Sporting Knife Industry Coalition & SwitchBlade Act Update

AKTI_logoDavid Kowalski, Communications Coordinator of the American Knife & Tool Institute, updates the Sporting Knife Industry Coalition’s attempt to retain the current defintiton of a switchblade.

AKTI – House Bill H.R. 2892 on Hold (Update on 10/12/09)

The fate of AKTI’s attempt to save all folding knives from a proposed revocation of import rules for assisted-openers by U.S. Customs now appears stalled on a debate centering on the fate of prisoners at Guantanamo and the length of a proposed southern U.S. border fence.

In the meantime, AKTI and the knife industry coalition supporting action against the revocation have been to D.C. again. That was part of a focused effort to gain acceptance with key House committees and subcommittees.

As we told you in early August, and again in late August, the Customs fight is NOT over. During and after the August Congressional recess, AKTI’s DC lobbyists continued contacting staffers of important House committees and subcommittees.

Our focus has been getting key House committee chairs to support House adoption of Senate amendment 1447 to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2892). This amendment would add a fifth exemption to the Federal Switchblade Act at Section 1244 that would exempt any folding knife with a bias toward closure from being declared a switchblade.

Customs supported this amendment in a conference call with key Senators in July where the AKTI lobbyists were the only lobbyist participants. Then in mid-September the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced so-called “perfecting language” that would have thrown four months of work into the garbage. We can tell you now that a lobbyist working on behalf of Benchmade Knives was instrumental in getting DHS to drop that language. Then U.S. Customs went back to Capitol Hill to fully inform all parties that the language of Senate amendment 1447 was still intact and supported by every stakeholder in this process.

In the meantime, AKTI focused on key committee chairs. We asked several of you to contact U.S. Representative Henry Waxman of California because of potential opposition we saw there. Thank you to those who responded. Rep. Waxman has reportedly dropped any opposition to amendment 1447..

We then focused on House appropriation committee chairs to make sure they understood the broad range of support from their constituents and the entire sporting knife industry. We are now optimistic we will have support in a House/Senate conference committee on H.R. 2892 by both Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and Rep. David Price (D-NC). We again thank those who were asked to reach out to these lawmakers to register their support.

AKTI Goes to D.C. Again

Late in August AKTI began planning another lobby day in D.C.. (AKTI and coalition members had been there on June 25 to visit with key U..S. Senators). Our D.C. lobbyist arranged all the scheduling for September 16. But even a week before that date we faced the prospect that the bill would already have been through conference and the issue resolved before we got there. Such are the perils of guessing how fast or slow Congress will move on any given piece of legislation.

Once we got to D.C., we found our visit was timely because the bill was moving slowly. So we were able to have meetings with key House committee and subcommittee staffers.

These included staff for:

Chairman Waxman (CA) – Energy and Commerce Committee,

Subcommittee Chair Rush (IL) – Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection,

Subcommittee Chair Levin (MI) – Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade,

Rep. Camp (MI) and Rep. Brady (TX) – House Ways and Means,

Rep. Radanovich (CA) – Committee on Energy and Commerce, Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee.

We also met with Jeff Ashford, staffer for David Price (NC) – Chair of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee of Homeland Security.

We also met with both Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and his legislative director Andy York, two very key people in putting together Senate amendment 1447 and bringing together U.S. Customs and a broad coalition of 20 Senators from both parties to support it.

The following morning, September 17, AKTI representatives Goldie Russell, Jan Billeb and David Kowalski adjusted their schedules to meet with the legislative assistant for Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR). He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Obey of Wisconsin.

The Sporting Knife Industry Coalition

At the risk of having this read like the results of a marathon, we want to identify and acknowledge those who went to Washington in September. Some were there for a second time, having also been there in June. Quite frankly, the marathon analogy is appropriate because unless you’ve been through this process (as AKTI has been five times in the five states where we’ve introduced successful bills), you do not understand how bills get passed. As an aside, bills ultimately get passed by talking directly to lawmakers and their staff members.

The AKTI effort initiated by our Blade Show meeting in late May has been supported by three other key entities. These are the NRA, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and Knife Rights. Names of key individuals in these groups who deserve our special thanks appear in the following list of September D.C. trip participants.

Goldie Russell (A.G. Russell Knives) – AKTI President; Jan Billeb – AKTI Executive Director; John Belniak (SOG Knives); Peggy Bremer (CRKT); Rod Bremer (CRKT); Mike Manrose (Meyerco); Nicole Bivens Collinson, AKTI D.C. representative (Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.); Ned Steiner (ST & R); Nora Bomar Kahlil, Government Affairs Advisor at Ball Janik LLP – representing Oregon manufacturers; Larry E. Smith, President of Legislative Strategies Inc. – representing an Oregon bank; David D. Kowalski – AKTI Communications Coordinator.  Jeff Freeman – Senior Federal Liaison for NRA; and Jeffrey S. Crane, President of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Doug Ritter, Chairman of Knife Rights; Jason Kunkler (KnifeCenter.com); Pete Brownell, President of Brownells; and Drew Derco, Mark Barnes & Associates (Knife Rights D.C. representative).

We should add that AKTI representatives on the June 25 trip to D.C. included: John Belniak (SOG Knives); Rod Bremer (CRKT); Mike Manrose (Meyerco), Les deAsis (Benchmade Knives); Jason Landmark and Kevin Keegan (Gerber Legendary Blades/Fiskars); Morgan Taylor and Brian Boyd (Taylor Brands).

Current Status of H.R. 2892

Quite frankly, we do not know officially that amendment 1447 has survived the House/Senate conference committee. All we can do is wait at this point because we and our representatives have done everything we could possibly do to tell the sporting knife industry story to the right people on Capitol Hill.

We have received word today (10/12) that H.R. 2892 is expected to come to the House floor this week.. But there is continued wrangling about major aspects of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Should we allow Guantanamo detainees to be brought into the U.S.? Should the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico be 700 miles or 650 miles or scrapped altogether?

If the entire bill fails passage or amendment 1447 gets stripped out, we are back at square one. That means finding another appropriate bill where we could hope to attach amendment 1447.

In the meantime, AKTI needs your financial support to keep this going. And we need you to join the Grassroots Supporter group at www.akti.org. That’s how you’ll get first notice of important Congressional action.

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Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 6:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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