RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s longtime ban on switchblades will end in July, but people won’t be able to conceal the knives from view.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a bill on March 11 from state Sen. Todd Pillion (R-Washington) that lifts the ban by removing switchblade knives from a list of outlawed weapons in the commonwealth.
Sen. Pillion’s bill passed with only three lawmakers in the 140-member General Assembly voting against the measure. But efforts to end the ban on switchblades, folding knives that easily open from their handles with a touch, have failed in the past after getting through the General Assembly.
Former Democratic Govs. Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe both vetoed measures while in office that would have ended restrictions on carrying and manufacturing switchblades.
McAuliffe vetoed a bill in 2017 that would have legalized switchblades and allowed people to conceal them from view while using them for work or recreational purposes. In 2019, Northam vetoed legislation that would have permitted manufacturers or distributors in Virginia to possess switchblades and sell them out of state.
The banned weapons list from which switchblades will be removed when the law goes into effect in July also includes throwing stars, ballistic knives and “blackjack, brass or metal” knuckles. Under the current law, possessing a switchblade knife or any of these weapons is a Class 4 misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $250.
Pillion told the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee during a Feb. 9 hearing that his legislation was a “jobs bill” and that he sponsored it on behalf of Blue Ridge Knives, a wholesale knife distributor located in his district.
The state senator stressed that switchblades don’t belong on a banned weapons list and said “they are not much different than a folding pocketknife.” He added that people won’t be allowed to conceal switchblades as certain gun owners with permits can.
“A switchblade is mainly a tool used by sportsmen and women, first responders when one of their hands is occupied and they’re doing something else and they need to cut a seat belt away, or from workers like electricians or roofers who may benefit,” Pillion told the panel.
Pillion said Virginia is one of six states that still prohibits switchblades, even though they are “rarely used in crimes.” Similar to other states, Virginia banned switchblades in the 1950s as perceived concerns over street gangs using them swelled.
The committee voted 13-0 to move the bill forward and two days later the full Virginia Senate passed it on a unanimous vote.