Knife Ban Letter Templates for your MP

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C_Claycomb

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Oct 6, 2003
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These letters were all written by members on Edge Matters and can be used as the basis of your letter if you need help and inspiration. Clearly they include information specific to the people writing them, and I think this is important. We don't want MPs getting identical copies of the same letter if we can help it.

Note, these are quoted un-altered, spelling/grammar and all.

Version 1:

Dear [MP Name]

I'm writing in the hope that I can gain your help and support in influencing the consultation currently taking place regarding the proposed changes to UK knife laws.

Over my lifetime I've been an avid Hiking, climbing, camping and bushcraft enthusiast. I've been a scout, a cadet and a D of E award participant. I've also developed a good working knowledge of knife types and mechanisms. I'd consider myself a knife enthusiast, that is to say I have collected, carried (within the bounds our our laws) and used a wide variety of knives over the last 25 years. I'm an active member of UK knife user forums and friends with UK based custom knife makers.

I'm deeply worried regarding the proposed changes to UK knife laws. The UK appears to be on the eve of passing laws which will make the UK the country with the toughest knife laws in the world. This is a moniker which will no doubt please many who live in larger cities where a knife is generally seen as a weapon. It will however deeply concern the politically silent majority of UK knife users to whom a knife is an essential daily tool.

The proposed changes have two key points that cause me, and a great many likeminded people, real concern.


Firstly, the proposed redefinition of the word 'flick knife' in law.

Flick knives are currently defined as a folding knife where pushing a button or lever on the handle activates a mechanism causing the blade to shoot out into the open position. They are totally banned in the UK and cannot legally be imported. I don't think one has been seen on the streets since the 80s and as far as I can find nobody have been injured at the hands of someone with a flick knife in over a decade, so to all extents and purposes the law fufilled it's purpose, they're gone.

The proposed redefinition of the term 'flick knife' will remove the requirement in the current definition for a blade opening mechanism to be present on the knife in order to consider the knife a 'flick knife'.

In essence this will mean that any knife that can be opened quickly can be considered a 'flick knife' under UK law. This is a problem because almost all pocket knives/locking knives can be opened quickly if you employ the right techniques.

The new 'flick knife' law, if interpreted in such a way by a magistrate, would instantly reclassify around 85% of currently legal to own pocket knives as a 'flick knife' despite the fact that in normal operation the blade would be opened slowly by the user. Overnight tens of thousands of people up and down the county will find that old folding knife in their sock/junk drawer, which they open slowly with their thumb, is now a banned 'flick knife' with a custodial sentence attached simply for possessing it in their own home. Countless sports enthusiast, tradesmen and emergency workers will overnight move from carrying an essential tool to commiting a serious crime for which their occupation or activities will not provide a lawful defence.

The vagueness of the propsed redefinition opens it to catastrophic misuse by the courts.

I don't use the term lightly, to illustrate, if an RNLI volunteer driving to his shift with a kit bag containing amongst other things a simple folding knife is commiting a offense to which the requirement of the tool for use in his job offers no lawful defence that is a catastrophic failure in law making.

That's where we'll be going unless the proposed redefinition is amended or better, scrapped altogether.


Secondly - A new law making it illegal to sell a knife to someone online and post it to their home address.

I fully agree that knives should not be available to those under 18 years of age. I accept that retailers are not currently taking their legal duty to confirm the age of their customers seriously. I buy knives regularly online and in 60% of cases I'm not asked to prove my age. This is simply laziness on the part of the retailers. They simply aren't doing what they're legally required to do, they're breaking the law.

Surely the logical solution to this issue is to toughen the laws and penalties around age verification for retailers. Making the risks of not attempting age verification so great that retailers stop shirking their responsibilities. Age checks are easy to do, the customer simply sends the retailer a copy of a drivers licence or a birth certificate with a utility bill showing the customers name and the delivery address and they can be reasonably sure that the customer over 18. I've done that 5 times already this year, no problem. Some retailers choose to use the electoral register to verify age, again no problem.

What the government is proposing instead is tantamount to a ban on posting knives. Ludicrous in a modern digital world where most of us use the internet to buy everything but our milk and we see fewer and fewer high street retailers who stock tools/hardware. There are many online camping/outdoors retailers who's survival is dependent on knife sales. Such companies will needlessly be forced to close doors when the ban takes effect.

More tragically hundreds of hugely talented UK custom knife makers and customisers many of whom operate and depend on their micro-business to sustain their families will find themselves unable to continue working. The talent pool in the UK is incredible, our knife and tool makers produce work that spans across the realm of ultra high quality tools into art, and the thought that this traditional craft will be lost in a generation is heart wrenching.

The truth of the matter is that simply using the government's own statistics for reference the measures above will have little to no impact on knife crime. The vast majority of knife crime involves the use of kitchen knives or knives found around the average house not knives bought online.

The proposal as it stands will stop hikers, campers, climbers, extreme sports and water sport practitioners, rescuers, farmers, tradesmen etc from being able carry the tools they need to do their job or partake in their hobby safely. It's easy to forget that knives save far more lives every year than they take.

My life has been saved twice in extreme circumstances and I once saved a young girl from serious injury in an escalator incident because all I had the right knife in my pocket.

If the proposed changes are introduced and I wish to continue partaking in outdoor activities I'll have to decide if I want to break the law or risk my life. That's not a choice I want to be forced to make.

In conclusion Sir whilst I whole-hearted agree that UK knife crime needs to be tackled this is not the right way to do it. The greatest impact will be on those who have nothing to do with gangs or violence whilst those who are minded to attack others with knives will still have ready access to them.

We need to commit resources to tackle criminal behaviour and not the inanimate objects that a criminal may pick up to make their life easier.

I feel that if you see your child in the driveway throwing gravel, the answer is not to pave the driveway. I'm looking for support from those who share that mindset.

Any advice or assistance you could offer in this matter would be gratefully received.

Kind Regards


Version 2:
Dear Sir

I'm writing in the hope that I can gain your help and support as my elected Member of Parliament with the consultation currently taking place regarding the proposed changes to UK knife laws.

Having read the proposals and reviewed the questionnaire that is part of the consultation, I am rather concerned about the proposed changes to UK knife laws, which appear to be heading towards being some of the toughest and most draconian in the world. While there cannot be any doubt that the prevention of knife crime is of great importance, it would appear the proposed legislation will have a consequential and negative impact on the great majority of people for whom knives and other edged tools are essential and/or daily tools. In this area of North East Hertfordshire, those likely to be negatively impacted include farmers, stable hands, game keepers, hunters, construction workers, first responders, craftspeople, chefs and home cooks.

The proposed changes in legislation have two key points that I find problematic:

Firstly, the proposed redefinition of the word 'flick knife' in law.

Flick knives are currently defined as a folding knife where pushing a button or lever on the handle activates a mechanism causing the blade to shoot out into the open position. They are totally banned in the UK and cannot legally be imported. I don't think one has been seen on the streets since the 80s and as far as I can find in available media and government sources nobody has been injured at the hands of someone with a flick knife in over a decade. To all extents and purposes it would appear the existing law has fulfilled its purpose, and continues to do so.

The proposed redefinition of the term 'flick knife' will remove the requirement under the current definition for a blade opening mechanism to be present on the knife for it to be considered a 'flick knife', it would just need to be possible to bring the blade into the open position quickly. The vagueness of this definition leaves substantial room for interpretation of just what could be considered a flick knife, and therefore illegal, opening up the possibility that almost any folding knife will fall under this definition.

This could have the effect that around 85% of currently legal to own pocket knives would instantly become defined as a 'flick knife', even though in normal operation the blade does not “shoot out into the open position”. Tens of thousands of people around the country will find that the old folding knife in their sock/junk drawer, which they open slowly with their thumb, is now a banned 'flick knife' with a custodial sentence attached simply for possessing it in their own home. This opens the possibility that the above-mentioned farmers, game keepers, hunters, and first responders will overnight move from carrying an essential tool to committing a serious crime for which their occupation or activities will not provide a lawful defence. By way of example, the vagueness of the proposed redefinition brings about the possibility that a hunter traveling to their permission, or a farmer moving from one field to another, with a folding knife in their kit or pocket is committing an offense punishable with a prison sentence because of a law designed to reduce the number of crimes more associated with inner cities and gang culture.


Secondly - A new law making it illegal to sell a knife to someone online and post it to their home address.


I fully agree that knives should not be available to those under 18 years of age. I accept that retailers are not currently taking their legal duty to confirm the age of their customers seriously. I buy knives online and am rarely, if ever, asked to prove my age beyond typing in a date of birth. This is a failure on the part of the retailers to observe and act within their legal requirements to verify the age of shoppers; this also applies to the purchase of alcohol, solvents, and corrosive substances too.

Proposing an outright ban on the purchase of knives over the internet (and presumably from mail order catalogues too) is a measure that entirely fails to address the cause of the problem. A more effective, logical, and measured approach would be to toughen the laws and penalties around age verification for retailers. This would put the onus on those currently breaking the law to take steps to stop breaking it, rather than impinging on everyone else’s ability to buy legal implements such as kitchen knives, chisels, planes, scissors, etc. that are rarely available from bricks and mortar retailers. Accurate and failsafe age/identity verification is not a complicated matter, and there are many architects and vendors of online tools that make this possible. It might be an overall more effective use of Parliament’s time and effort to define a national (or international!) standard for online age and identity verification that could apply to all online transactions (for example banking, health and welfare, housing, transport, accessing age-restricted websites, shopping).

The proposed legislation is tantamount to a ban on posting knives. This would be a retrograde step considering the rapid growth of online shopping overall, and the impact this has had on the availability of decent knives and tools in traditional retail outlets. As a keen home cook, I know that I have my pick of fantastic kitchen knives, either mass produced or lovingly crafted by a skilled maker in the UK, online; I cannot buy them in a regular shop. The same applies to cabinet makers, wood turners, carpenters, and their choice of tools. Enacting this legislation greatly curtails our choices as consumers, and will inevitably lead to the closing of numerous online retailers. Not to mention the impact it will have on individual craftspeople whose livelihoods are currently made from creating these knives and tools, and posting them to their customers.

To conclude, there can be no room for doubt that stopping knife crime is a laudable goal, however, the approaches mentioned above seem to be a little wide of the mark. I would politely request your assistance in making sure Parliament find the resources needed to tackle the root causes of knife crime through greater levels of community policing and outreach, and that they find suitable ways to stop knives falling into the hands of children without putting the rest of us in a situation where we will become criminals for using or buying a knife or edged tool in our day to day activities.

Yours faithfully

Version 3
Dear XXXX,

I am interested to get your opinions on the unintended impacts and consequences of the proposed legislation to deal with the very real issue of knife crime. I also have some questions about its impact on me as an individual. I am an Assistant Scout Leader in your constituency, and as such, the importance of educating children to treating knives safely as tools rather than weapons is very close to my heart.

The proposals have three areas of particular concern to me.

Updating the definition of a flick knife.
The proposals state 'We will delete the reference to the switch blade mechanism being in the handle as manufacturers now place the mechanism in a part of the knife that can be argued to be part of the blade'.

I am concerned that poor drafting, interpretation or case law may render the majority of folding knives illegal including 'Rescue knives' (a good example is the Spyderco Assist) which are designed for safely freeing people in such sports and pursuits as sailing and rock climbing.

Combined with the proposal 'Making it an offence to possess certain weapons in private' I am concerned that I and almost everyone involved in outdoor sports and the outdoor industry who owns a folding knife will be at risk of prosecution. I have a large number of knives and multi-tools in my house which I store for the use of scouts and also a few of my own. If this happens I will be given a harsh choice between being a criminal or being forced to destroy expensive and highly valued tools. This would also reduce the number of people educating children about the responsible use of knives as tools; actually increasing the likelihood of knife crime.

Creating Offences to prevent knives sold online being delivered to a private residential addresses. Again, I have a number of concerns:

  • The existing legislation already prohibits the sale to under 18s (this is a compliance issue). New legislation is not actually needed.
  • The incident which seemed to initiate the proposal involved Amazon, a large multinational (who pay very little taxes) who is not following the current law regarding knives, corrosive substances, alcohol or other age-restricted items. The legislation only pertains to knives and if really necessary, should surely be extended to all age-restricted items.
  • The proposals will impact large numbers of craftspeople making premium edged tools who run Small and Medium Enterprises supporting industries as diverse as Food, Forestry, Outdoor pursuits, Carpentry, Building and Men's grooming. It will also affect the ability of these trades to access the quality tools they need from UK makers and suppliers.
  • The proposals will not prevent foreign retailers sending knives to UK addresses, meaning the impact is solely on British retailers and craftspeople. Without careful consideration, the proposed legislation will have the unintended consequence of driving people who seek to illegally buy knives to the unregulated foreign market.
  • The businesses for whom the legislation impacts hardest (SMEs) have not demonstrated the same compliance issues with the current legislation. Many make use of verification systems such as driving licence and electoral roll checks not used by the multinationals. In many cases the customer has been known to them for years
  • The proposed legislation does nothing to reduce access by the under 18s to kitchen knives in the home, the carrying of which is already illegal without good reason. Greater use of stop and search on the under 18s would be more effective use of the current legislation
  • The legislation may make the situation worse by driving sales into the poorly regulated shop sector which already regularly demonstrates issues with compliance of existing legislation on, for example, alcohol.
  • I would recommend setting up a task force (compliance team) to ensure retailers follow the current legislation rather than legislating to push more pressure onto poorly funded local authority trading standards teams with reducing budgets. The smaller number of online retailers is easier to police (all it needs is a computer) than the huge shops sector.

In brief, I think the legislation will have minimal effect on knife crime, but a very large impact on law abiding citizens and small businesses, but if the government is determined to continue, I am hoping you can make enquiries to put my mind at rest and confirm the following:

  • That non-locking knives continue to be excluded from the ban
  • That one handed opening knives such as rescue knives are also excluded from the ban
  • The reason that alcohol and corrosive substances are not included in the ban on home deliveries
  • That funding is going to be found for HMRC to undertake additional checks on imports to prevent children illegally buying knives by ordering them from overseas online retailers
  • That additional funding is going to be found for Local Authority Trading standards to ensure that local retailers undertake age checks as knife sales move from UK online retailers
I am also interested in what the position of the opposition is to the proposals?


Yours sincerely
 
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