What you should know about Colorado’s new switchblade law
People have been trying to sell Steven Skinner switchblade knives for a long time, and until recently, he turned them down. Until recently, in fact, it would have been illegal for him to accept their offers.
Skinner, who works at EZ Pawn, 2526 8th Ave. in Garden City, would usually take the opportunity to educate would-be sellers about the law.
“You know, you’re not really supposed to be carrying this around right?” Skinner would tell them. Most of the time, he said, they were shocked.
A switchblade knife is a knife with a blade that snaps open automatically by pressing a button or lever. It’s a relative of the gravity knife, which, Skinner said, is any knife in which the blade can be opened with one hand by a flick of the wrist.
Both switchblades and gravity knives — once the infamous, stereotypical weapon of choice for leather-and-denim-clad gang members — are rarely involved in criminal activity anymore. Yet in Colorado the knives have been illegal since 1963. In March, the Legislature passed a bill legalizing the tools, and it took effect Aug. 9. Colorado state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who sponsored the legislation, said he was surprised by the ease with which the bill passed. He said that’s because the 54-year-old law was outdated.
“Back in the late ’50s and early ’60s, there were literally a couple of movies, like ‘West Side Story’ that gave people the sense switchblades were tied to gang activity,” Hill said. “And that just hasn’t played out.”
Hill said he sponsored the bill after one of his constituents, who is in the military, told him many members of the military use switchblade knives as a tool. So do police officers, Hill said, as well as a slew of other professionals, including other first-responders.
“They’re actually a very handy tool,” he said.
For example, they’re useful in cold weather because they can be opened with one hand, without removing gloves or mittens, he said.
Hill added many of the people he talked to about the law had no idea switchblades were illegal, much as Skinner said.
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Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner lent credence to Hill’s words when he said the vast majority of violent crime in Greeley is not committed with switchblade knives.
“Quite frankly, I can’t remember when we’ve run into switchblades,” Garner said. “The bad guys these days are carrying far more dangerous weapons.”
Yet even though the knives are no longer illegal under state law, some Colorado cities and towns may still have ordinances banning them, according to kniferights.org. According to the website, Denver, Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Lakewood all still have those ordinances on the books. Greeley does, too, but Garner said his officers are going to comply with the state government’s legislation.
“Our intent would be to change the ordinance to match the state law,” he said.
Skinner said he’d bought and sold switchblades since Aug. 9. The going price is usually between $10 and $20, he said, though he did not have any in the store by Wednesday afternoon.
And he echoed lawmakers and police when he said he can’t remember having ever seen a switchblade knife in which the blade shoots out in a forward motion like in the movies. Such weapons are apparently more at home in the concrete and chain-link cityscapes of old movies than on the streets of Greeley.
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