AKTI presented Sen. Crapo its Common Sense Award. Common sense and a non-adversarial approach are key to AKTI’s success.

“You have to keep in mind legislators are dealing with issues they don’t know about. They may not have those life experiences,” Buck said. “So they’re hungry for input. I always recommend, reach out to your congressman and don’t be adversarial. You need to be informed. No one wants to hear someone just bitch. They want to have an informed, rational, balanced conversation.”

AKTI provides an impressive amount of rational, balanced information on its website (www.akti.org). Key information includes links to ongoing knife legislation throughout the country, educational material for legislators and law enforcement, tips on traveling with a knife, state and federal laws and court case summaries.

While on the site, review those serving on AKTI’s board of regents. They are the who’s who of the knife and tool industry. They all serve and travel at their own expense, in addition to providing resources from their companies.

How can you help?

“We need money. We need to guilt our industry into more support because a lot of people are getting a free ride. Everything we do is internally funded,” Buck said. “We’re looking for contributions, memberships and grassroots involvement. We also raise money through our website auction, and welcome product donations.”
To learn more about the many things AKTI does and to support this important organization, visit www.akti.org.

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