Manhattan Times: Ban lifted on gravity knives

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Gravity is a go.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a law that lifts the ban on gravity knives in New York State.

A gravity knife is defined as any knife where the blade folds and locks into the handle, and can be opened with the use of one hand.

Criminal justice advocates had long called for legalization of the knives, which are frequently used by stagehands, building superintendents, warehouse workers and other laborers, and commonly sold in hardware stores.

Cuomo signed the legislation on May 30, after twice vetoing earlier versions of the bill. In March, an appeals court ruled that the gravity knife definition was too vague.

“As I review this bill for a third time, the legal landscape has changed,” Cuomo said. “In March of this year, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York declared the State’s existing ‘gravity knife’ ban unconstitutional. As argued by many who have advocated for this change in law, the court reasoned that the existing law could result in arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

State Assemblymember Dan Quart, who sponsored the bill, said the law would give peace of mind to workers who need the knives to do their jobs.

“After seven years, we have finally managed to overhaul New York’s outdated and discriminatory pocket knife ban,” said Quart. “No stagehand, no plumber and no carpenter should have to risk their freedom to carry a tool they need for work. They will no longer have to.”

The bill, which was unanimously passed by the state legislature, will legalize the possession of commonly sold and lawfully used folding knives by removing the term “gravity knife” from the Penal Law, while leaving intact law enforcement’s ability to pursue those who otherwise use these knives unlawfully.

Advocates praised Cuomo’s move.

State Assemblymember Dan Quart sponsored the bill.

“Governor Cuomo’s signature brings an end to one of the most discriminatory policing practices in our state, an invidious practice where tens of thousands of Black and Latinx New Yorkers were arrested for merely possessing tools that sell at retailers throughout the city,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “For far too long, the NYPD exploited the gravity knife ban to drive up arrest numbers at the expense of our clients, all of whom were innocent of any wrongdoing. We are grateful that the Legislature unanimously repealed the ban and we cheer Governor Cuomo for signing the repeal into law.”

“The repeal of the gravity knife ban brings an end to a profound injustice and makes New York State a more fair place to live and work,” said the legal non-profit Brooklyn Defender Services in a statement. “Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, the majority of whom Black and/or Latinx, have been arrested and prosecuted, facing job loss, deportation, and more for simply carrying a tool they need for work. We are thankful to the Legislature for unanimously passing the bill and for the Governor for signing it into law.”