Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knife Legality

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently over several emails and a share of Yum Cha. He mentioned he was considering purchasing a Russian navy dress dagger (being that he's a collector of Russian WWII bits and pieces) and wanted to know the best way to legally bring it into the country without it being confiscated by customs and going home to sit on a customs' officer's mantlepiece destroyed.

My friend knows I'm a member of Australasian Knife Collectors (which allows me to purchase certain items that require a lot of hoop jumping for non-members) and asked if it was ok for me to order the item, have it delivered to my address, and then hand it over to him. I explained that I can't do this because even though I have the appropriate paperwork to import the item, I would still be required by law to record the transaction, the buyer details (and proof of identification), and proof that the recipient was not a prohibited person, and had buyer exemption; to which he replied with something along the lines of "Yeah, but who's going to know?".

I declined my friend's request. I'm not interested in handing over restricted knives to “prohibited persons”, not only because it's illegal and the possibility of legal implication would not be worth my time, but also because I have an ethical concern. I know my friend wouldn't do anything with the dagger other than put it in a display case, but the law is the law and it's been put in place for a reason.

This brings about some valid questions.

Even if a non-prohibited, purchase exempt buyer can bring something in to the country, who is going to know if they give a knife away or sell it to somebody that legally isn't supposed to have it? Are there legal measures to prevent this, other than the government putting its trust in the original permit holder? If the knife, once in the hands of another person is involved in a crime, what could link it back to the importer?

Firstly, I don't know if the police do spot checks on knife makers or distributors to make sure they're doing the right thing. Secondly, if the police did randomly appear on a buyer’s doorstep asking about an imported item; what's to stop the buyer from saying they purchased it for their own collection... but then it broke, and it was tossed in the garbage, and that's why it can't be produced on their request? Or they could show them any one of their knives and say "Yep, that's the one".

If I were to unlawfully hand over a knife to somebody, and then they go and (god forbid) use it to cause someone harm, then the only link back to me would be (maybe) fingerprints; but I think there'd be more chance of the crim's fingerprints obscuring my own considering they're not known for wearing gloves.

And there are laws in existence to prevent the wrong people from owning controlled weapons:
  • Police frown upon people wandering up to the shops with their claymore strapped to their back.

  • In certain States of Australia, it is illegal to carry even a pen knife without a valid reason* )though this isn't going to stop someone who has no regard for the law from carrying a concealed weapon).

  • In most states, a person under 16 years of age cannot purchase a fixed blade knife. (NSW local government is barely keen on the idea of these kids buying a sharp edged plastic spatula, let alone a hunting knife)

There are other laws, but I'm not going to list them all.

This has been a long winded way of getting to the point, but after politely explaining to my friend that he could import the knife by first joining AKC, he asked "Why don't they just serialize all the knives and track ownership that way?". Very good question.

When I was studying Forensic Science a few years back I wrote an essay for a Legal Studies class on whether or not it would be beneficial for the Victorian Government to make it mandatory for knives to be serialized and for a regional knife registry to be kept by the police, similar to the Firearms Registry.

This is a moot point, obviously, because local government can't possibly hope to pass legislation that would require manufacturers in foreign countries to provide serial numbers on their products; and it's unlikely that items would be serialized after arriving. Still something interesting to think about though.

This post has been long enough. I'm stopping now. I promise.

Thanks for reading (if you made it this far).

* “Self Defense” is not a valid reason. “Zombie hunting” probably falls under this category also.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Interesting, I always think of Oz as being so free and easy. Sounds as if your knife laws are based on ours.

A said...

Seriously, what's to stop me from stabbing someone with a seriously sharp Myhill kitchen knife??? (Not that I have any intention of stabbing anything other than an onion)
What's the difference? How can you regulate knives? It's not like a gun where you couldn't possibly say you were using it to cook a goulash.....
(And you thought you could ramble...)

BlackRabbit said...

SBW - The laws are pretty un-relaxed in terms of buying stabby type weapons, (which is good) but we stll get to go down to the camping store and splash out on a hunting or utility knife - which is also good.

A - Onions are people too :)
Rifles make excellent goulash stirrers.

Le Loup said...

I thought that our laws mainly restricted the carrying of knives in public places, not a total restriction? Even then if your trade requires the use of a knife then you are exempt. Is this not so?
Le Loup.