Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Knife Fight Part II: The Senate Cuts In

Boy, Customs can't seem to catch a break. This issue about the treatment of assisted opening knives probably struck Customs and Border Protection as another simple ruling revocation of which no one would take note. Turns out, that is not the case.

Now, the Senate has stepped in with an amendment to some a Homeland Security appropriations bill. The amendment proposes to modify the Switchblade Knife Act to exempt from it:
a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.
You can see the text of the amendment in the Congressional Record here. The amendment was introduced by Senator Hatch along with Senators Coryn and Pryor. Sen. Hatch's comments begin on page S7304 which may or may not be here. Senator Hatch's press release, though, is here. The House needs to deal with this issue before the amendment becomes law, assuming the President signs it. I learned that from School House Rock.

This makes me wonder how folks are feeling at CBP. Several big policy initiatives have been stymied by public response and congressional action. Most noteable was the effort to do away with first sale valuation. The proposal for uniform rules of origin seems to have withered as well. Grumbling also continues with respect to Importer Security Filings and the Lacey Act (the latter having been foisted on CBP by Congress). Now Congress steps in to protect the right to import (note that this only relates to imports) knives with an assisted opening mechanism (albeit with a bias toward staying closed). Plus the agency continues to be without an Obama-appointed Commissioner.

I've been accused of being anti-agency, and I am not. I'm not making any judgment about these things. I'm just pointing out that it seems that the places where Customs seems to have invested some policy effort have generated more push-back than the agency may have expected. This knife business certainly surprised me.

I know people inside the agency visit this blog. Anyone want to drop an anonymous comment and let me know if I am wrong?


Anonymous said...

Larry -

The BIG problem with Customs today is that the baby boomers are all retiring, leaving NO institutional memory. Kids looking to make a name for themselves are coming up with all kinds of "new" ideas, most of which were tried and failed a generation ago. "First sale" was a screw-up in the first place, but you can't put 10 lbs of manure in a 5-lb sack - the battle was lost before it began. Some other "hero" decided it was time to reinterpret the Switchblade Knife Act, again, with NO look st institutional memory. And don't get me started on "Chertoff's Folly" - the border wall.

-Retired Customs officer with 42 years experience

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry said...

See, that is the interesting perspective I like to hear.

Anyone else?

Note: The previous versions of this comment was removed to give me more time to learn to both spell and type.

Matt said...

-- Or it may simply have been Hatch and Cornyn's effort to come fully prepared for the Sotomayer hearings, the Judiciary Committee's version of the Jets vs. the Sharks. Now that the hearings are finished, we'll find out if there's any "bias toward closure."