New knife law opens door for carrying large knives and machetes in Texas

These days, more shoppers in Houston in Texas are looking for knives, but not just any knife. 

Customers who stop by Easy Cash Pawn Jewelry & Gun here in Houston in US state of Texas are usually on the hunt for a new stereo, digital camera, microwave oven or a gun for home protection.

These days, more shoppers are looking for knives, but not just any knife. Picture the big ones - machetes, swords, daggers, throwing knives and even the famous Bowie knife. Behind the upswing in sales is new legislation allowing Texan residents to openly carry larger knives.

The law took effect on Sept. 1, allowing Texans to carry blades longer than 5.5 inches in most, but not all places. Bars and restaurants are off limits - any places that derives 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales. Also off limits are schools and universities, polling places, sporting events, secure areas of airports, correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and mental wards.

Carrying the blades into restricted areas could result a misdemeanor conviction and a fine up to US$500. The law is restricted to Texas residents 18 or older.

Since the law was passed, sales at Houston-area pawn shops have been brisk.

"Sales have gone up, mostly for big Bowie knives. I've seen it a lot," said Reynaldo Uribe, manager of Easy Cash Pawn Jewelry & Gun in Galveston, Texas, near Houston. But Uribe questioned the logic behind the legislation.

"It's not a good idea because we have more weapons out there, and more violence," he said. "More people are getting hurt and killed. Now anyone can walk around with a gun or a big old knife. I don't approve of that at all."

Opposition to the legislation arose after a student was killed and three others were wounded in May by a knife-wielding man at the University of Texas at Austin. The law passed by changing the wording describing the blades from "illegal" to "location-restricted." That essentially prohibits the carrying of knives in the same places where openly carrying firearms is prohibited.

Eugene Lewis, a retired police officer at three Texas school districts, said the new law does not consider the potential mental instability of knife carriers.

"We are allowing so many people who are unstable to arm themselves, and we strip law enforcement from the ability to stop and question those guys' behavior," he said.

"It concerns me. I'm glad I'm retired, because what today's officers have to face and deal with makes the job even more difficult. From 'open carry,' where anybody can carry a weapon, that's going to get us into some trouble on down the road."

Elissa Briscoe, lead pawnbroker at EZ Pawn in Galveston, said she also has concerns about public safety since the bill was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"I don't like that," Briscoe said of the law. "I'm just not fond of guns or knives. You've got crazies that just walk down the street (with knives)."

In Texas, many people carry trapper pocket knives, while others prefer toting custom-made knives or hunting and fishing knives. But things are rapidly changing with the lifting of restrictions, as more people feel free to carry their blade of choice.

"I don't carry knives and I never have," said Michael Milan, a home improvement specialist. "But if an individual has the idea that he would like to do that (commit violence), it's on him. We're in Texas. It's like the 'wild, wild west' here. I know a lot of people that would carry bigger knives."  

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