RVA Politics is a blog about politics in the state of Virginia And the capital city of Richmond.

The author is a political scientist. Please don't hold that against him.

 

"Ninja" bill shows how legislation works

After last month's power play by VA utility giant Dominion (forgive the pun), this week the Virginia General Assembly gives us another lesson in how government works. This time, it's brass knuckles and switchblades.

As widely reported on Tuesday, the VA House and Senate passed a bill that would amend the Virginia code to make it legal to own switchblades, throwing stars, blackjacks, "ballistic knives" (cool!), and other such weapons. And yet after just one day, the House reversed course and voted it down. What gives?

The reason for the reconsidered vote on Wednesday might be obvious: the media coverage made the House of Delegates, at least, realize that they had voted for a pretty bats#$t bill. Who wants to be on the side of blackjacks and throwing stars? (Thanks to some leftover racism, these are also referred to as "oriental darts" in the VA code.) House Dems apparently noted that there were no age restrictions either. Once the GOP realized they could be portrayed as arming kids with switchblades, they backed out.

So how did it get passed in the first place? The same way lots of legislation gets passed: there was an organized constituency or interest that wanted it, and there was no organized interest opposing it. According to the WaPo, the bill had been pushed by the non-profit advocacy group, the American Knife and Tool Institute, a kind of NRA for knives. (Their slogan: "Imagine life without a knife." Catchy.) While there are organized groups that support gun restrictions to counter the NRA, knives and "oriental darts" aren't really on their radar.

Lots of legislation, from the mundane to the nutty, gets introduced and even passed that way. The lesson, as always: legislators respond to pressure from constituents and interests. Even if those interests are big fans of switchblades.

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