The katana once was the weapon of the samurai. But a new law soon will make it perfectly legal for Texans to publicly carry the warrior blade – along with a range of swords and other long knives.
In a twist on typical open-carry laws that deal with guns, Texas starting Sept. 1 will end its ban on the open-carry of any blade longer than five-and-a-half inches.
“Some other states are looking at us as a return to the old Wild West,” said Dianna Knipp, owner of Charlie’s Knife Shop in El Paso.
The new law, while drawing some attention in the press, has stayed relatively under the radar. Some Texas residents Fox News spoke with didn’t know about the change.
“I think it will be similar to the open-carry law in Texas [for firearms] in that it will be a big stir for a while and then it will die down,” Knipp said.
State Rep. John Frullo, who sponsored the bill, believes the length of the blade doesn’t necessarily make society any more dangerous.
Julian Saenz, an employee at Charlie’s, agrees. “You can make a lot of damage with a small knife if you know how to use it. You don’t need a big knife to make damage. So if somebody needs something for cutting something big, this is good.”
House Bill 1935, which eliminated knives from the list of items that are a crime to carry in Texas, was passed in June with bipartisan support.
Texas penal code made it a crime to carry an illegal knife, which was any blade bigger than five-and-a-half inches. But analysis from the House Research Organization found that some people felt properly enforcing the illegal knife rule could be discriminatory, because the statute was vague and could cause confusion over what constituted an illegal knife.
Frullo said the bill sets rules that citizens, law enforcement and courts can better understand.
“I think everything we did is based on a commonsense approach,” said Frullo.
The chairwoman of the El Paso County Democrats told Fox News she doesn’t think the law is necessary.
“I personally as a parent am a little bit disturbed by the fact that we are removing those limitations. I think there are people who for very legitimate reasons, like work, do need to carry around knives and things of that nature. I’m not sure what service or what public need is met by removing those limits,” said Iliana Holguin.
Although the knives will now be legal, they are still banned in certain public places; very similar to carrying a gun. Knives are banned in churches, hospitals, courtrooms, schools and other similar places.
“We got rid of illegal knives and made them location-restricted knives,” said Frullo.
Each state has its own knife-carrying law. Even before the Texas change, other states were more restrictive. According to Knipp, California and Massachusetts are two of the strictest in the country, only allowing a two-inch blade to be carried. Blades are measured from where the blade enters the handle to the tip.
“I think what people need to keep in mind is, this is one of man's oldest tools. Yes, it may need to be a personal defense tool at some point, I hope not for any of my customers, but this is a tool,” said Knipp.
Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan