Monday, February 7, 2011

Maine amputee wants switchblade knives legalized for amputees

From The AP:

AUGUSTA, Maine — A one-armed horseman is asking Maine lawmakers to allow amputees like him to carry switchblade knives, which are illegal.

Paul Dumas Jr. (pictured) of the town of Mexico said that with only one arm — he lost the other to an electrical accident as a teenager — he needs to be able to react quickly in emergency situations like at an equestrian event he attended a few years ago.

“This is very selfish,’’ said Dumas, a lawyer, who has to use folding knives.

“I’m tired of opening knives with my teeth.’’

Like federal law, Maine statutes prohibit possession and distribution of spring-loaded blades.

Federal law allows an exemption for possession and transportation on US property by a person with one arm, provided the blade is less than 3 inches long, said Donald Clark, an assistant US attorney in Maine.

State Representative Sheryl Briggs of Mexico, at Dumas’s request, is asking for Maine to build a similar exemption into its law that would apply throughout the state, not just on government property.

The bill awaits a public hearing.

The proposal is rare, if not unique. Neither Clark nor Briggs was aware of other states that have or are seeking such exemptions.

An official with an organization that represents 2 million people with limb loss agreed.

“We have never heard of or been part of anything like that,’’ said Dan Ignescewski, government relations coordinator for the Amputee Coalition of America.

Dumas, who uses a letter opener to tear into envelopes at work, lost his right arm after he suffered an electrical burn.

The owner of four horses, he likes to carry a knife when riding as a precaution but refuses to use a nonfolding sheath knife because it would pose a danger if he fell. So he ends up bringing a folding knife.

“I would not go on a trail ride without a knife,’’ he said.

Dumas recalled that a few years ago at a horseback skills event, a horse got tangled in rope and fell to the ground. Someone called out, asking whether anyone had a knife to free the struggling animal.

“I did have a folding knife that I carried on my belt,’’ Dumas said.

“If I had been closer, I would have been the one with a knife.’’

Briggs and Dumas met Tuesday with a State Police official to refine the bill and make sure it allows what is intended.

“If they wanted me to register the knife with the chief of police in my town, I wouldn’t have a problem with that,’’ Dumas said.

“We’re not trying to hide anything — just trying to get Maine in line with federal law.’’