Jun 20, 2010

"But I bought that knife at Home Depot...."

As a former public defender who frequently represented individuals charged with illegal possession of a weapon, it was not uncommon for me to hear from a client: "But that knife can't be illegal, I bought it at Home Depot." I remember one case where a young man on parole with a job doing construction was arrested for a knife he swore he used only for his work. Although during the arraignment process I verified his job with his employer (he was, in fact, doing construction), the fact that he was rearrested was a sufficient basis for revocation of parole. Although I don't know what happened with the young man, I do remember taking a trip to Home Depot to find that knife. Recently, District Attorney of Manhattan, Cy Vance, sent investigators to do the same thing. According to the NY Times, what they found was that "at least 14 retail stores in Manhattan — including major retailers like the Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports and Paragon Sports — have been selling illegal knives." Regarding the investigation, a spokesman for Home Depot noted, “These are common knives,” Mr. Holmes said, adding that contractors and homeowners often used them “for various home-improvement projects…We simply didn’t know that they were being used for any other purpose.”

At a press conference held last Thursday, Mr. Vance alleged that,” ..There are a number of stores and individuals who have been brazenly and knowingly violating the law in this area.” To avoid criminal prosecution, “seven of the stores removed illegal knives from their shelves, agreed to forfeit profits they made from selling those knives over the past four years and agreed to finance a campaign to educate the public about illegal knives.”

Whether or not stores were innocently, or knowingly carrying these weapons, the DA Office's investigation will make New York a safer, and more just city. Access to these illegal knifes will be restricted to those seeking to use them for illegal purpose and keep those trying just trying to make a living and stay out of prison, out of trouble.