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— An amendment U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor helped add to a Homeland Security appropriations bill will keep pocketknives from being classified as switchblades, he said.

If the amended Homeland Security appropriations bill, which is headed to the president’s desk, does become law, it would derail proposed regulations offered by the Department of Homeland Security, Pryor said.

The proposed regulations proved to be unpopular with many Arkansans, he said.

“The Border Patrol was looking at reclassifying certain knives as switchblades, and therefore would bar them from coming in to the U.S. The problem is, what they were going to do would have covered about 80 percent of all knives,” Pryor said. “Of course, we began getting letters and e-mails from all over the state - from people like park rangers, electricians, people who like to go climbing and hiking, etc.”

With input from people with the Border Patrol and at the Department of Homeland Security, Pryor and a bipartisan group of senators amended the bill to prevent a possible ban on importation of the knives, Pryor said.

“It’s an amendment … (that) updates the law and exempts pocketknives from being categorized as switchblades. So this is good news for consumers, good news for retailers andgood news for the knife industry, which we have some of in our state,” Pryor said.

Goldie Russell, president of A.G. Russell Knives of Rogers and also president of the American Knife and Tool Institute - an organization that represents the knife industry - agreed.

AKTI helped promote amendment of the bill now on the president’s desk, Russell said.

Developed in the last decade or so, a folding knife called an assisted-opening knife has a spring in it but must be opened manually, at least in the beginning, before the spring opens it the rest of the way, Russell said. Such knives have never been identified as switchblades under the 1958 Switchblade Act, she said.

The act, which defines switchblades, specifies that a switchblade has a button in the knife handle that will release the blade - which is constantly under spring tension - to fly open, Russell said.

Furthermore, as assisted-opening knives began to be imported into the country, U.S. Customs ruled they were not switchblades, thus permitting importation, she said.

If, as expected, the bill is signed into law by the president, the amendment he supported will make clear that the assisted-opening knife is not a switchblade, Pryor said.

Russell lauded U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., for his support in the U.S. House of the effort to amend the bill.

News, Pages 8 on 10/28/2009

Print Headline: Amendment to keep pocket knives legal

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