Bill seeks to let one-armed people use switchblades

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MEXICO — A local lawmaker has proposed a bill to allow one-armed people to have and carry switchblade knives.

State Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, said Friday that she’s asking Maine to comply with a federal law that allows individuals with one arm to own or carry any switchblade knife with a blade of 3 inches or less.

“Obviously, people with just one arm cannot open anything but that type of a blade, that type of a knife,” she said. “So all we’re asking is for the people with one arm to be exempt.”

A switchblade knife has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure or opens, falls or is ejected into position.

Briggs said one-armed Mexico lawyer Paul Dumas Jr. asked her to propose the legislation.

“It’s a spinoff currently of federal law,” Dumas said on Friday afternoon. “If I had a spring-assisted knife and I was in federal jurisdiction, I wouldn’t be breaking the law, but under Maine law I would be.”

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Maine’s law states that anyone caught with a switchblade knife or who makes, displays, offers, sells, lends, gives away or buys such knives, is guilty of trafficking in dangerous knives. It is a misdemeanor crime.

In a March 2010 letter to Briggs, Dumas wrote, “This statute utterly fails to accommodate persons who cannot use two hands to open a knife.”

He also stated that such a bill “would be a plainly common-sense amendment to Maine’s knife law.”

“It gets tough to open up a knife one-handed,” Dumas said Friday. “I use my teeth sometimes and that isn’t very safe.”

Briggs said she drafted LD 126 based on the letter, which contained information from both Maine and federal laws, and submitted it.

On Jan. 20, the bill was referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

To better its chances for approval, Briggs said she is meeting Tuesday, Feb. 1, with Maine State Police Lt. David Bowler of the Special Investigations Unit in Augusta “to discuss the details of the bill and what we will need to do to allow the bill to go forward in a positive way for approval.”

She said she agrees with Bowler that draft language in the bill needs to be altered slightly.

“He doesn’t feel it would have their support according to the Attorney General’s Office, the way it is written right now,” Briggs said. “Because the way it’s written, people could go out and manufacture the knife, so to speak, and, of course, that’s not our intent.”

“So, we just need to tweak it a little bit, and once we get the right wording, we may have their support a lot better than where it stands right now.”

Aside from Dumas, Briggs said she knows a few other one-armed people, including Rep. Mike Shaw, D-Standish, who would support the bill and speak on its behalf.

“This is for them,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to give people with one arm the option to do this.”

The committee will hold a public hearing on the bill at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 11, in Room 436 at the State House in Augusta.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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