Knife Control? Canadian Crimes Trigger Fretting Over Blades.


Assailt knife
Berteun/Public Domain

Once upon a time, gun rights advocates warned that when the control freaks were done piling restrictions on firearms, they'd discover that violent crimes failed to evaporate and so next turn their attention to anything sharp or pointy. After all, people have committed mayhem on one another with blades ever since some long ago caveman realized that the sharp piece of flint in his hand looked like a good fit for an annoying neighbor's neck. Well, rest assured that the doomsayers were right: After a couple of nasty stabbings in Canada, knife control is on the radar north of the border.

To their credit, though, many people seem to realize that restrictions on sharp things may be even less enforceable than eternally pointless gun controls.

Knives are already more intrusively regulated than many people realize. As A. Barton Hinkle noted noted earlier this month, "The laws governing knives can be surprisingly restrictive—and in some ways even more restrictive than firearms laws." In his home state of Virginia, concealed carry permits are available for handguns, but not knives.

Knives are one of the world's oldest weapons, and they continue to feature in violent crimes. In 2011, 17.2 percent of American homicides were committed with a "knife or blunt object"—almost as many as were committed with long guns. In Britain and Canada, the number is closer to one-third.

On Tuesday, five people were murdered at a Calgary house party by a knife-wielding man in a crime police call "the worst mass murder in Calgary's history." The same day, four people were stabbed at a mall in Regina, Saskatchewan, and a student was stabbed at an Ontario high school.

Now Canadians are talking about—you guessed it—knife restrictions. Edmonton already considered banning "dangerous knives." Saskatoon discussed the same.

In the U.S., a Pennsylvania high school suffered a horrendous knife attack just last week, leaving 20 people injured. In contrast to Canada, that triggered little, if any, serious discussion of restricting bladed weapons. That may be for the same reasons that derailed the earier Canadian efforts and has some pundits admitting the limits of of any future legislation: Bans and restrictions really don't work, and knives are impossible to regulate.

In 2010, Glen Luther, a law professor at the University of Saskatoon, said about a proposed ban, "How can you ban knives without coming to grips with the fact that they're used lawfully by people from all walks of life?"

Just today, Brian Zinchuk, a columnist for Saskatchewan's Battleford's News-Optimist commented, "The gun kooks were right. Take away their guns, and people will turn to knives." He added:

When the gun control debate was going strong, this came up. Some gun advocates, in pointing out that registration did not stop crimes, mockingly said what was next, registering knives?

Well, as horrible as it sounds, they had a point.

The gun registry came and went, and gun crime still occurred, although thankfully, Canada has not seen a rash of gun massacres since Ecole Polytechnique and Taber.

What can we do about knives? Not a damned thing.

Knives are the most basic of tools, going back to sharpened rock and bone. We cannot function without them. We can't even eat without them. No amount of regulation, legislation or feel good campaigns can effectively control knives, although I'm sure someone is going to try.

Criminologist Janne Holmgren even told the CBC that the push for knife restrictions is a "moral panic" and that "sometimes fear drives a lot of legislation, unfortunately."

Good thought. We need more like them—or maybe Janne should just print that on a card and hand it out.

As it turns out, Matthew de Grood, the mass murder suspect in Calgary used a kitchen knife—one that he grabbed on the way through the house where the crime occurred.

Some British physicians have a proposed solution for that: They want to ban sharp tips on kitchen knives. Yes, that's a serious proposal. Well, it's intended to be serious, even if there's a Monty Python-esque quality to the idea of restricting paring knives lest somebody run amuck.

What's next? Banning baseball bats?

Probably so. But that will also run into a fundamental problem: No particular weapon is an indispensable item. Weapons exist on a continuum of objects able to cause mayhem. Guns, knives, cans of gasoline (as killed 87 people in the Happy Land arson)—they're just tools that can be replaced.

People are the real weapons. When people decide to be dangerous, they just find tools that will help them do the job.

Note: Arizona, where I live, has awesome knife laws. Everything sharp and pointy has been legal since 2011.

NEXT: It's Time for the NCAA to Pay Student-Athletes

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  1. Let’s just ban attacking people with knives. That seems to work.

    1. You know – the drop in the number of cases where people were attacked with knives dropped by several orders of magnitude when compared to the time-period where it was legal to do so.

  2. People are the real weapons. When people decide to be dangerous, they just find tools that will help them do the job.

    Sounds like a proposal for common-sense people control to me…

    1. “‘A weapon is a tool,’ she repeated, a little breathlessly. ‘A tool for killing and destroying. And there will be times when, as an Envoy, you must kill and destroy. Then you will choose and equip yourself with the tools that you need. But remember the weakness of weapons. They are an extension–you are the killer and destroyer. You are whole, with or without them.'”

      1. “The bomb lives only as it is falling.”

        1. I quote Richard K. Morgan and you quote Iain Banks? What, steroids make you retarded?

          1. One should never regret one’s excesses.

            1. “It was the single forgiving phrase in the syntax of weaponry I had strapped about me. The rest were unequivocal sentences of death.”

              1. How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him.

        2. Iain Banks was a bad person and you should feel bad for quoting him.

  3. People are the real weapons.

    Ban ’em. Problem solved. If that doesn’t work, put up “Crime Free Zone” signs everywhere.

    /typical gun grabber logic

  4. The gun kooks were right.

    So maybe we weren’t kooks? Maybe. Juuuust maybe.

  5. So what are they going to do when people start carrying around screwdrivers? Are you going to need (another) special permit and background check to be a carpenter or mechanic? What about hammers? An 8 oz ball-peen will fuck your day right up.

    1. The problem here is that these people think they can come up with workable legislation based on the non-existent difference between a *weapon* and a *tool*.

      Except that there is *no* difference – weapons are tools, tools are weapons. You can kill a dude with a paintbrush.

      1. Goldfinger?

        1. *That* requires paint and a serious misunderstanding of human physiology.

      2. College admin control-freaks tried to do that with me — fencing equipment as weapon vs. tool.

        Foil (not sharp): Weapon.
        Baseball bat: Not Weapon.

        1. You were foil? Saber here. And we used to sneak them out of the practice room and fence in the halls. The RAs didn’t give a shit, but then again, they didn’t give a shit about anything.

          1. Epee was my favorite, but I started on foil.

            Used to get chased out of various locations in the dorms/campus. Also had occasional backyard saber.

            1. Not tall enough for epee? I’m six feet and was judged not tall enough for epee. But then again I’m insane so I was perfect for saber anyway.

              1. 6′, myself. Started learning on foil, I mean. I’d usually fence both foil and epee in tournaments. By the time I was done, mostly just epee, though.

      3. Just ask the Kzin during the Man-Kzin war. Human got a lot of milage turning mining equipment into awesome weapon.

    2. Hell, Bernie Goetz was 30 years ago. Screw drivers have been popular weapons in police states for as long as more efficient weapons have been banned. No future tense required.

      1. I forgot all about Bernie Goetz. I just read the Wikipedia account. Wild story. And the aftermath section is golden.

        1. Oh for shit’s sake:

          He is an advocate for vegetarianism and the serving of vegetarian lunches in the city’s public schools.[82] Goetz is also involved with squirrel rescue in the city.[83] He installs squirrel houses, feeds squirrels, and performs first aid.

          I do like the most recent stuff with the weed, though. He is a man of principle, it seems.

          1. Weed, vegetarianism and squirrels? He sure sounds like a crazed vigilante!

          2. My cousin used to see him a lot before the incident. Apparently he’s long been a fairly prominent person.

    3. It’s not uncommon to see a ball peen hammer hanging from the belt of members of the Outlaws MC here in SE Wisconsin.

      1. It’s a Hammer Party!

      2. I’m trying to remember which motorcycle club wears a Maglite and a padlock knotted into a bandanna as part of their colors.

  6. Easy to ban:
    -Military surplus knives
    -Black knives or partially black knives
    -Knives with saw blades on one edge
    -Knives with hollow handles for matches (which arsonist stabbers favor)
    -Knives that convert to wire cutters
    -Tanto Knives or any other cool sounding name.

    1. -Knives with more than one edge
      -Knives with more than 3 inches
      -Knives with ‘bayonet’ style points
      -Knives with folding blades (that thing that goes up)
      -Knives that are less then the 2.5 in mandated minimum length (cut down for concealability – seriously, the dictionary knows how to spell Metallica but not this?)

      1. So wait is my tuna knife legal

        1. Dear god! What sort of tuna are you cutting up? Giant radioactive mutants?

          1. You know tuna are bigger than people right? That is an absurd example of a tuna knife though. 1/3 that length is more customary. Still “sword” length mind you and they usually take 2 or more people to use. 1 to slice, more to pull back the filet as it’s being cut.

        2. Most knife laws in the US are concerned with carry. You can own most types of knives legally (except for switchblades, in some states), you just can’t carry them around with you unless you have a legitimate reason – for instance, if you’re hunting and carrying a large hunting knife, or a chef carrying his tools to his workplace, etc.

          This varies from state to state and city to city, though, so it’s best to check your local laws.

          1. Couple of Civil War re-enactors I know have ridden SEPTA trains, in uniform, carrying their 18″ bayonets and .58 black powder muskets without being hassled.

  7. People are the real weapons.

    Exactly. Look at me. I need a special permit to carry these guns. *kisses biceps*


      1. We’re all gonna make it, brah.

    2. Pfft, do you even *work* out brah?

  8. The add some funny book keeping like counting appendectomies as knife assaults.

  9. You know what’s good at stopping a guy with a knife? A guy with a gun. (So make sure you have 911 on your speed dial.)

  10. Nobody needs assault knives!

  11. I remember butterfly knives were a thing in Massachusetts back in the Carter years. School was always warning us not to carry them. Kids loved ’em cause they were fun to flip around, of course no one used them for murder. If anything they were shitty tools and easy to cut yourself with. The authorities were terrified though.

    1. Same sort of shit with switchblades. A 5 in folding blade is a terrifying weapon no decent person has a legitimate use for but a 7 in, *non-folding* knife is just fine.

      1. A knife that can be deployed with a ‘furtive movement’ is scary.

        Fun fact, Washington State law bans any knife that can be opened with thumb assist or a, and I quote, “furtive movement”.

        Yes, those utility knives at Home Depot and the ones under the counter at fine Korean grocery stores everywhere, are banned.

        1. VW “Switchblade” keys look like knives.
          Ban em

        2. Same shit I had to deal with in the Navy – knives that could be opened one-handed were explicitly forbidden by regulation despite my job have large parts of is that *required* I be able to open a knife one-handed.

          Solved this dilemma the Greek way (no, not buttsex) – everyone looked the other way as long as you didn’t get in trouble.

  12. You know, it’s really not all that difficult to beat a dude to death. I keep waiting for these idiots to try to ban MMA schools.

    1. All that hitting is a lot of repetitive work and puts you at risk for carpal tunnel…

    2. It’s extra easy when you have ROADZ! to bounce their head off of. When are we going to ban roadz?

  13. His dad was a cop, he knew his victims were unarmed.

  14. The Canadians have been here before. Back in the 90s they had a campaign dubbed “Save Lives, Ban Knives”. It actually got opposition from some surprising corners of the political spectrum. Homeless advocates, for instance, were reticent about the idea because they posited that homeless people are at a high risk of being victimized, and often, a small knife is the only defense they have against dangerous predators on the streets.

    Everything old is new again.

    1. Homeless advocates, for instance, were reticent about the idea because they posited that homeless people are at a high risk of being victimized, and often, a small knife is the only defense they have against dangerous predators on the streets.

      So my question is what good is a small knife against six armed cops?

      1. Well if the knife in question can be used as justification to shot said homeless man, absent any laws regarding it’s legality, and any repercussions for the shooters, what’s the point of making a law?

      2. Homeless people have other predators than cops, turns out.

  15. I was going to ask this in the previous knife article. Anyways how ambiguous are US knife laws. My bag is full of knives, at all times. They aren’t cordoned off, I could, technically just reach in and grab one. Is my legal status entirely dependent on the mood of costumed thugs (barring actually using a knife in an assault, obviously)?

    1. Pretty much.

      But then again, when is it not.…..-over.html

      1. I always have this fear that one of my knives is going to fall out of my bag at the train station, where there are always a ridiculous number of cops.

  16. Someone should introduce a bill that outlaws all knives with pistol grips, flash suppressors, and bayonet lugs. I bet a lot of politicians would unwittingly support it.

    1. Here’s a pistol grip knife for you.

      And bayonet lugs make sense to have (on a bayonet at least).

  17. dangerous knives, eh?

    All of them, then?

  18. Edmonton already considered banning “dangerous knives.”

    Idk about you guys, but all my knives have collapsible stocks, pistol grips, fore-grips, flash suppressors, and “that thing that goes up in the back.”

  19. Ban all knives. Only allow government officials use them. You can just call the police to have someone butter your toast.

  20. Here’s my favorite knife I’d grab in a fight — and it doesn’t even have a point : .

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