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March 09, 2017

Court: Pennsylvania ban on switchblades doesn't violate Second Amendment

A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel has reaffirmed that the state's ban on possessing switchblades does not violate residents' Constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

In a memorandum published Thursday, Superior Court Judge Lillian Harris Ransom struck down an appeal filed by William Battle, who was arrested in July 2014 after entering the Pike County Administration Building with a four-inch switchblade in his pocket. An attending deputy who spotted the weapon on a metal detector arrested Battle on the spot. He was charged with possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, found guilty by a jury and sentenced in March 2016 to one to three years in jail.

After a series of failed appeals, the following question was finally brought under review:

Whether the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, in prohibiting the possession of automatic knives, violates the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution?

Battle argued that he has a Constitutional right to carry a switchblade for the lawful purpose of self-defense, but the court countered that the language of the Second Amendment does not necessarily cover "offensive weapons," particularly those not "typically possessed by law-abiding citizens" and which could be considered "dangerous and unusual," as established by prior case law.

Under the Pennsylvania statute prohibiting switchblades, an "offensive weapon" is defined as "a dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise.”

The court had previously established that such weapons have "no peaceful purpose" and that any "‘implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose shall not be allowed to exist in our society.”

"(Battle) was free to possess an instrument with a common lawful purpose and use that instrument for the lawful purpose of self-defense," Ransom wrote. "Instead, (Battle) possessed a switchblade. While it is conceivable that (Battle) possessed a switchblade for self-defense, that is not the switchblade’s common purpose."

Pennsylvania is one of 15 states in which it is illegal to own, sell or carry a switchblade knife.