Challenge to New York's “gravity knife” law is allowed to go forward

Knife Rights, Inc. v. Vance, No. 13-4840-cv (2d Cir. Sept. 22, 2015).

New York law makes it a crime to possess a “gravity knife,” which is defined as a knife whose blade is released “by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force,” and then is locked in place after release. Think of knives that are released with a wrist flick, à la West Side Story

The plaintiffs allege that the Manhattan DA has recently been enforcing this gravity-knife law so as to make it unconstitutionally vague. He’s been applying the law even to knives that are designed to resist being opened from a closed position, on the theory that it would be possible for some person to open the knife with a powerful wrist flick. The plaintiffs say they can’t be expected know which knives could be opened this way and which couldn’t be. 

The question in this appeal, however, isn’t the merits of the plaintiffs’ vagueness claim, but simply whether they have standing to pursue that claim. And that question turns on whether the plaintiffs have shown a credible threat of imminent prosecution. The Second Circuit decides that some of the plaintiffs—a retail store that sells folding knives, and two individuals—have made that showing. Others—two organizations called “Knife Rights” and “Knife Rights Foundation”—haven’t. The district court’s dismissal for lack of standing is reversed in part, and the case is remanded for proceedings on the merits.