Rep. Sherry Appleton: Against switchblades.
  • Rep. Sherry Appleton: Against switchblades.
This morning, as Cienna reported, there was a lot of time spent at the John T. Williams inquest talking about the knife that Williams was holding when he was shot by Officer Ian Birk.

Those working to clear Officer Birk are suggesting that Williams might have been carrying something akin to a switchblade. So far, however, the knife in question hasn't been shown to be anything other than a carving knife that requires two hands to open.

The distinction is not just important at the Williams inquest.

It's also been an important distinction in the mind of Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-23), who recently introduced a bill "concerning knives." Her bill would make it a gross misdemeanor for anyone other than a police officer to carry "a spring blade knife, or any knife the blade of which is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device, or any knife having a blade which opens, or falls, or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal thrust or movement." It would also be a gross misdemeanor to sell such a weapon. (Same for any weapon "of the kind usually known as slung shot, sand club, or metal knuckles.")

In a phone interview just now, Rep. Appleton, whose district covers Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula, said she introduced the bill because of the Williams incident. "We have, in Kitsap County, 16,000 commuters who come into Seattle every day," Rep. Appleton told me. "So what happens in Seattle, there is some trickle down effect to what happens in Kitsap. So, yes, I follow Seattle news very closely."

The most unusual part of this bill? Rep. Appleton now calls it a "stupid" bill and—because she technically can't withdraw it—she's going to campaign against it.

"At first I thought that it would be a good thing to have a consistent regulation across the state," Appleton said. "But the problem is, hunters, divers, fishermen really went ballistic about it. Because they felt that it would endanger their ability to fish and hunt and dive."

Rep. Appleton continued: "Unfortunately—or fortunately—I was wrong."

Wait. Which is it?

"I think probably fortunately I was wrong," Rep. Appleton said. "I should not have jumped onto doing something like that, because there's just so many unintended consequences."

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Aside from the unintended consequences for hunters, divers, and fishermen, what about the fact that it seems the Williams incident—the original motivation for this bill—didn't even involve a switchblade?

"Well, sometimes legislators do stupid things," Rep. Appleton said. "I guess I'm going to have to confess that I did."

She said she's asked the relevant committee chair not to allow the bill a hearing.