Democratic lawmakers in Albany are once again trying to reform New York State’s broadly criticized “gravity knife” law, seeing new urgency in an era when even minor arrests can lead to serious immigration consequences.
With little change in the political dynamics surrounding the issue, the latest push sets the stage for a public relations battle between reformers and law enforcement voices aligned with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was among the fiercest critics of similar reforms offered last year.
Assemblyman Dan Quart, a Manhattan Democrat, has sponsored amendments to the half-century-old statute for the past four years. He says that Donald Trump’s ramped up deportation efforts make now the time to fix a broken law.
“Arrests and convictions, of any type, for possession of what’s described as a gravity knife now has immigration status effects that they did not have before Trump was sworn in,” Quart said. “Each and every year the racial disparity gets worse and worse, and the need for this legislation hasn’t dissipated over time, it’s only increased.”
Opposition to the “gravity knife” law has been building for years, and reached a climax in the last legislative session. Enacted more than 60 years ago, the law was originally intended to ban large, switchblade-like knives. But the NYPD and local prosecutors, particularly in Manhattan, have more recently applied the law to common folding blades of a type widely available at hardware and outdoor retailers throughout the city.
As the courts have interpreted the language of the law, any knife that can be “flicked” open with a snap of the wrist — as can virtually any folding knife — can be considered illegal. More than 60,000 people have been…