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Automatic knife legalization passes state House

Rep. Martin Causer speaks in the state Capitol earlier this year.

The state House has passed legislation to eliminate the criminalization of automatic knives in Pennsylvania.

Section 908 of the Crimes Code prohibits individuals from repairing, selling, dealing, using or possessing an offensive weapon, which is defined to include a wide range of weapons such as bombs, grenades, and machine guns. It also includes knives that feature one-hand push-button operation, also known as automatic knives.

“These knives are commonly used by outdoor enthusiasts like hunters, boaters, hikers and tradespeople like contractors, landscapers and mechanics,” Causer wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Public misconception of automatic knives as used predominately by criminals in the 1950s led many states such as Pennsylvania to enact legislation to restrict even merely possessing them. Recently, 23 states have repealed or revised laws regarding the sale and possession of automatic knives paving the way for their use in constructive daily work and recreational activities. As a result, Pennsylvania is among just seven states that still criminalize the mere possession of an automatic knife.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus supported Causer’s legislation, saying removing automatic knives from Pennsylvania’s definition of offensive weapons, will allow Pennsylvania retailers and manufacturers to sell such knives the same way competitors in neighboring states do while also allowing state residents to use automatic knives. The knives have uses for hikers, hunters, boaters and workers like contractors, roofers, landscapers and mechanics.

A similar bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. Sharif Street of Philadelphia. Street shared Causer’s desire to allow more state residents to use automatic knives for their jobs or for outdoor uses, though Street also said the enforcement of automatic knife prohibitions in Pennsylvania is skewed toward Black or Latino drivers. Street proposes reclassifying automatic knives as dangerous weapons, which would criminalize automatic knives when carried with the intent to commit a crime.

Causer is looking for a similar result, but said state law already includes such guidance in the Possessing an Instrument of Crime statutes.

“This ensures statutory mechanisms remain in place to continue to protect the community while allowing my legislation to remove an outdated restriction on law-abiding people,” Causer wrote.

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