By CJ Buck of Buck Knives and Jan Billeb of American Knife and Tool Institute
Imagine you’re on vacation with your friends and family. You’ve traveled far from home to the Pacific Ocean to go on a fishing trip that you’ve been planning for the past year and a half. As you begin to cut bait with your trusted knife that rarely leaves your side, you’re intercepted by law enforcement who informs you that the knife you’re using has just landed you a surprise trip to the local precinct and they’re even throwing in a pair of steel bracelets to accessorize your trip. A potential misdemeanor conviction is in your future.
This example may seem a bit extreme, but it is an all-too-often reality for many American’s as they navigate the confusing patchwork of ambiguous and antiquated laws and regulations that vary from state to state, and at times even local jurisdictions. In the sporting knife industry, we realized we needed to get involved in the policy process following a dramatic enforcement reinterpretation that took place on the definition of a dangerous weapon in California. The law was changed from a knife that was “designed to cause great bodily harm” to “capable of causing great bodily harm.” That change made basically everything we produced, and any knife carried by someone in California, potentially illegal, depending upon interpretation.
Our – and a competitor’s – decision to get involved drove the formation of a new industry association we eventually titled the American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI). That was over 20 years ago and in those two decades we learned a thing or two about money spent well vs money just spent.
Since it did not always involve one’s home state it was not always easy to gain a legislator’s attention and thus required us to depend on the relationship of an expensive lobbyist. Selecting and hiring a lobbyist in the target state also took a lot of time and resources.
In 2009, AKTI became a sponsor of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC). This allows us to attend the group’s Annual Sportsman-Legislator Summit, which draws state legislators from all over the country to talk about issues involving sportsmen and outdoor recreational access and activities.
Our involvement with NASC has enabled us to build personal relationships with legislators and their staff outside of our home states. We have been able to explain firsthand the logic and rationale behind our legislative changes and have seen how this educational opportunity has resulted in NASC members personally championing sound knife legislation that is being implemented in states all across the nation. Supporting NASC and being able to interact with state legislators and NASC staff on a regular basis has helped us focus on state efforts that have the best likelihood of passage. Legislators we have met are taking the initiative and driving legislative changes and we have been able to accomplish more with less.
If you would like to get more information on any of the knife legislation we have been effectively passing, go to: https://www.akti.org/follow-current-knife-legislation/
Another resource for tracking knife legislation – as well as other legislation affecting our sportsmen’s heritage – sign up to receive updates from CSF’s Tracking the Capitols service. You can choose preferences based on your state, region, and issue, and it’s free.