Gilbert, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- Oral argument in the appeal of Knife Rights' Federal Civil Rights case against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., which was dismissed on standing grounds, was held on January 13 2015 in New York City.
In response to questions from the bench, the DA's attorney was forced to admit that what had happened to plaintiff John Copeland could happen to anyone. When asked directly if someone could show his knife to two policemen who tested the knife with the city's (indeterminate) “wrist-flick” test and found the knife legal, that the same knife could later be found illegal by a third policeman, he agreed that was the case.
That goes directly to the claim in the lawsuit that this test is unconstitutionally vague because no one can know if any Common Folding Knife is legal.
The DA's attorney further admitted that any knife could be legal one day and illegal the next, claiming that they expect all knife owners to test their knife “regularly” (perhaps meaning before every use) to determine if it is still legal, an absurd requirement, even were an individual's own “wrist-flick” test determinate, which it is clearly not.
He also appeared unfamiliar with how the law is actually applied by the DA's office, claiming that if an individual had tested his knife “20 times” that a “reasonableness” standard would be applied and that person would not be prosecuted. We know that is not the case, otherwise there would not have been an estimated 60,000 prosecutions under this law, nor would Copeland have been prosecuted. The judge involved in this line of inquiry expressed skepticism that anything short of trial would address the issue, which is, of course, the truth and reality that knife owners caught up in this injustice deal with daily.
Finally, he also mischaracterized the Federal Switchblade Act, claiming that New York's gravity knife law used identical language, while neglecting to mention the fifth exception that was passed by Congress in 2009 (with Knife Rights' support) to clarify that knives with a bias towards closure are not included. These knives are what we characterize in our lawsuit as a Common Folding Knife, which we claim as being distinct from a true gravity knife which has no bias whatsoever. That is a key element of the lawsuit. Our briefs go into considerable detail on this point.
In response to a question about Swiss Army Knives, our attorney, Dan Schmutter, responded that some Swiss Army Knives with locking blades could be deemed gravity knives by the DA and NYPD if someone could “wrist-flick” the knife open. That response appeared to surprise the judge asking the question.
While perhaps seemingly somewhat tangential to the issue of standing which is under review, these issues go to the heart of the appeal. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that the case could not proceed because Knife Rights and four other plaintiffs (who were falsely arrested or threatened with prosecution for possessing Common Folding Knives) did not identify specific knives being wrongly classified in their complaint, and therefore lacked standing to sue. Requiring identification of specific prohibited knives, in a case about the inability to know what is prohibited or permitted, turns the very idea of this lawsuit on its head.
A decision on the appeal is likely months away, but regardless of how it goes, Knife Rights is committed to continuing to pursue justice for knife owners in New York City.
On a related note, Human Events last month covered Knife Rights' fight against New York City's persecution of knife owners in an article, “Knife Rights Fights Against NYC Blade Ordinances.”
Meanwhile, The Village Voice front page article, “Blade Stunner,” slamming the City's persecution of knife owners continues to garner attention.
Knife Rights (www.KnifeRights.org) is America's Grassroots Knife Owners Organization, working towards a Sharper Future for all knife owners. Knife Rights is dedicated to providing knife owners an effective voice in public policy. Become a Knife Rights member and make a contribution to support the fight for your knife rights. Visit www.kniferights.org