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Law Questions on Importing Balisong from the Philippines

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by bibsabad, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. bibsabad


    Nov 21, 2005
    I'm new here on the thread and like you, I'm a blade/knife fanatic. I particularly pride myself coming from a country that produces high quality hand made knives, namely the balisong.

    I've searched different forums with regards to the legality of importing and selling balisong to the public but I get vague and different opinions. I currently live in KS and I do want to import Balisong from the Philippines and be able to sell here. If not at all possible in KS, I heard that they are legal in FL and so can I extend my business there instead for possible distribution?

    Well, first I need clarity as whether they are legal here in the US as there are controversies as to which category of knife balisongs fall under.

    Advice needed please.
  2. Gollnick

    Gollnick Musical Director

    Mar 22, 1999
    It's not a Kansas problem.

    It's a US Customs problem. For the purpose of US Customs rules and regulations, balisongs are defined as switchblades and, therefore, illegal to import. As a result, if you decide to try this, you should structure your business plan with the idea that you'll loose about 33% of your imports to Customs seizure.
  3. bibsabad


    Nov 21, 2005
    Since you described balisongs as switchblades, and therefore illegal to import to the US, there will be repercussions as if I am trafficking illegal merchandise to the US, am I correct? I just recently came back from the Philippines and was able to declare 7 balisongs as souvenirs/gifts. I wonder if there's a limit in the number before US Custome will seize the package???
  4. Cougar Allen

    Cougar Allen Buccaneer (ret.) Platinum Member

    Oct 9, 1998
  5. Gollnick

    Gollnick Musical Director

    Mar 22, 1999

    Oh, you just got a nice agent. He probably didn't feel like doing the paperwork on 7 of those silly knives.

    When I came back from the Moscow knife show last year, I brought six liters of Vodka. You're only allowed two. The Customs inspector just looked at me and said, "Only six? Get out of here! It's not worth the paperwork..."

    Once you have the knives in the US, they remain contraban perpetually and are perpetually subject to confiscation by US Customs. US Customs came to the Oregon Knife Collector's show a few years ago and cleaned a couple of dealers out of Italian switchblades. (From what I've heard, they got their hands whacked for it too by the local authorities who don't want a major tourist attraction for the community getting a bad reputation.) US Customs also did a major autos raid on the NY show some years ago and it really hasn't recovered yet.

    Even if I was to buy one of your seven knives from you and then sell it to yet someone else, the knife remains contraban and could be confiscated from the person I stole it from. In reality, A) customs has shown no interest in raiding private collectors over a few balisong knives. B) with Filipinio handmade balisongs, it's hard to determine when the knife was made. A lot of the stuff they're making today looks just like the stuff they made fifty years ago. The brass is a little brighter, but not much else has changed. So, it's hard for them to tell whether a specific knife was imported before the ban or not without either resorting to expensive laboratory means or bringing in a expert. And I don't think there's a bona fide expert who's gonna take that work.

    Once a balisong is in the US, it is NOT considered a switchblade for the purposes of the Switchblade Act. This means you can mail them and move them in interstate commerce with no problem.

    But, they are illegal in many states. The Sovereign Nation of Kalifornia has been particularly agressive. They've tried to prosecute online vendors of balisongs and other knives that are illegal in Kalifornia even though the vendors aren't in Kalifornia under the theory that someone in Kalifornia might order one. Of course, I'm not a lawyer and I don't know what the laws of Kalifornia may or may not be. In my mind, it's the buyer's responsibility not to buy something that's illegal whereever they live. How can I know the laws in every city and state?
  6. Planterz

    Planterz Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 26, 2004
    Illinois too (just switchblades though, balisongs are OK in IL).
  7. bibsabad


    Nov 21, 2005
    Thank you so much, Gollnick! You have been really extremely helpful and generous to offer your time to answer my questions. However, I hope you do not take my statement the wrong way. Though I thought I was enlightened by your statement above, the one below just contradicted the previous one.

    I'm now clear on the fact that balisongs remain a contraband item in the US and subject to US Customs confiscation. However, I have read somewhere in the forum that I can possess and carry one as long as I have a license to carry a concealed weapon. The other thing that confused me was the fact that if these items remain contraband, how come I can mail/move them in interstate commerce without any problems? :confused:

    Actually, I declared the knives to my airline carrier at the Philippine airport where the local airport security did the "paperwork" on the knives. Once I checked them in, it did not seem to be a problem bringing them at all. I even double-checked with the domestic airline in San Francisco I flew in with, and they said it was not a problem since the knives were checked-in with my luggage. Was I just lucky? I did not sell the knives at all. I gave them away as souvenirs/gifts as I originally intended when I bought them. Of course, I kept one for myself as a souvenir from home.

    However, the thoughts to sell the knives to blade enthusiasts in the US paved way to intentions of importing them , thus my research on the subject matter.

    To Mr. Cougar Allen, my sincerest apologies if my PMs flagged bad stuff on this forum. I am not intending nor even trying to evade US Customs. I am just merely doing some research work based on my entreprenuer interests to sell the items here.
  8. Gollnick

    Gollnick Musical Director

    Mar 22, 1999

    It seems contradictory until you understand that the federal Switchblade Act is about interstate commerce, stuff that's already in the US. Customs Rules and Regs. are about stuff being or having been brought into the US. They're completely different laws and enforced by completely different agencies. Violations are even tried in different courts. It seems strange, but Customs is a separate set of laws with a separate agency to enforce them and a separate set of courts.

    Only balisongs which are imported fall into this category. A domestic-made balisong knife is not subject to confiscation by US Customs.

    That depends on which state you are in.

    Again, it's two different sets of laws.

    Discussing what Customs rules are and discussing the practical aspects of evading them are two totally different things. I think everyone understands that.
  9. bibsabad


    Nov 21, 2005
    Thank you so much clarifying a lot of issues. I really appreciate everything you wrote down here.
  10. surprise123


    Aug 21, 2018
    You just have to cross your fingers and hope the Customs officer is a nice person (or a lazy person).

    Technically, balisongs are NOT considered switchblades and a court order mandated that Customs relinquish their seizure of 1044 balisongs in State vs. 1,044 Balisongs.

    "...Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that the Balisong knives presented in evidence in this case are not switchblade knives within the meaning of 19 C.F.R. section 12.95(a)(l); that defendant customs officials are ENJOINED from seizing future importation of Balisong knives under 19 C.F.R. section 12.95(a)(1); and that the agency RELEASE custody of plaintiff's Balisong knives."

    Notice the word ENJOINED. It can either mean urge or mandate. Thus, Customs officers basically operate under whether they feel nice or not (since suing US Customs over one seized knife is not practical).

    Take all this with a grain of salt, I'm not a lawyer or an expert in law. It's unfair, but not much anyone can do about it.

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