Knives are all around us. Most people own 2 or 3. Some even own a dozen. Some knives are safely dull but others can cut through anything. Flip through the television channels late at night and you can catch infomercials in which grinning men in red aprons cut through wood, metal and leather with knives that anyone with a credit card and no common sense can buy.
Most people don’t think about knives at all. They don’t think about knife culture. They don’t think about what’s wrong with a society that allows anyone to buy a set of Japanese ceramic knives that claim to be able to cut through bone faster than any other knife on earth for only $29.95 plus shipping and handling.
They don’t think about the knives until the knives come after them.
On April 14th, Dylan Quick, a Lone Star College student, stabbed fourteen fellow students, many in the face and neck. Quick had fantasized about stabbing people to death and wearing their faces as masks since he was eight years old. And with a knife, he almost succeeded in making his dream come true.
It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of blaming Dylan Quick for his actions, but we must look deeper and ask, what about the knife? Without the knife, Quick would have been just another college student fantasizing harmlessly, like most college students do, about cannibalism and necrophilia. It was the knife that made Dylan Quick dangerous. He wouldn’t have gotten very far stabbing people with his hands.
Quick carried out his stabbing spree with an X-Acto razor utility knife. X-Acto knives are manufactured by Elmer’s Products, a company that markets a paste made out of congealed dead horses to children. While Elmer’s goes to great lengths to hide its association with the deadly X-Acto knives, in the wake of the Texas stabbings, the Austin Association of Unwed Lesbian Mothers Against Violence And Gendered Pronouns has called on the company to demonstrate responsibility by taking voluntary steps to make its weapons less of a threat to life and limb.
X-Acto describes its Z series, which features a Zirconium Nitride-coated blade, as the sharpest blade ever, but does any law-abiding crafter really need a weapon that sharp?
Imagine if Dylan Quick had been armed with Fruit Roll-Ups or a Nerf bat instead of a blade so sharp that it can cut through metal? It’s easy to blame Quick, but it was the knife culture that blended exploitative consumerism with macho fantasies that put a deadly weapon within his reach.
New York City, which has become known for responsible legislation aimed at curbing soda and salt abuses, outlawed the sale of utility knives to any child under the age of 21 and the possession of utility knives by any child under the age of 22. Dylan Quick was a child of only 20. If Texas had similar laws on the books, this entire tragedy might possibly have been averted. You never know.
Despite New York City’s ban on switchblades, gravity knives and box cutters, the number of knife killings actually doubled in 2008. Last year there were multiple stabbing sprees, including 3 men stabbed in a single half-hour and another man sentenced to 200 years in prison for stabbing three people to death.
But New York City’s progressive knife laws are inhibited by a patchwork of national regulations. The United States banned switchblades in 1958. Texas bans carrying bowie knives in public, but not utility knives. Once gun control has been wrapped up, it will be time to stand up to the knife lobby and pass national reform legislation that will comprehensively tackle the issue of killer knives.
While millions of Americans still cling bitterly to their assault rifles and their X-Acto razor utility knives, Europe has led the way in fighting knife crime. The UK’s 1959 Offensive Weapons Act was far more restrictive than its 1958 Yank counterpart and their knife bans in the 90s outdid anything in Gotham. Somehow despite these common sense measures, knife crime in the UK continues to rise.
Knife robberies increased by 10 percent last year. Knife crimes in London increased by 6 percent during the previous year. An estimated 175 persons are robbed at knifepoint every day and a knife crime takes place every eight minutes. Some experts suggest that this is because the UK has not gone far enough in outlawing knives. While pocket knives with blades over 3 inches have been banned, knife criminals are turning to long kitchen knives to do their stabbing.
A team of British doctors has suggested that there is no reason for long pointed kitchen knives to be available to the public at all when short knives work equally well. But short dull kitchen knives can still be used to inflict terrible violence. And does anyone really need to cut anything at all?
Cutting is an act of violence. Serial killers begin practicing their craft on animals, but what is cooking if not the work of an aspiring serial killer?
What are we to make of individuals retreating to the narrow confines of a small room and then ritualistically carving up pieces of birds and animals with sharp knives and consuming their flesh? And these serial killers of fowl and cattle aren’t satisfied with having ordinary knives; importing sharper and deadlier knives from late night infomercials with which to mutilate dead animals.
In our modern age where information is a click away and Apps and 3D printers can do anything at all, why do so many of us still cling to the sharpened caveman’s tool? There are kitchen appliances that can do most of the work of knives. And if any cooking task really requires a knife, we should ask ourselves whether it’s worth doing.
Most parents know that kitchen knives are dangerous. That’s why they hide them from their children. Why then doesn’t the nanny state follow their example by hiding knives from dangerous children like Dylan Quick?
Obama told us, “If there’s even one life we can save, we’ve got to try.” Is there any doubt that banning knives would accomplish that goal?
We can start small by mandating an end to the manufacture of knives that rate above 4.0 on the Anago Sharpness scale. We can outlaw the sale of utility knives to anyone who is not a member of a historically victimized group. We can even launch a program to buy back dangerous knives in the inner cities. And we can confront knife culture at its source in magazines like Knife World and Blade Magazine.
The first step is to get the knives out of your kitchen. Throw them out the window. Pawn them. Give them away to homeless vagrants. Rope them together into crutches for the blind. Bury them point up in your backyard.
The tens of thousands of stabbing victims deserve a vote. And those of us who are truly concerned will vote on their behalf.
It’s time for a petition. It’s time for a bill. It’s time for a ban.
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