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NY defines switchblades, says ‘gravity knives’ legal

ALBANY -- New York’s Legislature on Wednesday determined many pocket folding knives available in home renovation and sporting goods stores and “gravity knives” that prompted 60,000 arrests in 10 years including stop-and-frisk actions should no longer be outlawed as switchblades.

On Wednesday the Senate gave final legislative approval of a bill that more precisely defines knives that have drawn misdemeanor charges against thousands of New Yorkers and many felonies for those with prior criminal records. The knives the Legislature now define as legal were involved in many stop-and-frisk arrests in New York City that outraged advocates for low-income, minority residents who were frequently detained by stop-and-frisk.

Under state law sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), switchblades which remain illegal as they have since the 1950s. A switchblade is defined as any knife with a blade that “opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or device in the handle of the knife.”

Under the legislation passed Wednesday, a gravity knife has a blade that is “released from the handle or sheath … by the force of gravity or in the application of centrifical force,” such as a flick of the wrist. In a gravity knife, the blade is then locked in place by a button, spring or other device.

The legislation states that between 2003 and 2013 60,000 New Yorkers were arrested on possession of the knives “making this one of the most-prosecuted crimes in New York City. The vast majority of those arrested had no criminal intent and believed that the common folding knives they carried were legal. These arrests and prosecutions do not contribute to public safety.”

The legislation will now go to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who could sign it into law or veto it.

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