Calfornia Update: Legislative Intent Letter

CJ Buck

Moderator
Joined
Apr 15, 1999
Messages
898
I posted this as a reply in the other california thread and thought it deserved its own.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello all
Let me start by saying Jim and his group did a great job under very stressful circumstances. It was odd that even though we share so many of the same views, we are at odds to the tactics required. The law (SB 274) is written well and needs no additional tweaking. Jim's testimony did inspire an additional action of clarifying legislative intent that we will all be the better for and I would not have pushed for had he not testified before the assembly committee.

SB 274 passed unanimously in the committe, will fly through fiscal committee (has no impact) and will sail through senate to be signed by Gov. Davis hopefully by the end of July.

In a discussion following the assembly committee hearing in Senator Karnette's office we discussed her authoring a letter that will be added into the congressional daily journal. This is where I was told folks would go to get any back-up for what the intent of the legislation did. This letter would clarify why fairly easy action is required for onehanders and how one handers were not the target here.

I would appreciate any feedback fairly quickly so I can give to the lobbiest tomorrow who is writing this letter for the senator.

LETTER TO THE SENATE DAILY JOURNAL
July 5, 2001

Mr. Gregory Schmidt

Secretary of the Senate

State Capitol, Room

Dear Greg:

The purpose of this letter is to express the Legislature’s intent in enacting my SB 274, which makes amendments to Penal Code Section 653k.

Section 653k makes it a misdemeanor to possess a switchblade in California. The statute was enacted in 1957 and provides a length definition of a switchblade knife. In 1996, AB 3314 (Ch. 1054) an exemption was created for one-handed folding knives. Recently, there has been concern that the language of the exemption is broadly read to apply to knives that are essentially switchblades, but are designed to fall under the language of the exemption.

In order to ensure that only legitimate one-handed opening knives are covered, SB 274 narrows the language to only allow knives to fall under the exemption from the switchblade law if that one-handed opening knife contains a detent or similar mechanism. Such mechanisms ensure there is a measure of resistance (no matter how slight) that prevents the knife from being too easily opened with a flick of the wrist.

Although some one-handed opening knives can be opened with a strong flick of the wrist, so long as they contain a detent or similar mechanism that provides some resistance to opening the knife, then the exemption is triggered. These knives serve an important utility to many knife users. For example, firefighters, EMT personnel, hunters, fishermen, and others utilize one-handed opening knives. (i have asked him to include some mention of everyday carry here)

The exemption created in 1996 was designed to decriminalize the legitimate use of these extremely functional tools by law-abiding citizens. SB 274 is not intended to interfere with those knife owners and users. The amendments to Section 653k accomplish this important purpose by establishing more objective criteria for determining whether a knife meets the intended exemption to the switchblade law.

Sincerely,

BETTY KARNETTE

Senator, 27th District


------------------
CJ Buck
Buck Knives, Inc.
AKTI Member #PR00003


 
Joined
Apr 5, 2001
Messages
583
Mr. Buck,

In regards to the Letter of Intent, the langauge is fairly specfic.

One point I might like to add. Should there be paragraph noting the potential confusion for the field Law Enforcement officer in enforcing SB274? For instance, a mention of potential interpretation of "resistance however slight" and how a field LEO might apply a guideline for that determination.

On a side note: what reaction will the CDAA have toward this letter?

-Seth
 
Joined
May 30, 2001
Messages
36
I second the need to provide clarification for the street level LEO. I live in a world where even a sniff of a “weapons” charge (not to mention conviction) is fatal to most of my security clearances. It should be simple to understand and debate without starting a spitting contest you can never win.

I don’t want to have to do what Don Rearic (sp? sorry Don) was suggesting and have to strip the blade down to prove a point. Maybe as simple as inverting it and not having it open … I don’t know. Just make it simple and explicit and don’t snap it.

Stay safe
 
Joined
May 30, 2001
Messages
36
Hmmm, looking at my last post I should add that Don was NOT suggesting we strip the blade, rather that we would be forced into that position to show a pocket knive had a detent. Well, I know what I meant ... sorry if it was confusing.
 
Joined
May 1, 2000
Messages
2,257
I don't know if this makes a difference or not, but 653k doesn't make it a misdemeanor to possess a switchblade knife; 653k makes it a misdemeanor to make, sell, or carry about one's person or passenger/driver area of a car a switchblade knife. Under 653k, it is legal to own a switchblade knife in one's home or to transport one in the trunk of a car.

Everything else looks good though, and I don't know if mentioning the above would make any difference at all.

------------------
Jason aka medusaoblongata
-----------------------
This space for rent.
 
Joined
Jan 19, 1999
Messages
842
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Although some one-handed opening knives can be opened with a strong flick of the wrist, so long as they contain a detent or similar mechanism that provides some resistance to opening the knife, then the exemption is triggered.</font>

I'd say that is pretty specific.

I mean, we can agonize over the idea that some street cop may want to quibble over the meaning of "strong flip of the wrist" or "some" in the "some resistance" portion but I would think that, overall, this makes the thing fairly harmless to any law abiding citizen who isn't standing in a crowd flipping his AFCK or Buck Strider open and closed and scaring the feces out of the general public.

I can live with it, if I have to.

In fact, it may serve to close up a hole that has been a trap for some in that it actually allows a knife that can be flipped open as long as it has some sort of detent or bias.

Face it. The "flip of the wrist" language has been there all along. We never had anything that said that, if the knife had a detent, it would be exempt. Now we do.

This whole thing could end up being a tempest in a teapot.

Like I said, I can live with it.

------------------
Dennis Wright
Wright Knife & Sporting Goods
La Mesa, CA
1-800-400-1980
[email protected]
("Have a knife day!")
www.wrightknife.com
 

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 7, 1998
Messages
3,018
I'm with Dennis, the language of this "intent letter" is as good as we could possibly hope for.

Now, just one more suggestion: CJ, once that letter is done and officially signed and on record, can you scan it and make it available for download and print on the AKTI website? That way, we can print out copies and if necessary, carry copies folded up in our wallets to ward off any over-eager cops?

Or worst case, we'd have something we could show a Judge if things get that far?

That seems a reasonable and low-cost step
smile.gif
.

Jim
 
Joined
Dec 15, 1999
Messages
574
Hey, wait a minute. This addition might have made balisongs with a latch legal in California. The latch is definitely a detente! Hmmmm, could be carrying my BM42 in August!
biggrin.gif


Hank
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2001
Messages
583
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Jim March:

CJ, once that letter is done and officially signed and on record, can you scan it and make it available for download and print on the AKTI website? That way, we can print out copies and if necessary, carry copies folded up in our wallets to ward off any over-eager cops?

Or worst case, we'd have something we could show a Judge if things get that far?
Jim
</font>

Jim - Your idea here, addresses my concern about confusion in the field over SB274 enforcement. I may not have stated it clearly, but I just wanted some way to help protect againest confusion in enforcement.

-Seth
 

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 7, 1998
Messages
3,018
Now for some comedy. Before going in, we took Jason's BF knife carry bag, added in my roommie's borrowed Spydie Goddard and three nice pieces loaned by Walt Welch. As a finishing touch, I'd brought a small padlock that we put on the bag. Going in, we agreed that I'd carry the bag mainly because I would be talking first, and I looked just a bit more "corporate looking" (read: tie) than Jason
smile.gif
.

Upon announcing ourselves as opposition, all three of us were called up to sit at the front witness tables where the microphones were, right inside the semi-circle of raised committee member seats. I grab a squat right next to this older lady, Jason and Nadja end up a few seats over and on the other side of CJ and the CDAA crew. I smile and nod at "granny" as we sit.

I started talking about the potential for confusion, and I ask the committee chairman if I might show some of the knives in question.

As I put the bag on the table, a cop comes ambling up from behind. I politely explain that this is a locked bag with legal pocketknives in it, and offer him the key and permission to inspect. This seems to calm him considerably...he tells me to unlock it, and with slow and non-threatening movements I open the bag and slowly show him the contents. Maybe 20 folders total
smile.gif
. He's OK once he sees that's all that's in there. So later, as I'm bringing a few of these out and showing various features, I explain that all of these high-quality knives *can* be snapped open...while saying this, I'm holding one of Walt's large plain Sebenzas. Before snapping it, I turn to "granny" and ask her if she's OK with me demonstrating such a snapopen...she's calm, and says "go ahead", so I do with minimal arm-movement and keeping it down close to the table, and then lay it down. I continue talking, and glance over to make sure "granny" hasn't freaked out
biggrin.gif
.

Well lemme tell ya, it's a good thing I took that much care not to cause concern.

Because "granny" turned out to be SENATOR Karnette, the bill's author, who later penned the improved legislative intent statement above! I only found that out when she spoke after me
biggrin.gif
. When CJ says that we did a good job presenting our side, much of what he means is that despite sitting right next to her and doing a Sebenza snapopen, I didn't frighten her and as a result, we were able to get something quite nice out of her
biggrin.gif
.

Damn. That was CLOSE
biggrin.gif
.

Jim
 

CJ Buck

Moderator
Joined
Apr 15, 1999
Messages
898
Jim
I must say you had me nervous for a moment there. They really bent quite a few rules that day in allowing jim his knives and the amount of time he took. He used it well and did you all proud.

It would be no problem at all to make a downloadable copy of the letter on the akti website.

Just for closure here... I am going to tell Chris Michele (our lobbyist) to finish the letter as written as it had the approval of forumites. I think this thread kind of answered its own questions and objections.

I have until wednesday where I will forward this thread as well as kind of an executive summary to Chris.

The letter was a combined product of Me with the one hand tech info, Jeff Gorell, the assistant DA who started this whole thing with the legislative history and background and Chris who took all the information and put it into the letter you reviewed.

If anymore feedback feel free to add before wednesday.

thanks

------------------
CJ Buck
Buck Knives, Inc.
AKTI Member #PR00003


 

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 7, 1998
Messages
3,018
Yep, that's about it. I can't see any major improvements left on that letter, and publishing it will help. We'll want a link to it straight from BF somewhere so it's easy to find in a pinch, I can work that out with Spark later once it's up on the AKTI site. Thanx!

I agree completely with CJ that "bad intent" was never a factor here.

What else...CJ, I've observed NRA lobbyists speaking as primary opposition on bills before committee, on a couple of bills. Ed Worley in particular is a master at this stuff, I patterned my approach as closely as possible on his. I have to disagree in that the amount of time I was given was pretty close to what I expected, or a tad shorter. The "secondary opposition speakers" got time that was about par for the process.

So in other words...I'm pretty green at this stuff, but I *did* have some preparation going in
smile.gif
.

Jim
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2000
Messages
377
Thanks to Jim, Jason, and C.J. for taking the time and speaking out about the rights of California citizens. I know that without a voice no one will be heard. The work that you have completed will keep certain knives in the pocession of the average person and collector in California. Thank you for your time and hard work. Your enjoyment for the cutlery industry is demonstrated in more than words. C.J. could you please contact me on the AKTI.

Jeff Pelz
 
Joined
May 3, 2001
Messages
368
I haven't had time to research this, unfortunately, but has anyone checked into whether such a "legislative intent" letter from the bill's author into the daily record actually reflects the Legislature's intent from a court's point of view?

After all, the legislators are voting on what's in the bill. The Legislature, when it states its intent most clearly, puts the text right into the bill itself. I know that amending the bill to state an intent in the text itself would delay its passage, hence the "easier" route of this letter (which is in itself a great accomplishment, compared to having no letter at all).

Courts have also referred to legislative committee analyses, and committee testimony. But is anyone aware of a court using this type of letter to determine legislative intent?

Best regards,

Johnny
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2001
Messages
9
A number of years back a liability issue came up in Massachusetts. It concerned EMS provision by municipal employees.

Essentially, the law was read, but to get the intent the court went back to the memos and other correspondence concerning the legislation to get a sense of the legislature's intent.

This letter would seem to fall under the same category.

You people seem satisfied with the law. I do not live in Kali, but I am suspicious of the long term potential for this legislation. With just a bit of tweeking it could start the outlawing of your folders, which was the original fear as I read posts on different boards.

I suppose it remains to be seen if another genie has been let out of the bottle.




------------------
[email protected]
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2001
Messages
583
WKinma, Welcome to bladeForums.

It's fair to say that we are not happy with SB274, and, yes, knife laws and their interpretations are still very much a threat to the lawful knife owner.

However, because of our late entry into the process of SB274, most of us realized our counter options were limited. Mr. Jim March sounded the warning, and led a small but noticed grass-roots effort to clarify some objections to the bill.

For all parties, it may have been a compromise resolution; however, the mere presense of the letter of intent is better than nothing at all.

SB274 won't be our last fight. But we walk away with some important lessons.

Knife owners have to remain vigilant in regards to pending knife legislation.

We need to communicate as a politically active group, to summom grass-roots clout and to sort out collective political tactics.

And, the inane anti-liberty laws won't stop just in Kalifornia or just with knives.

Once Again, Welcome to BF

-Seth

 

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 7, 1998
Messages
3,018
For the record, it was Johnny that first sounded the alarm. I know who he is, and respect him immensely. From there, I added quite a bit mostly because I've studied NRA tactics in running defense on something like this (and I got permission to borrow the NRA legicritter contact tool); Jason (Medusaoblongata) and others helped a whole lot too.

Now, the reason I think the legislative intent letter that CJ got out of the bill's author will help goes like this:

1) The letter is from the bill's author, giving it extra weight;

2) The letter is dated AFTER the AKTI statements and should therefore properly be seen as a clarification;

3) AKTI is not any sort of gov't body, therefore the statement of intent by the bill's author dated later will tend to "override" the AKTI statements.

Upshot: I think we're going to come out in good shape. Only the dirt-cheap linerlocks lacking any sort of detent at all are obviously banned. My CRKT Apache has a perfectly adequate detent; at this weekend's gun show at the Cow Palace Jason and I are going to examine a whole pile of cutlery and see if there's anything good that'll be affected...I'm curious about United Cutlery folders like the Harley Davidson commemoratives, fr'instance. Odds are, anything worth $20 or more should be OK, and if somebody really can't afford more than $5, there's always lockbacks.

It's not anything to cheer about but between CJ's efforts and the "BF grassroots effort" that followed it, we dodged a real bullet here.

Oh ya, one more detail: according to the webmaster of the NRA legicritter contact page we were allowed to borrow, the BF grassroots effort starting Monday morning before the Tuesday hearing generated about 10,000 individual EMails to legislators(!!!). That doesn't mean 10,000 BFers used it, mind you, with the NRA's system one EMail to the Assembly Safety Committee generated six EMails.

Still, for a "quick'n'dirty" effort, it shows just how much "political energy" can be harnessed at BF! Once AKTI realizes that the "smoky back-room deal-making" efforts can be augmented with targeted, sane grassroots pressure on key legislators, we'll maybe really have something here.

Jim
 
Joined
Mar 8, 2001
Messages
614
It's amazing that roughly 1,600 people who were concerned enough got involved in sending emails the day before the hearing. Thanks Johnny for bringing this up. Thanks to Blade Forums for being the focal point on the grass roots effort. Thanks to Jim & the gang for going to Sacramento. Job well done in a very short notice.

------------------
Ed Woo
[email protected]
 
Top