Hot off the heels of a ruling by the highest court in New York State that potentially makes all assisted-opening knives illegal, a federal appeals court upheld New York City’s vague ban on gravity knives.
The case of Copeland v. Vance has been a long-running battle between Knife Rights and New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Knife Rights has challenged the gravity knife policy of New York City that allows cops to call any locking folder that can be opened with a flick an illegal gravity knife.
Knife Rights has insisted that the practice of the wrist flick is inconsistent and unconstitutional because there is no test that would allow a user to determine whether the knife is legal. The panel, however, argued that the test was constitutionally applied at least once in 2010.
Here’s more from Knife Rights:
There wasn’t in 2010, and there isn’t now. In 2010 there was no test Native Leather [a retailer in NYC] could have applied in order to identify knives that it could lawfully sell. That’s because the wrist flick test will never tell you that a knife is legal. Therefore there was nothing Native Leather could do in 2010 that would identify knives that were legal to sell.
The Court mistakenly found that it is perfectly constitutional for the police to use a test that tells you what conduct is illegal, but does not tell you what conduct is legal. That being the case, how is a person supposed to know how to engage in legal conduct? He cannot under this Court’s ruling.
Interestingly, while the court voted 3-0 to reject the claims that the ban was vague, the judge did say the governor and legislature might “give further attention” to the ban.
Here’s what Chief Judge Robert Katzmann said:
The statute’s reliance on a functional test and imposition of strict liability on what can be a common, if dangerous, household tool might in some instances trap the innocent by not providing fair warning,” he wrote. “The sheer number of people who carry folding knives that might or might not respond to the wrist-flick test raises concern about selective enforcement.
Ironically, the legislature actually did pass a law that clarified the vague ban, but Cuomo vetoed the nearly unanimous bill from making it into law… two years in a row.
As for this case, Knife Rights is going to petition to have it reviewed by the full court.
We’ll keep you posted about the details.