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Bill Would Ban ‘Ballistic Knives’ Now Available Through Mails

May 14, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Spring-fired knives that officials say can penetrate bullet-proof vests and be purchased with no questions asked would be outlawed under proposed federal legislation.

The so-called ballistic knives, available through a Florida mail-order house for $79.95, have become the ″latest in cop-killing technology″ because they can kill swiftly and silently, said Rep. Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor.

Biaggi and Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., said at a news conference Tuesday there was no legitimate purpose for the weapon, which can be propelled 30 feet by a spring-operated mechanism. Its 5-inch blade penetrated nearly an inch into wood when shot from a distance of six feet Tuesday during a demonstration.

D’Amato, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said Sen. Strom Thurmond, R- S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had notified him of his support for the bill, which presumably would expedite its passage.

The knife is patterned on a Soviet weapon that has been used by that country’s special forces, the lawmakers said. An American version of the knife has been marketed for the past two years by the Florida Knife Corp. of Merritt Island, Fla. Biaggi said he purchased one recently by mail.

″There were no questions asked, except my credit car number and address,″ Biaggi said. ″I could have been anybody. The ballistic knife is totally accessible to anyone who wants it.″

Sherry Hoag, who identified herself as the sales manager for the Florida firm, disputed the lawmakers’ claims that the knife had been found to penetrate bullet-proof vests.

Ms. Hoag also said the firm dealt mainly in mail-order sales and advertised in weapons trade magazines. She said the company’s customers were ″collector- enthusiasts″ and not members of the general public.

″The general public wasn’t even aware of it,″ she said. ″There has not been one crime committed with our knife.″

She said the firm did not sell to minors. However, she provided no information as to how the firm knew whether customers were under age. She said if a telephone customer ″sounded young,″ the firm did not go through with the purchase.

Ms. Hoag refused to reveal how many knives had been sold during the two years they have been on the market. She said the firm was only a ″part-time little thing″ among three principals who had other business interests.

The knife is legal in all states. New York State, where the weapon was recently discovered during a drug raid in Nassau County, is considering legislation to ban the weapon.

The proposed federal legislation would impose a minimum five-year prison term upon conviction for possession, sale, manufacture or importation of the knives. Fines of up to $250,000 also are proposed.

Biaggi and D’Amato said they saw no similarities between their bill and various gun-control efforts that have been fought by the National Rifle Association, hunters and other groups.

″The arguments between a handgun and this are clearly different,″ D’Amato said. ″There’s no redeeming factor in this (weapon) whatsoever.″