New York state senator Tony Avella set off something of a conservative freakout this week when he proposed new regulations on machetes in New York.
It started Wednesday, when the Daily News reported that a bill that the Queens Democrat introduced earlier this month would ban the gigantic knives, and noted that “under Avella’s proposed legislation, the mere possession of a machete could lead to a year behind bars.” The bill came in response to the machete murder of a young man on Long Island last year.
Soon, conservative outlets like Breitbart and PJ Media and the Washington Times ran pieces about the Daily News story, decrying New York’s crazy weapons laws. (Something called Mint Press News even reported that Avella was trying to ban all kitchen knives over four inches.)
Avella says the story has gotten a wee bit out of hand.
“No, this is not a ban,” Avella told the Voice, sounding a little weary. “That report was not exactly accurate.”
What Avella’s bill actually does is add machetes to New York’s list of “deadly weapons,” in line with firearms and gravity knives — the latter of which we’ve written quite a bit about.
In truth, the only effect Avella’s bill would have on machete owners would be to increase penalties for people who use the knives in a violent way — there is no prohibition on possession or sale.
That’s probably a good thing, because machetes, as Avella himself points out, are useful tools with plenty of legitimate purposes. In New York City, at least, machetes probably are not a common household implement. But those who live outside the five boroughs may well use a machete while gardening or weeding in their backyard. And even here in the city, some people probably own them for perfectly benign reasons, and they’re pretty common in hardware stores. It would be a huge headache, as we’ve seen with gravity knives, to try to get them off store shelves.
New York City does have a bit of an itchy handcuff finger when it comes to knives. As we’ve been chronicling for months now, law enforcement in the city has enthusiastically resurrected a law from the 1950s and used it to go after people possessing common pocketknives. Tens of thousands of people — disproportionately people of color — have been arrested under the so-called “gravity knife” statute. But it does not appear that Avella’s bill is heading in the same direction.