RICHMOND — The District’s Virginia suburbs are different from other parts of the state, a fact that got its latest confirmation Tuesday when the state Senate debated knives.
Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-Stafford) sponsored a bill to make it legal to give dangerous knives to children. Specifically, a switchblade, Bowie knife or a dirk. Several members said they had to look up that last one — it’s a straight-bladed dagger wielded by Scottish Highlanders.
Virginia law already allows adults to give handguns to someone under age 18, as long as the child is a family member or it’s for “the purpose of engaging in a sporting event or activity.” It prohibits those types of knives, however, and Stuart was proposing to change the language to mirror guns.
“In Virginia a minor can use a shotgun to hunt deer, squirrel” or other animals, Stuart said, “but you couldn’t give them one of these knives to skin it with.”
Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-
Arlington) was aghast. “This is just bad public policy,” she said, pointing out that the change would make it legal to give knives to toddlers. “Why would you want to put our children at risk?”
Stuart replied that a father might want to give his son or daughter a particular knife, just as he would present them with a fine hunting rifle. “I understand they may not do that in Arlington County,” Stuart said. “But there’s a whooooooole other part of rural Virginia where they do do things like that.”
But another senator from a rural part of Virginia objected.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) said he has hunted his whole life. “I’ve skinned quite a few [animals] but I’ve never needed a 9½ -inch blade to do it,” he said, referring to a Bowie knife. The Bowie and dirk “are not appropriate for skinning animals, or any sport I’m aware of.”
Left unsaid was Deeds’s tragic personal experience. He has become an advocate for mental health issues after his adult son, who was turned away from a state mental hospital because authorities said there was no space, suffered a breakdown, stabbed Deeds and took his own life.
“This bill is, I think, full of mischief and has no business passing,” he said.
Still, the measure passed on a party-line vote, 21 to 19. It moves on to the House of Delegates.