Why on earth are switchblades still illegal?

About a month or so ago Wisconsin joined the 21st century and legalized CCW for law abiding citizens. This didn’t affect me as I could CCW for almost 30 years.

But here is the point: part of the CCW law includes carrying a concealed knife (why someone would carry a knife as a lethal weapon instead of a gun is beyond me :rolleyes: ) but does not include a switchblade knife.

In fact (and this is important) as a police officer even I can NOT carry nor posses a switchblade. Not even on duty. It’s a crime. I can carry the firearm of my choice/caliber on or off duty. I and other citizens can own/possess a machine gun and a silencer.

But if I have a switchblade knife, even on duty, I could face prison time. And this is the case in most (not all, but most) states.


I wouldn’t carry a knife as a weapon, but they sure come in handy for a zillion other things. A switchblade would be even more useful.

Is this just an archaic law that our elected lazy asses have yet to repeal?

Or, is there a legit reason to keep switchblades illegal?

Isn’t it a zero tolerance thing? Rather than create another class of permit-required weapons, why not just make them entirely illegal when reasonable substitutes exist? Knives that open one-handed are legal. There’s no unique use for switchblades that justifies an exemption, is there?


Quoting the law doesn’t answer the question.

So…? Owning a machine gun/silencer or any handgun is alright, but somehow switchblades are a threat to public safety?

My WAG is that, as the hysteria behind the original law faded, so did a lot of the interest in switchblades among the general public. Since there’s not really anyone agitating for the legalization of switchblades, nobody’s bothered to repeal the law.

It’s funny you mention that. I have a handful of knives similar to this that I’ve picked up at Home Depot/Harbor Freight that I always thought were illegal. I used to be under the impression that the little pin (next to the hinge) is what made them illegal since it allows you to open them one handed. Hell, even without the pin, some knife hinges are loose enough (and lock into place) that a flick of the wrist opens them.

Do switchblade laws cover butterfly knives?
I wonder if swichblade laws have something to do with gangs or who used to commonly carry them. Just a carryover from 50’s that was never repealed.

Nightsticks are illegal at least in CA and NV. So I can grab a stout branch, trim it down nice, and keep it and it is okay. But a soon as it is a produced stick, it is legal.

Nunchaku are also illegal in many places. This is likely a direct result of the “ninjas are badasses who can kill anyone” and the “kids will kill their siblings imitating ninjas” scares of the 80s. A similar mentality let to Mitsurugi being given blond hair in Soul Blade in the UK, because white people don’t count as samurai. The thing is, any person who buys nunchaku or shuriken off of “eBay” is more likely to harm himself than any victim, and would turn to a weapon that is actually easy to use if he wanted to harm someone.

Most knives are legal in places I know as long as they don’t have a gravity-assisted open. So a little knob on the side of the blade that you push with your thumb is ok. Balisongs/Butterfly knifes are often illegal. I’m not sure what category they are, but usually also under “awesome but impractical.”

It wasn’t meant to. ‘NB’ is meant to draw attention to something related to the subject. I thought it would be useful to note the federal law, which does not completely ban possession, just as a baseline.

FWIW, I agree with you that state bans on possession in one’s own home are ludicrous. (I also think it’s ludicrous that it’s a felony in California to have a blowgun.)

So why should switchblades be illegal or permit-requiring at all? As you note, it’s perfectly OK to have a knife that opens with one hand via a pin or simple loose hinges, so what makes that spring so dangerous as to be illegal? It’s an old law, a carryover from fears about gangs, and it’s silly. For what it’s worth, I carry a switchblade every day; it’s legal in my home state. I mostly use it at work to open boxes, and while I could use a non-spring knife, mine is faster.

To be fair, switchblades and gravity-assisted blades are fundamentally different than a knife with a one-hand open lever in that either is faster to open, although the gravity-assist takes a considerable amount of practice to get to that point.

That said, I don’t think that difference makes them meaningfully more dangerous than the alternatives, and they’re probably still slower than a straight knife that doesn’t require opening and, of course, any of those options are substantially less life-threatening than a gun. As such, I don’t think the law makes sense, they’re probably holdovers from random scares, but there’s probably also not enough interest in changing the law to make it politically worthwhile.

Consider if a congressman proposed a law that would remove the federal ban on switchblades. Regardless of party affiliation, he’d be accused of everything from not focusing on the “real” issues facing the country to being weak on crime and Lord knows what else from various family advocacy groups or lobbies focusing on weapons or crime or whatever. It would cost political capital to fix something that not enough people really care about. So, it’s unfortunate but, I doubt it will ever happen.

I know wiki isn’t always the best cite, but from wiki:


The rest basically details how politicians fell over themselves to get “tough” on the problem. And that’s why we have another nonsense law.

In what way would a switchblade be even more useful? Outside of having only 2 seconds to cut the red wire(or is it the blue wire?), in what aspect of your life do you need a blade to be available almost instantly?

  1. There isn’t a National Switchblade Association

  2. There isn’t a history of people using switchblades for anything but criminal activity.

I’ve owned a switchblade. I sold it when I cut myself with it.

Oh, and it’s not a gang, it’s a club.

Well, with Twitter and other social media, you never know when you’ll find yourself in a flash rumble.

Well, you might have to defend your turf, after your dancing skills prove inadequate.

When switchblades are banned, only outlaws will have switchblades.

Which is especially ironic, since the original purpose of the nunchaku was as a weapon that couldn’t be banned. If the nobility won’t let the commoners use swords, then the commoners, when they need a weapon, carry around agricultural tools like threshing flails instead.

At accident scenes I’ve used knives (folding knives) a multitude of times to cut clothing from people or even seat belt straps when I didn’t have a 911 tool handy.
A switchblade would just be a bit easier to use.

What I don’t get, is if there is a federal law regarding them, why are they legal in a few states? How are they getting around that?