HOUSE BILL REPORT
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
As Passed Legislature
Title: An act relating to the possession of spring blade knives.
Brief Description: Concerning the possession of spring blade knives.
Sponsors: House Committee on Judiciary (originally sponsored by Representatives Dammeier, Kelley, Wilcox, Van De Wege, Pearson, Hurst, Zeiger, Seaquist, Rodne, Ladenburg, Hope, Green, Klippert and Moscoso).
Judiciary: 1/25/12, 1/30/12 [DPS].
Passed House: 2/9/12, 94-0.
Passed Senate: 3/1/12, 47-2.
Passed House: 3/5/12, 94-0.
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefor and the substitute bill do pass. Signed by 13 members: Representatives Pedersen, Chair; Goodman, Vice Chair; Rodne, Ranking Minority Member; Shea, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Chandler, Eddy, Hansen, Kirby, Klippert, Nealey, Orwall, Rivers and Roberts.
Staff: Omeara Harrington (786-7136).
There is a general prohibition against manufacturing, selling, or possessing certain weapons, including:
spring blade knives;
knives with blades that are automatically released by a spring or other mechanism; or
knives with blades that open by the force of gravity or by a downward, outward, or centrifugal movement of the knife.
It is a gross misdemeanor to violate this prohibition. However, law enforcement officers may possess spring blade knives while on official duty, and may not be prosecuted for possession of a spring blade knife when transporting the knife to and from its place of storage.
Summary of Engrossed Substitute Bill:
The exemption allowing law enforcement officers to possess, transfer, and store spring blade knives for purposes of official duty is expanded to include firefighters and other rescue members, Washington State Patrol (WSP) officers, and military members, and to facilitate actual use of spring blade knives. Spring blade knives may also be manufactured, sold, transported, transferred, distributed, or possessed pursuant to contracts with these actors' agencies. Manufacturer contracts with other manufacturers and commercial distributors are exempt from the prohibition against spring blade knives. Trials, testing, and other uses related to evaluation and assessment of spring blade knives by permitted users, companies, and agencies are also exempt.
The general term "spring blade knife" is to be used to describe the various kinds of knives prohibited in the dangerous weapons statute. Knives with a mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade that must be overcome by physical exertion are not spring blade knives.
Fiscal Note: Not requested.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.
Staff Summary of Public Testimony:
(In support) This is a jobs bill. Though there are Washington manufacturers who would prefer to keep the jobs in Washington, they are prepared to expand into Idaho and Oregon where these knives are legal. The knife industry has grown a lot and local companies need to be able to compete and not lose business to neighboring states. There is a market demand for these knives and a brand new company here in Washington that needs to be able to manufacture them. Right now this has to be outsourced and Washington companies are losing a competitive advantage by having to set up sister facilities. The most successful knife companies are those that can manufacture knives for use by military and law enforcement and those agencies use automatic knives.
Firefighters, law enforcement, and military not only desire to use these knives as part of their jobs, they are actually drilling with these knives in violation of state law. This bill is needed to keep soldiers out of trouble. Current state laws prohibit members of the military from possessing the knives that have been issued to them upon deployment to combat zones. These military members are financially responsible for their issued weapons, which are government owned. A majority of states allow military members to possess these knives. There needs to be some small changes to fully encompass all members of the National Guard who are not always on active duty.
These are tools, not weapons. Most crimes are done with kitchen knives, not tools like these. There are a lot of uses for tools being automatic, especially for those who have to use them for their jobs, from private security to ski patrol. This is a tool that people in rescue professions can use to cut people free from seatbelts and other precarious situations.
This is a good bill with one problem. The language requiring a contract is problematic because it prohibits the ability of manufacturers to develop prototypes.
Persons Testifying: Representative Dammeier, prime sponsor; Mike Vellekamp, Fox Knives USA; Spencer Frazer, SOG Knives Incorporated; Adam Rosenlund, Fire Departments; Steve Avila, Blade-Tech Industries; Todd Rathner, Knife Rights; and Brigadier General Bret Daugherty, Washington Military Department.
Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.