NY: Governor Cuomo Vetoes Knife Law Reform… Again!

Common knives defined as “gravity knives. The two knives in the lower left corner are original WWII “gravity knives”.

On 24 October, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed bill A. 5667A, a reform of New York State’s antiquated and misused gravity knife law. The law has been popular with almost everyone in the state but the Governor and those who are profiting off of the suffering caused by the misapplication of current law. Support for the bill came from a number of uncommon allies. The Legal Aid Society and the National Rifle association both supported the bill, as did he Brooklyn Defender Services, the Office of Court Administration, the NAACP, even the New York Times editorial board.

Here is the relevant portion of the bill, which changes the definition of “Gravity Knife” to a knife opened solely by gravity, instead of “or the application of centrifugal force”. Nearly all folding knives can be opened by the application of centrifugal force in the hands of a person who practises and perfects the technique. Square brackets, [ ] is old law to be omitted.  From nysenate.gov:

Section 1. Subdivision 5 of section 265.00 of the penal law is amended to read as follows:

5. “Gravity knife” means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof SOLELY by the force of gravity [or the application of centrifugal force] which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other device.

S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

The bill passed the New York State Senate 61-1. The vote was originally unanimous. The bill passed the assembly 136-1.

So why did Governor Cuomo veto the bill, in the face of overwhelming support?

From gothamist.com:

“Today’s veto of gravity knife reform is a dark mark on our legislative process,” challenged Assembly sponsor Dan Quart, a Democrat. “For the second year in a row this legislation was overwhelmingly supported by a broad and diverse coalition. And, for the second year in a row, it was vetoed by one single signature.”

“The governor should not pretend as if he cannot solve this problem,” added Todd Rathner, Director of Legislative Affairs for Knife Rights, an advocacy group for knife owners and sellers. “In the end Governor Cuomo chose to side with Cy Vance over the citizens of the state of New York.”

“For decades, black and brown New Yorkers have been arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for possessing a basic work knife sold at retail stores across the state,” said Legal Aid Society Criminal Practice Attorney-In-Charge Tina Luongo. “Albany had a second chance to right this injustice tonight but failed to enact needed reform.”

The answer appears to be that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance loves the bill and the power it gives him. Nearly all the prosecutions under the current statue are in New York City. There are rarely any prosecutions in the rest of New York State. Most of the prosecutions are of minorities, about 86%, according to the Village Voice.

So why doesn’t the legislature override the veto of Governor Cuomo? In New York State, the legislative session is from January to June. The bill was not sent to the Governor until October 11th. The legislature is not in session, so no veto is possible.

The bill did not pass the legislature until the very end of the session.

Did the leaders of the legislature pass a broadly popular bill, only to send it to a Governor who had vetoed it last year, with no way to override the veto?

The legislators can claim they voted for a popular bill, giving the Governor full power to veto it. The Governor claims that law enforcement, Mayor Di Blasio, and AG Cyrus Vance all pushed him to veto the bill.

Vance and the NYPD are able to keep on making busts and putting people in jail for possession of common pocket knives. It appears that Vance is no longer pressuring businesses to contribute to Vance’ knife education fund. Differed prosecution agreements resulted in 1.9 million dollars going to Vance’ office in four years, as of 2010.  From sohojournal.com:

District Attorney Vance’s investigation led many of the sellers, including Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports, Paragon Sports, and four others, to enter into deferred prosecution agreements. The agreements require the companies to turn over all profits from the sale of such knives during the past 4-year period, totaling nearly $1.9 million to date, and to finance a campaign to educate the public about illegal knives. In addition, DA Vance announced the appointment of a District Attorney’s Knife Sales Monitor, to ensure compliance of the seven companies with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreements.

1.9 million may seem like chump change in New York City politics, but as they say, a million here and a million there, and it starts adding up.  The village Voice has shed considerable light on the practice. It appears no education program was ever set up, and that over 800,000 dollars remains in an account set up for the purpose, the Voice reported in 2014.

With the overwhelming support for knife law reform in New York State, it will happen. It won’t happen while Governor Cuomo, Mayor DiBlasio, and Cyrus Vance are in office.

Another avenue may be Knife Rights long running lawsuit against the gravity knife law as unconstitutionally vague.  The appeal should be heard in the Second Circuit some time in the future.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.  Gun Watch


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