Switchblade ban lifted in Indiana

The Indiana State Senate unanimously passed Senate bill 0181 last week, lifting the ban on switchblades.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said the bill had been proposed in years past but never seemed to make it past the House.

“But, I feel pretty good about it this time,” Tomes said. “I think everyone understands that it is a silly law.”

Tomes said people wonder why this pocketknife had restrictions when nearly identical ones were available.

The band-restricted switchblades were ones partially spring-assisted, while the switchblade that was banned is fully spring-assisted, Tomes said. Partially spring-assisted switchblades are opened by the person using them, while fully spring-assisted switchblades can open on their own.

The ban imposed six months of jail time and a $1,000 fine to anyone carrying the knife.

“During the committee when I presented this issue, I had three examples of pocketknives, and I opened them up one after another,” Tomes said. “And no one could distinguish which one was the prohibited one and which of the two weren’t.”

Tomes said the drive behind this bill was to help EMTs and police officers cut seatbelts more easily in car crashes.

Tomes said he, along with others, speculate the ban was put in place in the past because of movies like “Rebel Without a Cause,” where switchblades were the weapons associated with street gangs.

“The fact that the bill passed 47-0 is indicative that society today and legislators today are not willing to keep antiquated laws that put people in jail for things that don’t make sense,” Tomes said.

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said bills currently being considered are about fixing these types of problems.

“Bills that are going through right now are just about cleaning up language,” Stoops said. “They are housekeeping bills.”

Captain Joe Qualters of the Bloomington Police Department said switchblades are not an issue in the Bloomington community.

“We don’t have any real crime or injuries, assaults or anything like that involving switchblades,” Qualters said.

Tomes said, according to his studies, most knifing incidents in the United States are from standard kitchen knives.

“Something to think about: if a person could get away with strapping their chainsaw to their belt loop and walking down the street without breaking any laws, but this little two-inch knife could get you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, you have to think why, why would that be?” Tomes said.

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