More bite sought in knife-buy regulations

City councillors are weighing heavier restrictions on the sales of knives in businesses, particularly local convenience stores. Noting that knives three inches and longer can be purchased at local stores, Councillors Tito Jackson and Michael Ross say businesses should be required to obtain licenses to sell them.

The city currently bans the sale of knives with blades two inches or more in length to a minor, or to somebody under the age of 18.

Police officials are voicing support for stricter requirements. Mark Gillespie, a lieutenant detective with the MBTA police, said knives are the “weapon of choice for youth.” He said MBTA police confiscated 32 knives from 13 year olds to 16 year olds between Sept. 2010 and July 2011.

“These will put a chill in you when they take it out of their pocket,” he told councillors at a hearing last week, picking up a few of the knives to demonstrate. “These are not small knives.”

Boston Police Lt. Det. Patrick Cullity said the average price of a knife is $10. Boston police data indicate there have been about 1,300 crimes by knife in the past three years.

“We see a lot of stabbings throughout the city that don’t make the newspapers,” said Police Superintendent William Evans.

Genie Curry, whose son, Kramo Lavon, died from stab wounds over a decade ago, is pushing for the regulations. “I’m here to be his voice as well as for his three children and the voices of all our children throughout the community that have died due to the violence,” she said.

Boston police officers conducted stings in August of several stores in the Dudley Street area. At least two – located at 728 Dudley St. and 559 Dudley St. – did not ask for identification when a minor asked to buy a knife.

“I don’t understand why we would want any corner stores selling knives,” said Councillor Maureen Feeney. “It’s insane for me that we would go to the corner to store to pick up milk and a knife.”

Councillors said they had received “over the top” e-mails in opposition to their call for stricter regulations. “This is not an assault at all on anybody’s Second Amendment rights,” Jackson said, calling regulations on the sale of knives “common sense.”

Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley also voiced her support for stricter regulations. “Knives are too readily accessible, too easily obtained, and too easily concealed,” she said in her opening statement. “And those looking to do harm, to cause mayhem, to cause murder are favoring knives because if the police do stop them and find a knife on them, the troublemakers won’t face the same stiff penalties they would if they were packing a gun.”

But James Wallace, executive director of the Northboro-based Gun Owners Action League, warned against over-regulation. He noted that while Massachusetts has strict anti-gun laws, gun crimes have continued to increase.

“You can use the system you already have to deal with it,” he said, pointing to the current ban on selling to a minor.

Feeney said the Bay State is still affected by gun crimes because of looser laws in nearby states. “We suffer from New Hampshire every day,” she said. 

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