New York Lawmaker Wants Machetes Listed as “Deadly Weapons”

   02.23.15

New York State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) caused a bit of controversy last week when he unveiled a bill that would add machetes, a common outdoor tool, to the list of “deadly weapons” in New York’s penal code. That list already includes such things like switchblades, gravity knives, and firearms. The New York Daily News first reported last Thursday that Avella’s bill would outright ban the possession of machetes in the state, with penalties including up to a year in jail. In the ensuing uproar, Avella’s office has clarified that the bill does not in fact prohibit the possession or sale of machetes, but simply increase penalties for criminals who use machetes as a weapon.

“Unfortunately, there has been some confusion in the media that has improperly characterized this bill as a ‘ban’ on machetes,” Avella told The Journal News.

However, listed weapons such as switchblades and gravity knives are indeed illegal to possess in New York, as well as knives longer than four inches in length. The possession of these items could result in 15 days in jail and a $300 fine. Exceptions currently exist for knives used in cooking and machetes. Supporters of the bill said it was long past time that machetes were recognized as deadly weapons under state law.

“Despite the obvious serious injury that can be caused by the use of a ‘machete’, such weapons have not been included in the penal law’s definition of ‘deadly weapon,'” states Avella’s bill. “This oversight is surprising given the common knowledge that machetes have often been used as weapons and are actually defined as such in Webster’s dictionary—‘Machete—a large heavy knife used for cutting sugarcane and underbrush and as a weapon.'”

The bill came after a number of machete-related attacks in New York, including the murder of a teenager in Long Island last July, where a large knife purchased online was used to kill 17-year-old Terrance Grier. Avella has drawn comparisons between machetes and other banned items, criticizing how easy it was to obtain one.

“The fact that anyone can easily purchase this potentially lethal tool is just crazy,” he told the Daily News.

Critics of the bill say that the same logic could be easily applied to kitchen knives as well.

“A machete, like a kitchen knife, or any other knife, is simply a common tool used daily by many New Yorkers at home, work and recreation. It is the height of insanity to try and blame the tool for a criminal’s misuse of that tool to commit a violent crime,” stated Knife Rights, a grassroots knife owner organization, in a press release.

The organization further added that using a machete (or any other object) to commit violence on another person is already a crime, and that Senator Avella should focus on the “real problems his constituents face daily” rather than trying to push what is seen by some as a frivolous bill.

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