The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008), and that this “Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010).
Caetano was directly about electronic weapons. Lawsuits against bans on electronic weapons have seen success in New Jersey, New Orleans, the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland. Ongoing lawsuits are being pursued in New York State, Massachusetts, and Annapolis.
In Tacoma, private citizens can’t legally buy, sell, own, make or carry a stun gun like a Taser. That might soon change.
City attorney Bill Fosbre last week wrote a memo to the city manager and City Council recommending that such weapons be decriminalized, saying that having or using them for self-defense is likely protected by the U.S. Constitution. A vote on a proposed repeal could come in June.
A gun-rights advocacy group prodded the city last month with a letter saying that Tacoma’s prohibition on Tasers and other stun guns violates the Second Amendment. The Firearms Policy Coalition threatened to sue if it wasn’t repealed.
The Tacom city ordinance also bans ball flails, “any knife that consists of three or more blades radiating from a central hub or handle,” (Swiss army knives, anyone?), nunchaku, and throwing stars. In the municipal code all “dangerous knives” and “fighting knives” are banned, then in the next section of the code, certain exceptions are made for “dangerous knives. “Fighting knives,” include balisong knives, switchblades, and sword-canes. Here are the relevant sections:
8.66.080 Unlawful use of weapons.
A. Violations. It is unlawful for a person:
1. To sell, manufacture, purchase, possess, or carry any blackjack, sandclub, slungshot, metal knuckles, switchblade knife, fighting knife, martial arts weapon, ball flail, or electroshock device; or
2. Except as otherwise provided in Section 8.66.090 hereof, to carry on his or her person or in any vehicle any dangerous knife or deadly weapon; or to sell or give away to any person under 18 years of age any dangerous knife or deadly weapon; or for any such person to purchase or possess any such dangerous knife or deadly weapon.
There are a number of exceptions in the next section of the municipal code. They allow most knives to be possessed, but only carried outside the home in extremely limited circumstances.
8.66.090 Exemptions – Dangerous knives.
The proscriptions of Section 8.66.080.A.2, relating to dangerous knives, shall not apply to: Tacoma Municipal Code City Clerk’s Office 8-157 (Revised 6/2016)
A. Individual licensed hunters, boaters, fishermen, and scuba divers while on a hunting, camping, boating, fishing, or scuba-diving trip; or
B. Any person carrying such knife in a secure wrapper or in a tool box while traveling from or to the place of purchase or a place of repair, from or to such person’s home or place of business, or in moving from one place of abode or business to another, or while in such person’s place of abode or fixed place of business; or
C. Any person who, by virtue of his or her public office or public employment, is vested by law with a duty to preserve public safety, maintain public order, or to make arrests for offenses while in the performance of such duty; or
D. Any person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments; or
E. Any person, while in his or her place of abode or fixed place of business, except that this subsection is not a defense to selling or giving away any dangerous knife or deadly weapon to any person under 18 years of age.
The maximum penalty is a thousand dollar fine and 90 days in jail. Given the Caetano precedent, Tacoma should be looking at repealing their knife ban ordinance as well as their ban on electric weapons.
In 2016, the Washington State Supreme Court issued an opinion in City of Seattle v. Evans that indicated the ban on the carry of dangerous knives and the possession of “fighting knives” is likely unconstitutional under the Second Amendment and the Washington State constitution.
From the Volokh Conspiracy in the Washington Post:
The court’s analysis interprets both the Second Amendment and the Washington Constitution’s right to bear arms provision, and also says it’s consistent with Oregon and Connecticut caselaw, which views “arms” as covering switchblades, dirks, billy clubs and police batons. The court doesn’t discuss whether the protection would extend to concealed carrying, but it reaffirmed that the right to bear arms includes a “right to carry a weapon” in some way, presumably including carrying in most public places.
Knives are clearly “arms” and, by any reading, are protected by the Second Amendment and the Washington State Constitution. The question now is whether Tacoma’s city fathers will recognize that fact.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.