ELKHART — A ban on switchblades in Indiana was lifted last month, making the automatic knives legal to possess and carry starting July 1.
The change was part of a natural resources bill introduced in this year’s legislative session. The new law, according to the Indiana General Assembly, “removes a provision that makes it a class B misdemeanor for a person to manufacture, possess, display, offer, sell, lend, give away, or purchase certain knives with blades that open automatically.”
“In short, (the new law) basically takes away the switchblade law that prohibits the opening of a blade by a spring-loaded button,” explained Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers.
A 1958 federal ban that’s still in place prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, transportation and sale of switchblades across state lines. The ban in Indiana — against possessing and carrying switchblades — was established in 1983 by Public Law 311. Rogers said there’s really no need for such a ban since knives similar to switchblades are on the market already.
He pointed out that there are many “assisted opening” knives on the market in Indiana that snap open quickly by pressing on the blade or flipping a lever. These knives aren’t classified as switchblades because they don’t open at the press of a button.
“The switchblade has a quick deployment just like assisted-opening knives,” Rogers said. “What this law does is take the possession of the knife and make it legal.”
He said he doesn’t think the legalizing of the switchblade will cause any increase in crime.
“Time will tell, but I don’t see this as a huge issue,” Rogers said. “It’s not the possession of the knife, it’s what you do with it. I don’t think the repeal (of the switchblade ban) is causing anyone in the law enforcement industry grave concern. If there is a sudden increase in switchblade-type crime we may reconsider.”
Local residents interested in knives have been flocking to get the newly legal switchblades since the law was passed, according to Rocco Rigsby, retail manager of Midwest Gun and Range in Elkhart.
The store has been taking pre-orders for switchblades since the bill was signed into law in early May.
“We’ve been watching and following (the legislative process) for a long time and finally this last go-around (the bill) made it through,” Rigsby said. “Some of our customers actually tipped us off that the law had passed.”
Staff at Midwest Gun and Range and its partner store, Midwest Gun Exchange in Mishawaka, quickly produced fliers advertising the switchblades available. Customers can place a pre-order now and pick up the knives July 1, Rigsby said.
“There’s been a lot of interest since the announcement came out that switchblades would be legal starting July 1,” he said.
He said that the main difference between a switchblade and another type of knife is that a switchblade opens with a button press.
“There’s no tactical advantage,” Rigsby said. “Switchblades get sensationalized in movies a lot, but they are no more dangerous than any other knife. I can open most assisted-opening knives faster than a switchblade.”
To demonstrate, Rigsby pulled an assisted-open knife from a nearby display case and flipped it open. The blade snapped out immediately.
So why are switchblades in hot demand?
“It’s something new — people have never been able to get these before,” Rigsby said. “There are some companies that only make automatic knives. We were never able to carry (those brands) before, and now we will. There are a lot of collectors who are pretty excited.”
Rigsby said he’s not sure how many styles of switchblades the store will carry starting in July, but estimated “dozens.” Some of the varieties shown on the fliers in the store are already sold out because of pre-orders.
Individuals 18 and older can legally purchase a knife in Indiana, and no permit is required.