The Ever Growing Absurdity of UK Knife Laws

Today I stumbled upon these two videos during my breakfast and I listened to them at 1,5 speed. At least this story has a good-ish end:

As an outsider, I have always considered UK laws about knives absurd. The same goes for similar daft laws that are active worldwide (like for example in the USA, Canada, Germany, Japan, and more). If laws were made based on evidence and logic, these would be significantly revised and reduced long ago because they are doing diddly squat to reduce actual crime. Instead, it seems that the UK is going in the opposite direction – more and more vague restrictions that do nothing to solve the problems, but make it easier for the police to harass innocent people.

Vague laws that are difficult to not break and/or that can be interpreted in a dozen of ways some of which can criminalize ordinary people on a whim are a staple of authoritarian regimes. What baffles me is that when it comes to knives, they appear to be a staple of even democratic-ish regimes. I completely do not understand it. And in the UK, allegedly, both of the ruling parties in their ludicrous non-representative voting system agree on this one thing and both parties propose these nonsensical laws when they are in power.

I am not in opposition to regulating carrying certain types of knives in certain situations or areas, although they are not necessary in my opinion. There is no causal link between the crime rate and the availability of any type of knife whatsoever. If there were, the Czech Republic would be absolutely riddled with knife crime. It is not. I was capable of only finding approximate statistics of stabbing deaths and CZ is not an outlier within the EU, there are countries with knife restrictions that are both above and below. I would argue that there is even no correlation between how restrictive knife laws are and how high is the knife-related crime rate, although both of these factors are difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy.

Inventing ever more ridiculous knife laws as a response to rising crime in some areas (allegedly in the case of the UK to rising knife crime in gang fights in London) is pure “performative governing”, i.e. one that pretends to do something to address a problem without actually doing something that actually would effectively address the said problem.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Come now Charly, you don’t really expect either the Tories or the Labour Party under Starmer to actually do anything serious about poverty and deprivation do you?*

    *Meant to be snarky not rude, but I’ve had a bad day^ so sorry if poorly phrased.

    ^ including a traffic stop because my broke lights weren’t working (and the were definitely working last night when Paul watched me reverse into our drive), which got worse when the police computer reckoned I wasn’t insured (apparently it was “having a bad day” FFS), and so fr the garage can’t find out why the brake lights aren’t working (aaaarrrrgggh fuck intermittent faults)

  2. lochaber says

    I’ve really stepped back from the U.S./Anglosphere online “knife communities” a while back. There is a lot of overlap with firearm fanatics, and, more recently, the MAGAt crowd, so I just can’t stomach the personalities anymore. Also, I feel there has been an increasing trend towards mall-ninja/tacticool bullshit that just annoys me. An absurd proliferation of tanto points, “cleaver”-shaped blades, “kerambit”-style knives, etc. I think I may have gotten banned from the r/survival subreddit (back when I briefly attempted participating in that shithole…) for talking too much shit about the LARPers regrettable knife choices…

    Anyways, I appreciate a practical knife, but the laws around them can be weird and counterintuitive, IMHO. Also, I live in the US, so it just seems absolutely inane to have outright felony-level restrictions on knives/melee weapons, when there is such a proliferation of firearms.

    Haven’t been following recently, but at one point (late 90s, early aughts?) the knife laws in California were so vaguely worded, that they effectively banned ball point pens (I forget the exact wording, but I think there was a clause or phrase along the lines of “anything that can be used to inflict a stabbing wound”)

    Personally, I’m really conflicted, because I finally have enough discretionary income that I can justify buying a handmade, or maybe even commissioned handmade folder, and I’d kinda like to do that, but I’m now reluctant to go to a knife show or similar due to the MAGAt crowd, and I certainly don’t want to financially contribute to some MAGAt, and unfortunately, the U.S. “knife community” is overflowing with those sorts… :(

  3. dangerousbeans says

    The online anglosphere knife discussion is garbage. Too many straight white dudes and the problems that come from spaces dominated by straight and white dudes. Sadly some of them know things i want to know as a bladesmith so i occasionally need to ask questions :\

    The local knife laws here in Victoria, Australia are terrible. Just really vague. I agree it’s performative, and it also gives police an opportunity to be dickheads

  4. Dunc says

    [This] is pure “performative governing”, i.e. one that pretends to do something to address a problem without actually doing something that actually would effectively address the said problem.

    Sadly, you’ve just perfectly described our current approach to goverment on all topics -- policing, economics, immigration, housing, climate change… Everything.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    I completely do not understand it.

    Allow me to explain:

    Nope, I got nothing.

    In an odd way, I do feel a bit sorry for politicians on both sides on this one (in the UK, that is). We had a mass shooting involving automatic weapons… so we just, y’know, banned them. We had a mass shooting involving handguns, so we just… banned them. Simple, easy, sensible, and it worked. We’ve had fewer people killed in mass shootings in the UK in the last 25 years than the US has had in the last four months.

    The difference with knives is they’re ubiquitous and necessary. You simply can’t just ban them… but as a “leader”, you do kind of need to be seen to be doing something if you’ve got an epidemic of people stabbing people. Pointing out that it’s better than an epidemic of people shooting people won’t cut it. But what do you do? When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When the only quick thing you can think of is banning stuff, you ban stuff… but “stuff”, here, becomes tricky to define, when it amounts to “pointy bit of metal”.

    The other thing causing you a problem is that, statistically, a disproportionate number of the people doing the stabbing are young black men. The police know this, so what they end up doing is disproportionately stopping and searching young black men, the overwhelming majority of whom have nothing to do with knife crime. This has obvious negative effects on police/community relations. It doesn’t help that the majority of such crime is in London, and the police in London have been independently found to be institutionally racist. Why are the perps disproportionately young black men? Because young black men are disproportionately likely to be living in poverty. Is it controversial to link poverty with crime? “My grandad was dirt poor but he didn’t stab anyone”. Anecdotes aren’t evidence. The trouble you’ve got as a politician is that it’s much, much harder to address poverty and structural racism than it is to say “no more shiny point things for you!”. Also: addressing poverty and structural racism isn’t, in England, a vote-winner. We’re a nasty little country and if anything since Brexit we’re coming across nastier. You only have to look at our Home Secretary, ffs.

    I feel like I’m starting to rant. Thanks for an interesting post.

  6. says

    @Jazzlet, I certainly do not expect anything from the Torries, but Starmer appears to at least have some functioning brains and does not have their capricious malice. At least it seems that neither Tories nor Labour want to suck up to Putin and throw Ukraine under the bus (so far) so they are doing one thing right.

    @lochaber, I am not involved in any “knife community” anywhere, except occasionally watching YouTube videos. One of my friends, who collects knives and occasionally reads and watches more of that stuff, complimented my “Not a Masterpiece” knife by saying (I paraphrase) “looks nice, not like something for testosterone-addled murdering psycho, which is typical for these”. I do think there is a significant toxic masculinity component to knife culture. I am tempted to make some rainbow-colored or pink knives just to spite everyone.
    Would you be open to discussing your idea of a practical folding knife in some detail with me via e-mail? After I finish with the current commission, I wanted to try to make a small batch of folding pocket knives over winter, probably something with a non-locking blade and a fingernail groove (like Swiss army knife). I could make one specifically for you, you could pay me what you see fit if you like it or leave it be if you don’t. I haven’t made a folding knife yet, but I did repair some and after all, all the risk is mine if I make a mess of things. And it would be something to blog about that isn’t depressing the hell out of me.

    @dangerousbeans, I have heard about knife laws in Australia, and from what I read, they truly are terrible.
    As I said, I stay the hell away from knife discussions, on purpose. I occasionally get a glimpse when I try to google some knowledge, but I do not think I will ever need to ask on any of those fora.

    @sonofrojblake, it does make some sense the way you put it, trying to ban knives when banning guns worked. The problem is, they are not banning the knives that are actually used in crimes because they can’t. Banning “zombie knives” or some such shit makes diddly squat to the crime rate, because if the gangs do not have access to zombie knives, they will use something else. An overwhelming majority of actual knife crime (including gang crime) is done with kitchen knives (-click-,-click-). Banning carrying those around could make sense, on some level, but banning private ownership cannot be done. And since carrying those knives is banned in the UK for a long time now already, banning private ownership of balisongs or switchblades or gravity knives or (expanding list with more and more quibbling technicalities) even within the confines of one’s home does absolutely nothing. However finding the stats on which type of knife is actually used in crimes in the UK is not easy and I do wonder if that is deliberate -- both the police and the politicians want to be seen doing something, so they ban “automatic knives” or similar shit, then make a sweep of the streets and say “we took 10.000 knives from the street along with the criminals who had them” (-click-) and silently “forget” to mention that almost none of the knives confiscated were those whose ownership is banned because most of them are the cheapest sort of a paring knife from nearest TESCO.

    Not to mention that in CZ one can walk around with a machete or a sword at their belt if they are inclined to do so and we do not have people of any age hacking each other to pieces. When I was a kid about 10 years, I was sent to a summer camp and it was actually expected that everyone will have a pocket knife. We even had competitions carving boats from tree bark etc. I know a number of people who have some type of folding knife on their person most of the time (including me) and we do not have an epidemic of knife crime.

  7. jrkrideau says

    Just think of a cook walking down the street to a new job. If it was me, I might be carrying a French knife, a slicer blunt end, a chef’s slicer, a boning knife, a filleting knife, a grapefruit knife, a paring knife, a butcher’s cleaver, and a Chinese cleaver. Probably not a butcher’s knife.

    Things could get dicey (pun intended).

  8. dangerousbeans says

    I am tempted to make some rainbow-colored or pink knives just to spite everyone.

    Charly @6

    I am planning a trans pride bollock dagger (I’m a trans woman and single edge bollock daggers are legal around here, so i’m allowed to make this joke).

  9. Jazzlet says

    Starmer does seem to confine the malice he has to left wing politicians in the Labour Party, including very popular and effective ones. I don’t have any great hopes from a Starmer Government, I don’t suppose they’ll make things a lot wose, but they don’t seem to have grasped (or be prepared to admit they have grasped) that the kind of growth that they want will require increased public spending. They certainly haven’t grasped that we need to be transitioning to a no growth society.

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