A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a ban on certain knives by the state of Hawaii this week. The decision may have significant repercussions for future courts’ interpretations of the Second Amendment.
In the case of Teter v. Lopez, the three judges determined that the Aloha State’s ban on butterfly knives was unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in the case, Andred Teter and James Grell, sought to carry the knives for self-defense.
Fun fact: Everytown For Gun Safety filed an amicus brief in support of Hawaii's ban (even though the law has nothing to do with guns), saying that "the State has shown that butterfly knives are strongly associated with unlawful activity." https://t.co/DYFYvmgCfv https://t.co/lHiy36C5XP
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) August 7, 2023
Originally, United States District Court for the District of Hawaii Judge Alan C. Kay upheld the state’s ban on the type of knife, leading to an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
In the decision overturning the ban, Judge Carlos T. Bea wrote that “bladed weapons fit the general definition of ‘arms,'” similar to firearms.
The judge further wrote that when the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution, “the term ‘arms’ was understood as generally extending to bladed weapons.'”
The decision also cited the fact that the butterfly knife, also known as a ‘balisong,’ resembles an ordinary pocket knife.
“Because the plain text of the Second Amendment includes bladed weapons and, by necessity, butterfly knives, the Constitution “presumptively guarantees” keeping and bearing such instruments “for self-defense,” Bea wrote.
The judge wrote that Hawaii attempted to restrict the type of knife as “dangerous and unusual,” which Bea rejected. He wrote that the court had to consider whether or not such a weapon “has uniquely dangerous propensities and whether the weapon is commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”
The ruling determined that there was no support for such a conclusion, calling a butterfly knife “simply a pocketknife with an extra rotating handle.”
The court’s decision may be appealed by the state of Hawaii or left to stand as an important precedent in future Second Amendment cases.
Hawaii is not the first location to lose a similar Second Amendment case. In 2008, the Supreme Court determined in the Columbia v. Heller case that the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional.