Bizarre Washington Supreme Court Decision

Bizarre WA Supreme Court Decision: Knives are Likely Arms Protected by the Second Amendment – but a Paring Knife is Not an Arm

Washington State Capital
Washington State Capital
KnifeRights.org
KnifeRights.org

Gilbert, AZ -(AmmoLand.com)- In a bizarre decision issued on the last day of 2015 in a case involving a paring knife, a sharply divided Washington state Supreme Court found that knives likely are arms and are protected by the U.S. Second Amendment as well as Washington State's constitution, but the paring knife was not a protected arm.

Justice Charles K. Wiggins, writing for the 5-4 majority, characterized the knife in this case as a “utility tool” and as such, not afforded any constitutional protection.

The defendant was stopped for speeding and when asked if he had any weapons, he told the officer he had a knife in his pocket and claimed he carried it for self-defense. He was arrested, and then convicted, for violating Seattle's municipal ordinance that makes it illegal to carry “any fixed-blade knife and any other knife having a blade more than 3 1/2 inches in length.” Thought not illegal under state law, there is no Knife Law Preemption in Washington…yet.

He tried to fight the charge by claiming the knife, described by the arresting officer as a “kitchen knife” and a “paring knife,” was a protected “arm.” Whether that was a particularly smart defense is certainly open to argument, but as the saying goes, bad cases make bad law, which this certainly did.

The salient part of the decision's conclusion was, “we hold that the right to bear arms protects instruments that are designed as weapons traditionally or commonly used by law abiding citizens for the lawful purpose of self-defense. In considering whether a weapon is an arm, we look to the historical origins and use of that weapon, noting that a weapon does not need to be designed for military use to be traditionally or commonly used for self-defense. We will also consider the weapon's purpose and intended function…The small knife found on Evans's person is a utility tool, not a weapon…. Evans does not demonstrate that his paring knife is a constitutionally protected arm.”

The four dissenting Justices didn't buy that argument. Justice Charles W. Johnson argued that any fixed-blade knife that was carried for self-defense should be a protected arm, regardless of its design. As he noted, knives have historically always been considered “militia arms.” He wrote, “I would hold that the [Seattle Municipal Code] as applied to Evans–a law-abiding citizen possessing a fixed-blade knife for self-defense–is presumptively unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.”

Of particular interest was a footnote by the majority, “In a different case under appropriate facts, the ordinance's ‘broad prohibition' on carrying arms for purposes of self-defense may well be constitutionally infirm.” Essentially, they conceded that some other knife, designed as, or historically considered, a weapon, for example, might well be afforded the protection of the Second Amendment.

Nobody should take this decision to mean that it's okay to violate Seattle's ordinance against fixed blade knives or knives more than 3 1/2 inches long because their knife was designed as a weapon rather than as a kitchen tool.

Click here to read the decision.

About Knife Rights:

Knife Rights 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.

For more information, visit www.KnifeRights.org.

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5WarVeteran
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5WarVeteran

Should I reconsider open carrying a pitchfork? AS pitchforks were a weapon of the “militia” (any able bodied person aged 16 to 60) during the time of the American revolution. Perhaps my foldable shovel is a protected weapon as well. It does have a 6 inch sharpened edge on one side and a saw lie edge on the other you know…

hippybiker
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hippybiker

“For all the Monkeys are not in the Zoo. Everyday, you meet quite a few, but the Monkeys that you meet, might be me , or you.” Ernest Hemingway

jim
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jim

Okay….so the self-defense/2A defense was thrown out because the item is a “utility tool”. Does that mean that “utility tools are now illegal or must be openly carried?
Does the law read: “Utility tools must not be concealed”?
Seems “”Not Guilty” to me either way.

Bandit
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Bandit

RICH
No truer words have been put down, right out of the Declaration Of Independence, this is something that all of us should have in mind at all times. Need tie put that part of the founding Documents to good use and we need yo do that soon very soon.

Rich
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Rich

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall… Read more »

xqqme
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xqqme

Maybe it’s time to picket Seattle stores where kitchen utensils are sold… clearly advising prospective purchasers that Seattle authorities may arrest and convict them of felonies merely for carrying their purchase of kitchen knives as they leave the store on their way home.