Michigan is considering reform of its archaic ban on automatic knives. Michigan’s ban was the first in the nation. It was passed into law in September, 1952.
The impetus for the ban is believed to have come from a November, 1950 article by Jack Harrison Pollack. The Toy That Kills was published in the Woman’s Home Companion. Call it propaganda, yellow journalism, muckraking; it has little to do with fact, and everything to do with pushing legislation through emotion. Here is one of the passages.
“Designed for violence, deadly as a revolver — that’s the switchblade, the ‘toy’ youngsters all over the country are taking up as a fad. Press the button on this new version of the pocketknife and the blade darts out like a snake’s tongue. Action against this killer should be taken now. It’s only a short step from carrying a switchblade to gang warfare.”
There is a deeper message as well. It is the message that boys should not be encouraged to be responsible and self controlled. Rather, boys are to be discouraged from the public carry of knives entirely.
If your son has a pocketknife for scouting, or fishing, discourage his taking it to school, the movies, or other public places. Don’t let him be smart-alecky about it. De-glamorize knife-carrying to him.
Pollack’s political push was wildly successful. From Michigan, bans spread across the nation. The next state to fall was New York, in 1954. The propaganda was copied and multiplied in the media. From Gizmodo.com:
What began with “The Toy That Kills” led to a raft of newspaper and tabloid stories, all vilifying the switchblade, then Hollywood got in on the act with Rebel Without A Cause, Crime In The Streets, 12 Angry Men, The Delinquents, High School Confidential, etc, of course culminating with the smash hit broadway musical, West Side Story. That debuted in 1957. It’s no coincidence that the federal Switchblade Knife Act was passed the next year.
60 years later, those ill-considered laws are being rolled back. SB 245 simply repeals the offending section. From SB 245:
Enacting section 1. Section 226a of the Michigan penal code, 26 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.226a, is repealed.
What is Section 226a? Here it is from the Michigan statutes:
Any person who shall sell or offer to sell, or any person who shall have in his possession any knife having the appearance of a pocket knife, the blade or blades of which can be opened by the flick of a button, pressure on a handle or other mechanical contrivance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not to exceed 1 year or by a fine of not to exceed $300.00, or both.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to any one-armed person carrying a knife on his person in connection with his living requirements.
History: Add. 1952, Act 233, Eff. Sept. 18, 1952
What was in the water in Michigan? Michigan is the same state where the ban on short barreled rifles and shotguns got started in 1927. That ban was reformed in 2014.
The automatic knife reform is scheduled to come before the Judiciary committee in the Senate on 28 March, 2017.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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