The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Legislation on ‘Gravity Knives’ in NY Moves Forward… Again


The arrests of knife owners in New York continues.

More than four years after the Village Voice published an exposé on how vague wording in the statutes have led to thousands of arrests against mostly minority knife owners in New York City, the arrests are still going on.

Even after lobbying from Knife Rights and the passage of two bills by the state’s legislature clarifying the law (which were ultimately vetoed), police are still using gravity knives as an excuse to arrest law-abiding citizens.

But, “tenacious dems” — as Knife Rights puts it  — have continued to work on stopping the arrests in New York City. The state assembly just passed a bill that would completely remove “gravity knives” from New York criminal statutes. It passed unanimously. The state senate will soon vote on a companion bill, and I expect it to be passed near unanimously as well.

What happens after that remains a question.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already vetoed two bills (one in early 2017 and one in late 2017) that clarified the law surrounding gravity knives. The first time he said too much burden would be placed on cops to figure out what’s legal. The next time he said the law would make virtually all knives legal.

By simply removing “gravity knives” — a vague and confusing term that’s been abused by police — it should solve his complaints. I assume pressure from police organizations and his stance for being tough on crime will help him come up with another excuse, unfortunately.

Police still use the statute to arrest people. A court in the state recently issued a narrow ruling calling the gravity knife law unconstitutional. However, after the ruling, police simply adjusted their reports to account for the ruling.

Here’s more from Knife Rights about the case that led the court to call the law unconstitutional and how police are adjusting:

The case, Cracco v. Vance narrowly focused on the question of how many attempts it took the arresting officer to succeed in “wrist flicking” open Joseph Cracco’s Spyderco Endura. It was alleged that it took five tries, although the DA denied this assertion. Cracco sought a ruling that the statute could not be constitutionally applied to him if it took more than one or two attempts to open the blade using the “wrist flick test.”

The judge agreed with the plaintiff in that regard and ruled that the statute is unconstitutional as applied to a knife that cannot be flicked opened on the first or second attempt. The case and the judge’s decision relied heavily on elements developed in our own long-running Federal civil rights case against the City and DA.As expected, the NYPD have adjusted to the ruling, as shown in the Complaint above, in order to continue their arrests and the DA will be quite willing to prosecute the knife owner.

On top of all of this, it’s possible that all spring-assisted knives are illegal in the state, according to a ruling last year. That may be why places like Amazon have stopped selling completely legal knives to people who live in New York (and Massachusetts). What a mess.

It’s unclear how all this shakes out, but we’ll get some clarity in the coming months.

1 Comment

  1. Timothy toroian

    April 23, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    If I grasp the blade of a knife in my thumb and forefinger and flick the handle out so its weight will cause it to swing out and open the knife is that a gravity knife/ I then flip it so the handle is in my hand. That can be done with most folding knives. Why is it people who don’t use certain kinds of tools and implements think they can write controlling laws about them? Sort of like Dianne Feinstein writing a users manual for a D-9.

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