Saturday, March 11, 2017

PA: Superior Court finds Switchblade Knife not Protected by the Second Amendment

Judge Lillian Harris Ransom

A Pennsylvania Court has found that automatic knives are not protected arms under the Second Amendment. The case is not precedential, and is unlikely to be appealed. The finding was made on 9 March, 2017.

On July 29th, 2014, William Battle entered the Pike County Administrative Building for an appointment with a probation officer.  Battle had plead guilty to aggravated assault involving a firearm in 2009, when he was 18, for a crime committed eight months earlier, when he was 17.  He was convicted as an adult. Aggravated assault is a felony in Pennsylvania.  Under Pennsylvania law Battle may not legally possess firearms.

Battle emptied his pockets as preparation to passing through a metal detector. An automatic knife with a four inch blade was part of the contents. A deputy saw the knife and examined it. Battle was arrested for illegal possession of an offensive  weapon. The jury trial took place in 2016, and Battle was found guilty of possession of a prohibited offensive weapon. Battle was 25 years old.

An appeal was filed shortly after the conviction, based solely on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  The appeal did not reference Pennsylvania's state Constitution. Pennsylvania has a strong right to bear arms provision in the State's Constitution.  From
Pennsylvania: The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned. Art. 1, § 21 (enacted 1790, art. IX, § 21).
The superior court that heard William Battle's appeal found that switchblade knives are not protected by the Second Amendment, because they "serve no common lawful purpose". Judge Lillian Harris Ransom wrote the memorandum.  From the memorandum:
Appellant was free to possess an instrument with a common lawful purpose and use that instrument for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Instead, Appellant possessed a switchblade. While it is conceivable that Appellant possessed a switchblade for self-defense, that is not the switchblade’s common purpose. Hitchon, 549 A.2d at 946; Ashford, 397 A.2d at 423. Accordingly, we reject Appellant’s constitutional claim; he is entitled to no relief. Judgment of sentence affirmed.
The decision makes no sense. Automatic knives are routinely carried and used for numerous common purposes, just as non-automatic knives are.   Knives are common arms.  Automatic knives are legal in most states. There are numerous legal reasons to own them, including self defense. The idea that they are "offensive" arms is an old myth created by a New York Congressman. Part of that mythology is the old play, West Side Story.

This memorandum is a non-precedential finding.  Knife law reform is being pursued in Pennsylvania, so this case might be used as a reason to pass the reform.  If Battle had an ordinary fixed blade knife in his pocket, he would not have broken any law.  He could have legally carried a sword, or a machete.

The appeal did not cite the Supreme Court ruling in Caetano, that said that all bearable arms fall under the Second Amendment. Caetano PER CURIAM decision (pdf):

The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v.Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010).
The Caetano decision dealt with electronic stun guns, and held that they were in common use. There are likely more automatic knives in use than the 200,000 electronic stun guns cited in Caetano.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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Anonymous said...

What is it about the Us supreme court ruling that this idiot can not comprehend that says all weapons created since the second amendment was ratified are protected?

Anonymous said...

They are NOT "idiots"; they know EXACTLY what they're doing.

They are treasonous, and do not care about you, or your opinion, or our Rights. You will not able to argue, debate, nor reason with these people.

"I wish you luck, my friend. But I must warn you, stopping [them] will be difficult. [They have] important connections. You cannot just arrest [them]. Find some different way. You may have to kill [them]. Does this discourage you?"
- "For Your Eyes Only" (1981),, script, adapted.

[NOTE: Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily my own. There is no advocation of violence in any way. This post is protected Free Speech intended for intellectual/theoretical/philosophical discussion.]

Anonymous said...

My friend I no longer worry about those important connections. If I have a question I go directly to the law. I read exactly what I need to know and take appropriate action. if that fails. then they can try to come after me. I was being harassed by the community development agency. I was called to the county seat for a hearing. before the hearing I checked the laws. I set through the hearing until it was my turn to speak. then I asked the hearing officer how he planed to collect the fine he was imposing. without allowing him time to answer the question I asked another question. Are you representing your self to be a judge because only a legal judicial officer can impose a fine. to impersonate a judge is a felony in this state. Do you have a certificate of an oath of office on file with the secretary of state as an elected judicial officer. if the answer is no then you shove this hearing up your ass and I walked out. I had checked the secretary of states official site and knew he was not a judge. he was an employee of the community development agency that often like to wear a black robe. two weeks later five people no longer worked in that agency and I never hear another word about that complaint.

Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that this country will see a civil war in the near future if our rights are not completely restored. I for one am damn tired of opinions ruling everything. we all have opinions but laws are what count, and we have plenty of laws passed for political opinions. The Bible says my people suffer from lack of knowledge and we have some damn stupid/ignorant people running things. I could care less what political opinion is read the laws and enforce the laws. get rid of the political opinion laws. I'm tired of politicians getting elected just because they can smile like a hound passing peach seeds. Why not take voting seriously and start electing people with honor, dignity and integrity?