Regulation of the Day 163: Switchblades

Switchblades are illegal. But Maine state representative Sheryl Briggs would like to end her state’s switchblade ban — but only for people with one arm.

One of her constituents is Paul Dumas, Jr., who lost an arm as a teenager. Because switchblades are spring-loaded, they can be opened with one hand. A retractable knife without a switchblade’s springs requires two hands to open.

That’s fine for most people. But it puts Dumas at a disadvantage. As he told the Associated Press, “I’m tired of opening knives with my teeth.”

Switchblade liberalization makes sense. For one, it would allow people like Dumas to live with a little more dignity.

For another, switchblade bans don’t even make sense. The federal ban was enacted in 1958, after an irrational moral panic involving West Side Story. Most states also have switchblade bans on the books. There was not an epidemic of switchblade violence at the time. To this day, some shady people will ignore the ban and own switchblades; prohibition doesn’t work. But switchblade violence remains rare, despite most of the law-abiding population respecting the ban.