New Wisconsin law permits switchblades

Police said it won't change how they do their job

For over 50 years, Wisconsin law has prohibited the possession and sale of switchblade knives, but a new law signed by Gov. Scott Walker this weekend now makes them legal.

Supporters like Walker said it’s a tool to help first responders and other law enforcement personnel at scenes of accidents, but for police, the law means another factor they must be aware of when out in the field.

It can be a tool for hunting, or used in self-defense.

“Some people just think they are neat, and some people like the utility of being able to open it quickly,” said Sgt. Jason Pipkin of the Sparta Police Department.

Cases of illegal possession of switchblades are not common for Pipkin.

“It’s pretty rare,” said Pipkin. “We do occasionally come across people that are illegally possessing switchblades.”

The new law is a simple change for police.

“We won’t arrest people for carrying a switchblade,” said Pipkin. “It’s not going to be illegal.”

Supporters said it will help first responders by providing knives that can be opened with one hand.

Those around la Crosse say it won’t impact how they respond to accidents and other medical concerns, and police say it also won’t change how they approach potential suspects.

“We are always cautious,” said Pipkin. “This is not going to change how we’re cautious with people because a knife is a knife, by what mechanical means a person can open it, it’s a very dangerous thing, so this doesn’t really change how we do business.”

Local politicians aren’t sure the law was worth the time.

“We did not have a lot of people contacting our office saying, ‘We want to carry a switchblade, we think this is a guns rights issue’ but quite honestly, I think we have better things to deal with than that bill,” said State Rep. Steve Doyle.

Despite the change in law, police said they don’t expect to see much change in behavior.

“I don’t think the average person isn’t interested in knives will see any change in the way they live their life,” said Pipkin.

Other police departments in the area said they will always remain cautious with regards to suspects believed to be carrying sharp weapons.

Anyone who can legally possess a gun is permitted to carry concealed knives of any length under the law, it also bars local governments for enacting any law more strict than state law.