Maine Lawmaker Seeks to Allow Disabled to Carry Switchblades

A Maine lawmaker wants to give one-armed people the right to defend themselves in a fight, letting them own and carry switchblade knives.

Democratic state Rep. Sheryl Briggs said changing state law would bring it into compliance with federal law.

"Obviously, people with just one arm cannot open anything but that type of a blade, that type of a knife," Briggs told the Lewiston, Maine, Sun-Journal. "So all we're asking is for the people with one arm to be exempt."

According to the bill's language, knives to be included in the exception have a blade that is 3 inches or less, opens automatically by hand pressure or opens, falls or is ejected into position.

Briggs was encouraged to introduce the legislation by attorney Paul Dumas Jr., who has one arm. Dumas sent Briggs a letter in March 2010 saying there's no accommodation in state law for people who can't use two hands. Dumas lost his arm as a teenager.

"It's a spinoff currently of federal law," Dumas told the newspaper. "If I had a spring-assisted knife and I was in federal jurisdiction, I wouldn't be breaking the law; but under Maine law I would be."

Carrying a switchblade illegally in the state is a misdemeanor.

Because he's an avid horse rider, he said he likes to carry a blade, just in case.

"I would not go on a trail ride without a knife," he said.

An official with an organization that represents 2 million people with limb loss said the request is unusual.

"We have never heard of or been part of anything like that," said Dan Ignescewski, government relations coordinator for the Amputee Coalition of America.

Briggs and Dumas met Tuesday with a state police official to refine the bill and make sure it allows what's intended.

"If they wanted me to register the knife with the chief of police in my town, I wouldn't have a problem with that," Dumas said. "We're not trying to hide anything -- just trying to get Maine in line with federal law."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.