U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Doug Ritter has seen and done a lot in his life. He worked for Aston Martin. He owned a home building business. He worked as a journalist. He's one of the world's leading authorities on survival gear.
That all changed in 2006 when he read a Wall Street Journal article demonizing so-called “tactical knives.” He realized there was not an “NRA” equivalent for knife owners. If there wasn’t one, then he would make one. He founded “Knife Rights.”
Doug set out to repeal bad knife laws and protect knife owners' rights in the US. Through grassroots efforts they have had more success than anyone thought was possible, garnering bipartisan support on the national and state levels.
I got a chance to have a conversation with Doug about his work and the state of knife owners' rights in the US.
John: What is your background?
Doug: I grew up on a ranch in Arizona. Knives have been a part of my life as a tool since I was seven years old.
Back in the 80s, after I closed down my home building business, I was looking around for something to do that didn't involve lawyers, bureaucrats, and the like. A friend suggested I try writing. I was a pilot, and I had been reading a number of aviation publications for years. I sent a query letter to “Aviation Safety Magazine,” which is a subscriber-supported, no-advertisement magazine, and offered to write an article about a survival kit I had assembled.
That led to me becoming a contributing editor to the magazine and others by that publisher, as well as writing for numerous other publications. It also led to becoming news editor of one of the first commercially successful online magazines. I supported myself solely as a journalist and editor for a number of years.
In the course of that my interest in survival turned into an area of specialty dealing with survival equipment. I did numerous reviews and investigative articles on aviation and marine survival equipment. It eventually evolved into a website called “Equipped to Survive” (www.equipped.org). It's like “Consumer Reports” for survival gear.
In the process, I got to know pretty much everyone in the knife industry because, as most everyone recognizes, a knife is a critical piece of survival gear. I started going to SHOT Show and Outdoor Retailer and eventually developed my own line of knives that launched in 2004.
John: What prompted you to start Knife Rights?
Doug: In the summer of 2006 the Wall Street Journal ran an outrageous and highly inflammatory, and inaccurate, article entitled “How New, Deadly Pocketknives Became a $1 Billion Business,” demonizing so-called “tactical knives.” Imagine an article written like every terrible article you've read about “evil assault weapons” and substitute “tactical knife.” I had an epiphany.
I traveled overseas when I worked for a British company and I traveled overseas when I was doing survival gear reviews. I saw how the UK and Europe treated knives and knife owners. I realized there wasn’t an “NRA” for knife owners to stop the US from going down that same road. There was no aggressively proactive organization working to ensure our kids and our grandkids will still be able to carry a knife of their choice. That led directly to me founding Knife Rights.
It is most gratifying talking today with the many people that said I was nuts and would never be able to repeal a knife ban. Boy, were they wrong about that!
Nothing in my background prepared me for being involved in the political and the advocacy world other than the diversity of life experience that taught me that if you are persistent and work hard at something, there is a damn good chance you can accomplish it.
John: Your organization has had some pretty amazing accomplishments pushing through pro-knife legislation across the country. How have you had so much success?
Doug: Yes, with a record of 28 bills repealing knife bans enacted in 20 states, the defeat of eight anti-knife bills in six states in the past eight years as well as helping get a bill through Congress and a number of courthouse victories, you could definitely say we have had “success.” Even those who were originally supportive of my “crazy” idea for Knife Rights have been astounded by just how successful we have been. I am incredibly proud of what my tiny organization has accomplished.
Looking at that record, most people think we are a lot larger organization than we are. It's just me, Todd Rathner, our Director of Legislative Affairs, a fancy name for “lobbyist,” and my wife Sue, who takes care of a lot of the day to day administration.
This success comes down to the fact that we work our butts off. Both Todd and I rack up 100,000 miles a year in travel. We are 100% dedicated to a sharper future for all Americans. We are aggressive and persistent. In many states, it has taken years of effort to get their knife bans repealed. Our Federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City over their persecution of tens of thousands of pocket knife owners is now in its eighth year. We don't give up.
Another element of our success has been the bipartisan support we have garnered for our efforts, support we've worked very hard to gain and grow. Most of our bills pass with strong bipartisan majorities, despite the Second Amendment being one of the cornerstones of our organization. Knives being arms protected by the Second Amendment is half of Knife Rights' foundational principles expressed in our logo, “Essential Tools – Essential Rights.” While knives are tools used by millions of Americans at home, work and while recreating, sometimes they are also tools used as arms in order to protect one's person or family. In some areas of the country, they are the most effective legal self-defense alternative to banned firearms.
John: What are the biggest misconceptions about knife laws in the US?
Doug: Probably the biggest of all the misconceptions is that the “Federal Switchblade Act” outlaws automatic knives in the US. That is not true, with the exception of Native American reservations. Autos are legal to one degree or another in the vast majority of states. They are legal in 14 more states today than when we started repealing switchblade bans. Hopefully, by the end of this month, it will be 15, with Louisiana joining that list. The archaic and antiquated Federal Switchblade Act primarily prohibits interstate commerce in switchblades. That why our Knife Owners' Protection Act bill in Congress this session, H.R. 84, filed the first day of this Congress, includes repeal of that asinine 1958 law.
I also can’t begin to count the number of legislators that we talk to about repealing the knife bans in their states that don’t even know that they exist. Many citizens also don't realize that even within states with generally good knife laws, or none at all, that many cities and towns have their own knife bans. That's the reason that Knife Law Preemption is a key part of our legislative agenda which has been enacted in 10 states so far. Preemption nullifies all such bans more restrictive than state law.
John: What is your view on the knife laws in the UK?
Doug: I used to work for Aston Martin. I spent time in England back in the 70s. Even then they had a poor attitude towards knives.
I was in England in the early 90s testing life rafts as part of an international crew that was working with a magazine to test life rafts. We are out, and we got a dozen life rafts off the stern. All the lines were getting jumbled up, and really the only solution is to cut the lines. Not only was I the only person on the boat with a pocket knife, but when I pulled out my one-hand opening pocket knife and opened it, I got the feeling that half of the people on the boat wanted to jump overboard.
All of that came to bear when that article ran in the Wall Street Journal. I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t want us to end up like England.”
England has only gotten worse. The London Mayor’s recent tweets and pronouncements are indicative of an appalling attitude towards knives.
John: Mayor Khan is worried about knives when his city is the acid attack capital of the word.
Doug: They do have a problem with what they speciously refer to as “knife crime.” Like so many criminal problems, the issue isn’t the tool. It is symptomatic of societal issues that they refuse to acknowledge and deal with. So, they blame the inanimate tool. Your readers will certainly be familiar with this irrational concept.
As long as Knife Rights is around, I don’t think we have to worry about going there. We have been rolling back knife laws with rare exceptions. Things have been going aggressively in the right direction in America as opposed to the wrong direction in the UK.
I recently spent three days on Capitol Hill lobbying for our Knife Owners Protection Act including repeal of the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act .” This was immediately after Mayor Kahn’s ridiculous tweet that “there is never a reason to carry a knife.” He did us a favor on Capitol Hill.
I had 32 meetings in three days on Capitol Hill and every single one of those meeting started out with them making reference to the Mayor's tweet. It set us up perfectly to explain why we need to get rid of the “Federal Switchblade Act.”
John: How can people join Knife Rights?
Doug: Go to our website. This is a great time to join because of our annual Ultimate Steel Spectacular fundraiser. If you donate at a certain level, not only do you get a free membership, you also get a chance to win your choice from over $160,000 in knives, guns, an African Safari and men's and women's jewelry. As one donor described the prizes, they are “truly drool-worthy.” We have knives valued up to $10,000. We have over $44,000 in firearms packages. It's a “spectacular” opportunity to help Knife Rights continue to forge a sharper future for all Americans.
It is certainly the best way for people to join because they are not only helping an organization that is the second front in defense of the Second Amendment, but they also get the chance to win incredible prizes.
Knife Right’s website is located here.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.