Thanks to a distorted reading of New York City knife laws, the NYPD has sent as many as 60,000 people to jail over the past decade. According to the Village Voice, simple possession of a pocket knife has even landed defendants in prison for up to seven years.
Knife Rights has been taking on the city for the past few years, arguing that the laws are unjust, capricious, and unconstitutional. In some cases, people have been arrested for carrying legal knives like the Buck 112 Ranger or Leatherman Surge—not exactly gravity knives.
Now the organization has garnered support from a group traditionally on the other side of the political spectrum: the NAACP.
These two groups make strange bedfellows, but they are fighting for the same thing: justice for unfairly targeted groups.
The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund—which is responsible for bringing such seminal and historically significant cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virgina—wrote a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to sign a recently passed reform of the poorly written knife laws.
Here’s a short excerpt:
“Under the current law, a law-abiding New Yorker can walk into a hardware store, buy a common folding knife, and be rewarded with a criminal conviction—merely for possessing a tool that is available for purchase through the city and state. This law is problematic on its face and even more problematic in its application. It punishes New Yorkers for an innocent act, and it is overwhelmingly applied against African Americans and Latinos.”
That’s some spot-on criticism. You can read the full letter at the bottom.
The NAACP isn’t the only organization expressing displeasure with the current state of the knife gravity laws. The Legal Aid Society and the New York Times Editorial Board all back the bill being sent to the governor. On top of that, every member of the New York State Senate and all but 12 members of the New York State Assembly.
Despite universal criticism from tons of people and organizations from all sides of the political spectrum, NYC Major Bill de Blasio and several law enforcement organizations have steadfastly stood by the antiquated and unjust knife laws.
Considering Bill De Blasio has prided himself on opposing stop-and-frisk (an unconstitutional and ineffective strategy), it’s surprising he doesn’t oppose the vague knife laws that have sent thousands of working-class citizens to jail.
With the ball in the governor’s court, we wait to find out whether he vetoes the reform or passes it.