Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Knife Question

One aspect of the paper that I am writing is the question of whether restrictions on knives that are, in some states, more severe than on firearms, have a rational basis.  I have found studies from the 1940s through the 1980s demonstrating that firearm wounds are 3x to 5.7x more likely to be fatal than knife wounds.  (No surprise, obviously, and largely an outgrowth of studies that I suspected were funded by those looking for an excuse to ban firearms.)  The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports demonstrate that while "knives and other cutting instruments" (which probably includes screwdrivers, icepicks, straight razors, etc.) are pretty high on the murder weapons list, they are still behind handguns--a bit ahead of rifles and shotguns--in spite of generally only the most narrowly written federal regulations, and being widely available in every kitchen.

One thing that is a bit startling is how little detail seems to be available on criminal misuse of "assault knives," by which I mean knives that are primarily intended for, and marketed for, use as weapons.  I asked one of my co-workers who used to be a cop in Washington State about this, and he told me that Bowie knives and other knives that are primarily weapons are seldom used in crime; it is almost entirely butcher knives and other sharp objects that are intended as ordinary tools.

People in the knife industry have looked very hard for studies breaking down knife crimes by category, and have had no look finding such.  Have any of you seen these?


  1. I'd check with Doug Ritter at http://www.kniferights.org or the folks at www.akti.org
    If the info is out there, KnifeRights and/or the American Knife & Tool Institute will have it.

    But everything I've heard is that crimes with 'assualt knives' are down in the noise level.

  2. Already did. They have been looking for similar studies, without success.

  3. This sounds like someone will have to actually read a bunch of police reports - do you have a grad student?

    One datum which might be available is how many knife crimes are domestic violence (or in the home, which isn't exactly the same), versus those which are stranger-crimes or where the knife is a weapon for a robbery or rape, etc. I would expect that effectively all domestic violence knife crimes will be with kitchen knives, while at least some other crimes will be with weapon knives.

  4. "it is almost entirely butcher knives"

    Chef's knives. Not butcher's knives. According to Wikipedia chef's knives are descended from butcher knives, but they are not the same thing. One is meant for slicing and dicing and has a very thin blade suited for this, the other is meant for butchering and has a thick blade.

  5. Have you looked for any studies in the UK? (Best guess.)

  6. And I found them. They aren't much more complete, and Britain's situation is different, but better than nothing.