Why are Balisongs and Butterfly knives illegal in so many places?

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by Trevor_Phillips, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. Trevor_Phillips


    Aug 22, 2016
    I'm lucky and my local laws allow for such knives to be owned and carried, but why do so many jurisdictions disallow so much as having the knife at home and not even carrying it yet any folder with a thumb stud or spyderco style hole will open much faster and more reliably?

    I've heard different things from different places. My main theory doesn't have so much to do with deployment speed or lethality so much as the "bali-bite" that people who aren't used to them get when they jump in without a trainer to get better. I am avoiding the trainer for a specific reason, I don't want to develop a bad habit on the trainer and get bit the first time I flip one. I just start slow and work my way up.

    What are your thoughts on why so many areas have outlawed these knives now that you've heard mine?
  2. exxarkun78


    Aug 24, 2010
    The theory I always heard was pretty much racism Italians blacks and Asian gangs in the 40s and 50s used them since they were cheaper than guns at the time so the powers that be banned them causing the nefarious youths to upgrade to guns now whether this is true or the liberty valance effect I don't know but that's the tale I was always told

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  3. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Because fun is outlawed in many places.
  4. tltt


    May 1, 2008
    Much like Switchblades in the 1950's, they were a victim of popular culture. Before the late 70's, butterfly knives were near unknown, and when you did see them they were promoted as a unique outdoor knife that wouldn't shut on your hand, or a returning soldier's cute souvenir. It wasn't till they started appearing in action movies, and later curious teenagers pockets, that they started to look to ban them.

    First they tired to ban them from import in the late 70's, that stalled out. Then the martial arts film and product boom happened in the 80's, and they started enacting laws against all the martial arts weapons. The butterfly was included in those. By 86-87, they had enough to push through the import ban, and that was that.
  5. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Indeed. The Burgermeister Meisterburger hath spoken.
  6. Superdave1


    Apr 9, 2006
    Banning a knife is not racism....it may be silly but it's not racist.

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  7. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    They were banned in many places/states because they were considered a weapon and they were fast to open/deploy like switch blades. I suspect very few carry them to open packages or out in the woods camping unless they are just doing it for fun. The current one hand opening knives, assisted opening knives, and flippers have taken a great deal of the wind out of the legislation. Tis a big reason Knife Rights has been working to have those laws over-turned.
  8. thebrain


    Dec 12, 2007
    I have heard the racism idea and other theories but the truth of it is media portrayal is the root of it. In movies and TV butterfly knives and switchblades where used by criminals,gangs and thugs so teens wanted them and they became a problem among youth and so laws followed. It probably did have a slighly stronger impact on some minorities but I am sure that was a byproduct not a goal. As many country boys as inner city teens had them but the inner city kids had more chances of run ins with police( in my experience).
  9. sharp_edge

    sharp_edge Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 30, 2015
    If the speed of opening is a main reason that balies and butterflies are banned, I see in no time most modern folders (those with assisted opening, ball bearing, spyderhole, thumbstud, etc.) will become illegal too.
  10. zzyzzogeton


    Feb 17, 2013
    From what I have determined from looking at old newspaper accounts, written history accounts and speculation by more knowledgeable folks that I, bans on particular types of knives tend to be due to combinations of reasons.

    Take the ban on "Bowie knives, daggers, dirks and pongiards" present in many laws south of the Mason-Dixon line. Duels were common in the early/mid 1800s. Some dueling prohibitions went into effect before the Civil War, many after it during Reconstruction. When banning dueling, some states just banned dueling, others banned the instruments used in duels - swords, daggers, dirks (small daggers), pongiards (French for daggers) and Bowie knives were the primary non-firearm dueling weapons. AT the same time, Reconstructionists were trying to disarm the South, for various politically motivated reasons.

    It wasn't racism, per se, in banning the knives, but political eliteism. Only the rich should have the right to defend themselves. The politicians accomplished this by banning the knives used most by the poor (white, black and Hispanic) for self defense. Rich folk could afford guns. The average hourly wage during the 1870s was $0.156 per hour or less than $10 for a typical 60 hour work week. {Source - National Bureau of Economic Research - Wages and Earnings in the United States, 1860-1890: Wages by Occupational and Individual Characteristics - Table 43}

    At a street price of $30+, an 1875 Colt SAA would have cost nearly a month's wages, without spending a dime for food, lodging etc.

    Fast-forward to the 1950s - Hollywood sowed the seeds of switchblade bans by showing them as the weapon of choice for gang members. Politicians then passed bans in attempts to show themselves as "tough on crime". As mentioned above, balisongs soon followed. The Truth of these knives never survived BS politics surrounding the bans. Knee-jerk reactions that never did what the politicians. Just like the now-defunct bans on locking folders in San Antonio or Corpus Christi's bans on fixed blades and folders over 3". (Thank you Knife Rights for the pre-emption legislation.)

    The continued bans on switch blades and balis in other areas is still all "politics not logic or reality".
  11. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    Oh damn I feel old now. I got that reference!
  12. average gimp

    average gimp

    Jun 5, 2009
    One explanation I hadn't considered before seeing this:

  13. Austinaftermath


    Sep 2, 2009

    I cut myself on cardboard one time; maybe that should be illegal too:rolleyes:
  14. demoncase


    Jun 9, 2013
    As others have correctly identified- the ban was more about politics and the good old 'moral panic' that resulted from seeing them in too many bad movies.....I
    t's much like the 'no sporting purpose' nonsense in firearms.
    (Is there any movie you can think of where it wasn't a bad with a balisong?....QED)

    In the UK, balisongs didn't get banned until the 1980s- due to all those terrible ninja movies of the time, and several tabloid paper panics incited by 'highly skilled martial artists prowling the street' *ahem* using balisongs, shurikens* and nunchucks**

    *99% of whom put more holes in the lining of their pockets than than their opponent
    **99% of whom bruised their own elbows more than their opponent
  15. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    The Mummy with Brenden Fraser if I remember correctly.
  16. demoncase


    Jun 9, 2013
    Good call!....However, if memory serves, he starts out in prison- and is nearly hanged- for having 'a very good time' and is pretty morally ambiguous for the first half of the movie ;)
  17. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016
  18. sac troop

    sac troop

    Mar 4, 2009
    If it looks scary, pass a law against it. It's all the fault of people like Dan Inosanto who showed the American movie goer what Bali-songs and stick fighting looked like. Kids are attracted to things because they seem cool. Trying to self-teach themselves many of them end up in the emergency room getting stitches. Doctors notice trends and comment about it. Newspapers remember how much ink they used crusading against switchblades 30 years earlier. Moms start getting upset. Politicians now have a new red herring to make the people think they are doing a good job.
  19. WilliamCody


    Aug 30, 2016
    Yup. Its all about perception.

    Look at the clinton gun ban from 96. 2 or more "tactical" features makes the gun illegal. Those features include flashlights, pistol grips mounted conspicuously under the action (yeah that was exact wording), rail systems not ontop of the action, telescoping stock, etc... While none of those things have any actual bearing on the level of danger.

    Or in MMA where elbows are allowed, but not 12 to 6 elbow (directly vertical to straight down). This is far from the most dangerous elbow, but when the sport was being legalized, there was a video shown at the hearing showing someone being injured "in a greusome manner" from the 12 to 6.

    Balisong and butterfly knives look cool and thats why. Same with the tac stuff on firearms. Yuppies see something black and "scary looking" and equate that to the product being produce for one purpose- killing people. It may or may not be the truth, but that's what they think.

    Just the other day, my 6 year old neice saw my Gerber Guardian Backup clipped to my boot. First she asked me how I don't get stabbed in the foot, to which I laughed and showed her the sheath. Then she said "Well it looks scary". That's the level of understanding our lawmakers have. None. They went to law school. They grew up with money. They lived in upscale neighborhoods. They are too sheltered to have felt the need for a weapon. They call the cops or security when things go out of whack.
  20. Krav

    Krav Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jun 6, 2013
    My understanding of why these are illegal in a lot of states is. When they first hit the streets people were making a lot of trips to the E.R. To get there hands stitched up from flipping wrong or personal accidents. Doctors and nurses said this is a dangerous knife. Wasn't from criminal use on one another or used in crimes so much as handling mistakes.

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