Tailor Knife Sales To Build Trust, Better Business

Remember when TSA created a firestorm in March 2013 by announcing it intended to allow small pocketknives aboard commercial aircraft in the U.S. once more? Intense pressure from airlines, unions and Congress forced the agency to backpedal. The initial announcement sent frequent fliers rushing to gun dealers, as consumers eagerly sought TSA-compliant knives to fit the description the agency had contemplated allowing.

This convergence on gun dealers points to a solid fact: Gun people tend to be knife people. It’s probably not so much of a “weapons” thing, but rather an “appreciation of finely-made personal tools” thing. But there’s no question personal defense is an important element in the knife market. Prior to the knife ban aboard aircraft, a majority of your customers likely carried small folding knives on commercial airlines. The blades couldn’t be longer 2 1/2 inches and they had to be straight-edged.

When courageous passengers overpowered the hijackers and crashed Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, thwarting the plans of the terrorists, there’s no way of knowing how they may have used pocketknives to help with the fight. However, any of us who went through security in those days know a large percentage of passengers carried small folders when they boarded airplanes; some on Flight 93 surely did.

Personally, I never thought I’d use a knife on a plane, except to slice an interesting clipping out of a newspaper or magazine. I saw it as a personal-defense weapon to be used when I landed at my destination. It wasn’t uncommon for an airline to lose my luggage (along with my enclosed firearm), and it was nice to have something more than a kind word available when walking the streets of strange and sometimes dangerous cities.


Spyderco Delica4 Emerson Opener

Take Care In Advice Given

When a customer is looking for a personal-defense blade, make sure what he purchases is legal to carry in the jurisdiction where he intends to carry it. There are places where switchblades (automatic knives) are legal to sell and to own, but not to carry in public.

All sorts of cutlery (including swords) are generally legal to own in one’s home, but if one of your customers is walking around wielding a sword in public — unless he’s suitably attired in a parade or a Civil War battle reenactment — it will get him in trouble.

Giving a customer advice that will lead to his arrest is not conducive to repeat business. I’ve heard firearm retailers say, “Aw, the cops around here only arrest bad guys for carrying something like this. They leave the good guys alone, it’s kind of an unwritten law.”

Here, I invoke Ayoob’s Law No. 11: “Unwritten laws are not worth the paper they’re not printed on.” (Of course, that must be taken in context with Ayoob’s Law No. 2, which states, “Anyone arrogant enough to name laws after himself is arrogant enough to number them arbitrarily.”)

Seriously, though, there are so many tiny, disparate patches in the patchwork quilt of American knife law that the person carrying one for personal defense has to be meticulous about not inadvertently violating one of them.

Once this is sorted out, make sure the knife fits the customer’s hand, so he or she can open it quickly and smoothly. Keep in mind, hand shapes and sizes and individual range of finger and thumb movement vary wildly. Some people are faster and surer with a knife whose blade has a thumb stud, and some do better with one that has a thumbhole for opening, like the Emerson Wave design from Spyderco. This design, with a protuberance that catches on the edge of the pocket and “opens the blade for you” on the draw, can be stunningly fast. However, some copies of the Emerson Wave aren’t fitted snugly enough and the blade can start to open in the pocket — not a good thing.

Your older clientele will appreciate an assisted-opening knife, popularized by designer Ken Onion. Once again, though, we have to circle back to the law: Some jurisdictions may consider “assisted openers,” however incorrectly, to be prohibited switchblades under their interpretation of the law.

The bottom line: The most knowledgeable retailer will sell the right legal knife to his customers, building trust and repeat business.


Visit www.kniferights.org

What’s Legal?

When your customer is traveling to Wherever, USA and asks, “Do you know if it’s legal for me to have my handgun there?” you know what to do: go online and visit www.handgunlaw.us. It’s the best, most up-to-date compilation of possession and concealed carry laws state by state I’ve seen. I covered flying with a firearm in last month’s column.

The same website covers knife laws state by state. Visit www.handgunlaw.us and click “Knife Law Links.” This website not only covers state laws, but also delves into countless local ordinances, including which knives are legal or not to carry in public.

Another resource for knife dealers (and your customers) is Knife Rights, at www.kniferights.org. NRA’s Wayne LaPierre calls Knife Rights “the second front” in the war for Second Amendment rights. Knife Rights is an organization which, you might say, does for cold steel what NRA does for hot lead.

Knife Rights is worth belonging to, and the information on the website and in the newsletter will assist you in educating your customers on knives and their rights and responsibilities.
By Massad Ayoob

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