Written by Ralph E. Shaffer
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Monday, 13 February 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA. Frustrated in their attempt to outlaw firearms, the anti-gun crowd now has a new target. Spurred on by a mini-epidemic of fatal stabbings in Southern California, liberal state legislators from Los Angeles county are honing a bill to ban a wide variety of knives, including some hallowed in American history.

That the knife and its relatives have become an increasingly deadly weapon in the early part of 2017 is not in dispute. Of the five suspects fatally shot by police in L A county in the first five weeks of the new year, three were wielding knives. None of those three had committed murder, but unidentified knife wielders killed two people in Chinatown, another victim was knifed to death at his home, and several people were attacked by a knife-wielder on Sunset Blvd. The machete attack at the Louvre added to the urgency.

With the slogan, "Ban Knives, Save Lives," the bill's authors have been paring down a long list of potential banned cutlery in an attempt to minimize opposition. No longer on their list are the Boy Scout knife and the swiss army knife. The former was chiseled from the bill as the Boy Scouts opened their ranks to transgenders, The LGBTQ community, which had been silent on the knife ban, negotiated quietly with the Boy Scouts, offering to use their clout with legislators to allow continued use of the scout knife provided the scouts changed their policy on transgenders.

The other, more conservative gun rights organization, the American Rifleman's Association, also joined the scouts in fighting a proposed ban on pocket knives in general. Claiming "Every kid is entitled to a pocket knife," and re-phrasing that dictum from the Founding Fathers, "Let every kid be armed," they successfully forced the bill's authors to allow any pocket knife with the blade under two inches.

Swiss consular officials in San Francisco, angered by a bill that seemed to label their knives as unwelcome in America as the Muslims banned by a Trump executive order, successfully lobbied the bill's proponents to exempt their knife.

The whittled down list still contains machetes, bolos, zombies, bowie knives and nearly twenty other cutting devices.

Drawing the greatest objection of those to be banned is the bayonet. Weekend warriors and history buffs have vigorously protested continued presence of the bayonet on the list. They claim forerunners of the bayonet were instrumental in Continental Army victories over the British in the Revolutionary War, citing instances of hand-to-hand combat in which Patriots attached butcher knives to their muskets before charging the Redcoats.

At Cal State University Alturas, sorority girls run a bayonet course every Saturday morning and attack dummies labeled "campus sexual predators." One girl, who identified herself as "Brandie," proudly displayed her verified score card showing nine bullseyes out of ten thrusts. "How's a girl to defend herself if they ban bayonets?"
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Rather than fight to keep each form of cutting tool out of the bill, legal eagles rely on the Second Amendment. Their foremost advocate in that regard ins Dean Edward Clammorinski of the University of California, Pismo Beach, law school. Clammorinski argues that had the Founders intended that only guns be protected by the amendment, they would have written "the right to bear guns." Instead, they wrote "the right to bear arms," which protects all weapons that might be used in defense of the country, Clammorinski envisions a widowed housewife unable to defend herself against Isis invaders because do-gooders banned the ten inch butcher knife.

Facing increased opposition, legislators continue to carve from the list of potentially banned items, leaving only those which engender little opposition. The butter knife is likely to remain on the list.
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Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. rshaffer@cpp.edu

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