PEORIA – D’Alton Holder loves knives.
Since 1966, he’s been crafting hunting knives with handles of amber, marble, ironwood and more in the workshop behind his home, selling them at trade shows throughout the U.S.
Holder says it’s a mistake for people concerned about knives to refer to them as weapons. “They’re edged tools designed to do a job,” he said.
And he says it’s a mistake for Arizona to have a patchwork of city ordinances controlling how and where people can carry and manufacture knives.
“There needs to be consistency so you know where you stand wherever you go in the state,” he said.
Saying Arizonans deserve one set of rules, a state lawmaker is shepherding legislation that would bar cities from enacting ordinances on knives and repeal those already in place.
“They have a right to know when and when they’re not breaking the law,” said Sen. Chuck Gray, a Mesa Republican.
S1153, which has won Senate approval and is awaiting action by the House, would establish state law as the sole authority in regulating knives and knife-making components.
“We don’t want the cities addressing it in a hodgepodge way,” Gray said.
Arizona law prohibits carrying concealed weapons other than pocketknives without a permit. In general, state laws have no restrictions on what can be carried in plain sight on public property, with the exception of weapons that are specifically prohibited by law; however, owners and operators of public buildings as well as those putting on events can request that patrons remove weapons.
While there is no comprehensive list of knife ordinances around Arizona, examples include a Tempe ban on knives in parks, a Tucson rule against carrying knives on library grounds and a Scottsdale ordinance prohibiting knives longer than 3.5 inches in parks.
KnifeRights, a knife owners advocacy organization, is pressing for the change, noting that state law already preempts city ordinances when it comes to firearms.
Todd Rathner, a spokesman for the group, said rules varying by community make it impossible for knife owners to comply.
“A fundamental tenet of the U.S. is fairness,” he said. “How do you have equal protection under the law when the law changes every 10 miles on the I-10?”
However, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and the cities of Tempe, Gilbert, Fountain Hills and Litchfield Park all registered their opposition to the bill.
Dale Wiebusch, legislative associate for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said local governments should be able to make policies based on their knowledge of issues in their areas.
“It’s about the ability of local communities to have a say in what they look and feel like,” Wiebusch said.
Anthony Daykin, chief of police at the University of Arizona, said Gray’s bill would repeal Arizona Board of Regents policies that prevent concealed weapons on university campuses, something that he said could interfere with safety.
“Universities should be places free of weapons,” he said.
John Thomas, legislative liaison for the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, said local officials are in the best position to determine how to keep their communities safe.
“Control needs to remain where the impact will be felt, that is at the local level,” he said.