Cuts Like A Knife

or

or somewhere in between?

(FYI: this post is not intended to spark yet another useless debate about the legitimacy of knives-in-the-workplace aboard vessels. I’ve expressed my opinion, along with many other mariners, that knives are as legitimate as any other tool in any other job. It is a simple matter of practicality, and politics should play no role in it. This is simply meant to be informational in nature.)

The big problem for mariners who wish to be able to use the ancient cutting tool known as a knife, in any of its almost infinite forms, for the many practical tasks for which it might be needed, or for reasons of marine safety, is that the federal government and every state, territory and possession has its own unique set of laws that may regulate the type, blade length, legal uses, locations where carrying is prohibited, and more. Further complicating things, some states reserve the right of pre-emption over government entities further down the food chain (counties, cities, boroughs, towns/townships, villages, etc.), preventing them from enacting laws that conflict with those of the state, and some do not. In those states that do not exercise pre-emption, such as California and New York, there may be one or more layers of local law that can be more restrictive than the state’s law, and without diligent legal research you likely will be unaware of it. Last, but not least, local municipalities also often claim jurisdiction over their respective waterways to varying degrees.

New York City serves as an example. The “interpretation” of existing state law by the police, prosecutors and courts has, at times, been what could reasonably be viewed as non-sensical or even malignant. The NYPD’s very aggressive record of arresting people for carrying what in many cases should be perfectly-legal folding knives, which get creatively classified as “gravity knives” and prosecuted vigorously, is the legal “gotcha” game at its worst. While it may pad arrest and conviction statistics so that the bureaucracy looks like it’s doing all it can to protect the public, the reality is that it undermines respect for both the rule-of-law and the institutions that pretend to uphold justice.

Also, laws can and do change, typically, but not always, becoming more restrictive over time. Just because “it used to be legal” the last time you checked means nothing in the present. You must remain up-to-date in your knowledge of the laws to avoid legal jeopardy. As it happens, change for the better (from my perspective) may be in the wind even in Gotham. As mentioned above, the problem in New York City was their punitive and legally-doubtful interpretation of a state law, not local municipal law. With the state law on the verge of changing (after passing the state senate and assembly, and awaiting the governor’s signature) the city would have no immediate recourse. But with New York being a state without pre-emption, there would theoretically be nothing stopping the city council and mayor from subsequently enacting a new municipal law to the same effect, other than a sufficiently motivated electorate willing and able to vote out of office the politicians that support it.

So someone working aboard a tug in greater New York Harbor, depending on the exact location, could fall under the laws of New Jersey or New York, as well as the laws of the City of New York. New Jersey, unlike New York, reserves pre-emption for itself, but is arguably just as knife-unfriendly anyway. A typical tug in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic domestic coastwise trade could find itself within the jurisdiction of up to 11 states from Maine to Virginia, plus the District of Columbia and untold numbers of municipalities. Only 2 of those states (New Hampshire and New Jersey) presently exercise pre-emption. Among the five West Coast / Pacific states only Alaska exercises pre-emption. So there is an almost infinite number of local laws to potentially run afoul of. Those working in the Gulf of Mexico or running the inland river systems also pass through numerous jurisdictions at every level. And while many of those states are far more tolerant of the legitimate use and carrying of knives, most still don’t have pre-emption. Along the Gulf Coast only Florida and Texas have it, although that does makes up a big share of the coastline there.

Unbeknownst to many, there even exists a federal maritime regulation (46 CFR § 11506) specifically regarding the wearing of sheath knives by “a seaman in the merchant marine,” which gives the vessel’s master the final word.

And we shouldn’t forget that any operating company may choose to have a policy, idiotic or not, aboard their own vessels as well. So can a terminal.

For those interested in educating themselves I highly recommend Knife Laws of the U.S.: Loopholes, Pitfalls & Secrets by Evan F. Nappen, an attorney who specializes in exactly this subject. The book was published in November 2015, so it is as up-to-date a resource as you’re likely to find. I find extremely helpful.

The knife advocacy group Knife Rights also offers a wealth of information.

En garde!

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This is the one I carry (unless I’m forbidden from carrying one). It’s safe, there’s no tip, it holds it’s edge very well, the scabbard thing is super quick and easy, one side is serrated, easy to wash, there’s a church key in the handle… And very weirdly people think it looks scary. It’s an excellent tool, but not anything like an effective weapon.

This thread should go in the gear forum.

[QUOTE=Emrobu;189138
This thread should go in the gear forum.[/QUOTE]

Your opinion is duly noted, but I disagree. I believe it belongs exactly where it.

This isn’t about specific gear recommendations per se, or what anyone carries/uses at work, or not. This specifically about U.S local, state and federal laws, and how they pertain to the ability of professional mariners to go about their work safely and legally, and without fear of getting into trouble should they forget that they have a knife on their person and walk out the gate of their yard to go grub shopping or on some other errand. Masters, being generally responsible for the overall conduct of their vessel and crew, might also wish to know where we all may be standing from a legal standpoint. It would be stupid to suddenly lose a crewman to a knife or box-cutter arrest at the grocery store or on the way to the lumber yard just because of cluelessness about the laws.

As a Canadian perhaps you might be willing to shed some light on your local, provincial and federal laws pertaining to knives. American tugs do transit Canadian waters and call in Canadian ports, so it would be both useful and thoughtful to share information about this.

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You had me at “church key.”

[QUOTE=Emrobu;189138]

This is the one I carry (unless I’m forbidden from carrying one). It’s safe, there’s no tip, it holds it’s edge very well, the scabbard thing is super quick and easy, one side is serrated, easy to wash, there’s a church key in the handle… And very weirdly people think it looks scary. It’s an excellent tool, but not anything like an effective weapon.

This thread should go in the gear forum.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=captjacksparrow;189143]

As a Canadian perhaps you might be willing to shed some light on your local, provincial and federal laws pertaining to knives. American tugs do transit Canadian waters and call in Canadian ports, so it would be both useful and thoughtful to share information about this.[/QUOTE]

It’s pretty simple. No one cares much about the knife you’re carrying. They do care about your intent. If I mean to cut somebody with a machete, this is against the law. If I mean to clear brush, then it isn’t against the law. They don’t look kindly on switchblades or butterfly knives… But those aren’t exactly tools are they? So maybe don’t try to go through customs with a switch-blade, and don’t commit a crime with a blade, and then what-ever else… Just give 'er.

Do you all seriously get arrested for carrying tools around without intent to hurt anyone? Is “a knife or box-cutter arrest at the grocer” a real thing? I’m somewhat skeptical. Don’t your polizei have better things to do?

I have heard from several guys working the NY/NJ area that you don’t want to leave the boat with a pocket knife!

Been looking at getting a good boot knife for when I’m on my bike, but started looking at the laws in NC! Damn, they consider it same as carrying a hand gun! Seriously blows!

I carry a spring assisted opening SOG knife and don’t step on deck or ashore without it. When in bureaucratically hostile environments I keep it out of sight and completely stowed inside my pocket. Have done this in numerous states and countries and in and out of airports and security zones without a second glance because unless you are acting suspicious or committing a crime no one really cares.

If challenged over something as trivial as this, it’s easy to be polite and respectful and play stupid, “gee sorry officer I didn’t know, I work on a boat and am from out of town, this is a work tool and I use it to clean my fingernails” will usually get you a pass too.

Personally I am willing to risk a fine or misdemeanor charges for the convenience and security of knowing that I have a one handed, quick opening, big, scary, sharp knife that will cut through any rope or asshole that gets in my way of going home safe. Because It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

I call bullshit. There’s no way you are being allowed through airport security with a knife

I carry these around because they are cheap and I lose knifes all the time.

Back in the Late 70’s- Early 80’s my Best Friend was over in Israel. He was 1st and was going ashore the CM. When the got to the gate leaving, they were stopped by a Female Israel in full battle dress including a rifle that he was pretty sure was loaded (not like out bases of those times). Anyway she asked my Friend what was in the sheath on his belt. He slowly removed his folding Buck knife. She took it and asked him where he was from, he said Texas. She gave him his knife back and said have a nice time. The CM stepped up and same thing was asked about what was in the sheath. He pulled out the twin knife to my Friends. She asked him where he was from, he said New York. She handed him his knife back and told him to return to the ship and come back without the knife. The CM just stood there watching my Friend walk towards the Taxis.

Call B.S. if you want but I picked there two up in Norfolk after they got back into the States and my Friend was laughing as he told me the story. The CM just sat there shaking his head.

[QUOTE=Emrobu;189149]It’s pretty simple. No one cares much about the knife you’re carrying. They do care about your intent. If I mean to cut somebody with a machete, this is against the law. If I mean to clear brush, then it isn’t against the law. They don’t look kindly on switchblades or butterfly knives… But those aren’t exactly tools are they? So maybe don’t try to go through customs with a switch-blade, and don’t commit a crime with a blade, and then what-ever else… Just give 'er.

Do you all seriously get arrested for carrying tools around without intent to hurt anyone? Is “a knife or box-cutter arrest at the grocer” a real thing? I’m somewhat skeptical. Don’t your polizei have better things to do?[/QUOTE]

Answer: yes, in New York City, as well as some other places, people can and do get arrested for simple weapon possession just for carrying a common folding knife in the wrong place. I thought I had made that pretty clear in the original post, and with the included links to the articles. If it was still somehow unclear after reading them then please accept my apologies. If it is just your skepticism, rather than lack of clarity, then I cannot help you. You can read the articles linked in the post, or not, and do further research from other sources yourself, or not.

In New York City the police have been aggressively and creatively enforcing an old state law that prohibits possession of “gravity knives.” A real gravity knife is what paratroopers in WWII carried to enable them to cut themselves out of their gear one-handed if they got hung up on an obstruction before reaching the ground. This has occurred not because there is an ongoing problem with crime directly related to these knives, but because it’s easy for them to make weapon-possession collars that look great on their record and help win them promotions.

The state law that they have been enforcing reads [I]“5. “Gravity knife” means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or [B]the application of centrifugal force[/B] which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or [B]other device[/B].”[/I]

It is the “centrifugal force” part of getting a folder to open by snapping the wrist, which more than a few of the cops are very well practiced at, and then the safety lock standard on most modern folders that seals the deal. It doesn’t matter if the individual in possession of the knife is incapable of snapping it open themselves. If a cop, any cop, can do it that is often enough to trigger the arrest, and they specifically watch for the pocket clips that many of the small to medium size folders come with to justify their actions. If that sounds like overly-strict and chicken-shit policing to you then you are correct. Should the cops have better things to do, rather than harassing tradesmen going home on the subway or a person who is posing no danger to anyone else? I would hope so. Should intent be the deciding factor? Of course. But this really does happen and with all the tug activity in New York Harbor I felt it would be a good thing to put the issue and information out there for general awareness purposes. Stupid laws, or the misapplication of laws in ways not originally intended by the legislators, is not restricted to New York City, or even the United States.

New York City law, by the way, only limits the blade length to no more than 4 inches, but does not prohibit knives by type per se.

[I]§ 10-133 Possession of knives or instruments. a. Legislative findings.
It is hereby declared and found that the possession in public places,
streets and parks of the city, of large knives is a menace to the public
health, peace, safety and welfare of the people of the city; that the
possession in public places, streets and parks of such knives has
resulted in the commission of many homicides, robberies, maimings and
assaults of and upon the people of the city; that this condition
encourages and fosters the commission of crimes, and contributes to
juvenile delinquency, youth crime and gangsterism; that unless the
possession or carrying in public places, streets and parks of the city
of such knives without a lawful purpose is prohibited, there is danger
of an increase in crimes of violence and other conditions detrimental to
public peace, safety and welfare. It is further declared and found that
the wearing or carrying of knives in open view in public places while
such knives are not being used for a lawful purpose is unnecessary and
threatening to the public and should be prohibited.
[B]b. It shall be unlawful for any person to carry on his or her person
or have in such person’s possession, in any public place, street, or
park any knife which has a blade length of four inches or more.
c. It shall be unlawful for any person in a public place, street or
park, to wear outside of his or her clothing or carry in open view any
knife with an exposed or unexposed blade unless such person is actually
using such knife for a lawful purpose as set forth in subdivision d of
this section.[/B]
[B]d. The provisions of subdivisions b and c of this section shall not
apply to[/B] (1) persons in the military service of the state of New York
when duly authorized to carry or display knives pursuant to regulations
issued by the chief of staff to the governor; (2) police officers and
peace officers as defined in the criminal procedure law; (3)
participants in special events when authorized by the police
commissioner; (4) persons in the military or other service of the United
States, in pursuit of official duty authorized by federal law; (5)
emergency medical technicians or voluntary or paid ambulance drivers
while engaged in the performance of their duties; or B any person
displaying or in possession of a knife otherwise in violation of this
section when such knife /B is being used for or transported immediately
to or from a place where it is used for hunting, fishing, camping,
hiking, picnicking or [B]any employment, trade or occupation customarily
requiring the use of such knife;[/B] or (b) is displayed or carried by a
member of a theatrical group, drill team, military or para-military unit
or veterans organization, to, from, or during a meeting, parade or other
performance or practice for such event, which customarily requires the
carrying of such knife; or © is being transported directly to or from
a place of purchase, sharpening or repair, packaged in such a manner as
not to allow easy access to such knife while it is transported; or (d)
is displayed or carried by a duly enrolled member of the Boy or Girl
Scouts of America or a similar organization or society and such display
or possession is necessary to participate in the activities of such
organization or society.
e. Violation of this section shall be an offense punishable by a fine
of not more than three hundred dollars or by imprisonment not exceeding
fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment.[/I]

Anyone who works on a tug or other vessel based in New York Harbor, or calls in the port from time to time, might want to be aware of this. Wherever else you may work, you might also want to know the laws there too. It would be nice if it were all so simple, but it just isn’t.

Rhode Island has similar law. Blade over 3" is considered a ‘lethal weapon’ I know because I had one in my carry on luggage. TSA was understanding, once I explained what I do for a living (and I think the TWIC card actually helped!) But after TSA finished with me, being questioned by three ‘depity dawgs’ for thirty minutes… They kept asking me 'if I had the knife “on me”. And I kept replying: ‘No. You saw the TSA girl TAKE it out of my bag’. The distinction was made, if the knive was ON me I would have gone to jail on the spot.

Interestingly, TSA was quite civil. They were trying to photograph the knive over an evidence sheet which had 1" graph blocks for size reference. They were trying to slant the camera to make it appear the blade was ‘under 3"’. But no matter how they tried it still showed 3 1/4" blade.

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As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve never felt any fear of legal action for carrying a pocket knife. Keep it out of sight, and don’t have something particularly exotic. It’s that simple. At SUNY, which is within the border of the City of NY, we were even issued knives and required to have them with us at all times because it’s good seamanship and you never know when you might need one. As long as it stays out of sight, and you’re not doing anything illegal, there’s no reason for you to get searched and questioned about it.

[QUOTE=Juicy;189153]I carry a spring assisted opening SOG knife and don’t step on deck or ashore without it.[/QUOTE]

I’m always wary of spring assisted knives. I have seen modern “spring assisted” knives that meet the definition of a switch blade, that is still illegal nationwide.

[QUOTE=Capt. Phoenix;189218]I’m always wary of spring assisted knives. I have seen modern “spring assisted” knives that meet the definition of a switch blade, that is still illegal nationwide.[/QUOTE]

Our law says explicitly defines switch blade. I looked it up. It says, “blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, [B]spring[/B] or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife.” I don’t see why people like folding knives so much anyway. Fixed blades are better tools.

I already stated in another thread y’all need to move to God’s country where it’s legal to carry any kind of knife.

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;189230]I already stated in another thread y’all need to move to[/QUOTE] snake

country where
you need
to carry
all
kind of knife
because all the poisonous snakes live righcheer.

There ya go, Fraqrat. I fixed it. You’re welcome.

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I don’t know about poisonous but the two legged snakes do make me nervous. I carry something a little bigger for those kinds of snakes tho.

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;189237]I don’t know about poisonous but the two legged snakes do make me nervous. I carry something a little bigger for those kinds of snakes tho.[/QUOTE]

You have one bipedal species in Alabama. There are at least 11 different poisonous snake species in Alabama. Lucky for you, they don’t have thumbs. Recommend you run for your life before they figure out how to get by without them.

I’m not running anywhere. The snakes need to be worried about me that includes the two legged variety as well.