Old town gift shop sells illegal weapons

13 Investigates with Larry Barker

Larry Barker switch blade

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a weapon so unusual and so dangerous that it’s illegal to sell or even own one. However, according to a KRQE News 13 investigation, some folks apparently never got the word and are openly defying the law.

They’re called switchblades, automatic knives with spring-loaded blades. Press a button on the handle and a long, sharp knife blade flips open. Switchblades are considered so dangerous, the New Mexico legislature banned them in 1963. According to Albuquerque State Police Captain “Nic” Aragon, “They’re dangerous. At the push of a button that blade can come out. … It’s that much quicker for our officers to be put in danger.”

A sudden encounter with a deadly knife is a terrifying image (think “Chinatown” and “Westside Story”). Back in the 50’s switchblades were considered the weapons of choice among gangs. Today, about 12% of all murders are committed by stabbings.

New Mexico is among 11 states nationwide that bans outright the sale and private ownership of switchblades. “The law is pretty specific. It says you can’t sell, manufacture, possess … Switchblades,” Captain Aragon says.

30-7-8. Unlawful possession of switchblades.
Unlawful possession of switchblades consists of any person, either manufacturing, causing to be manufactured, possessing, displaying, offering, selling, lending, giving away of purchasing any knife which has a blade with opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or any knife having a blade which opens or falls or is ejected into position by the force of gravity or by any outward or centrifugal thrust or movement.
Whoever commits unlawful possession of switchblades is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
History: 1953 Comp., § 40A-7-7, enacted by Laws 1963, ch. 303, § 7-7.

Despite the law, however, a News 13 investigation finds illegal weapons being openly peddled in the un-likeliest of places. Consider Albuquerque’s historic Old Town. The picturesque plaza draws tourists from all over the world. And whether it’s the quiet southwestern ambience or the unique shopping, Old town is a tourist mecca. Sure, you can find turquoise jewelry, distinctive pottery and handmade weavings there. But the last thing you would ever think of finding in Old Town would be illegal knives.

The Covered Wagon Trading Post has been an Old Town fixture on the southwest corner of the Plaza for more than 50 years. The quaint curio shop features everything from inexpensive trinkets to fine Native American art. But stroll through the crowded store, past the coffee mugs and the refrigerator magnets, and you’ll come to a treasure trove of illegal weapons: Hundreds of automatic knives.

In a KRQE News 13 undercover investigation, we found the Covered Wagon openly selling banned switchblades in four crowded display cases. The curio shop sold switchblades for as little as $14.99. All of the contraband weapons are made in China and advertised as “Super Knife.” A Covered Wagon sales clerk told News 13’s undercover investigator, the knives are “legal.”

News 13 later met with the store owner who declined to give his name. When asked whether switchblades are legal, the owner replied, “We buy them legally. … If they’re able to buy them I guess we’re able to sell them if they wholesale them and we buy them wholesale.”

The Covered Wagon owner admitted he did not know about the law banning automatic knives.

We showed him State Statute 30-7-8 which is titled ‘Unlawful Possession of Switchblades’. “I didn’t know that until you brought this to my attention…I’m going to pull them right off the shelf because … I’m not allowed to sell them when it’s against the law,” the store owner told News 13.

The Covered Wagon has been selling illegal knives for about 20 years and, according to the owner, no one had told him it was against the law. He directed his staff to immediately remove all the automatic knives from display.

Captain Aragon said the State Police would visit the Covered Wagon to make sure the illegal knives are no longer being peddled to the public. “If we find out that they continue to sell those we definitely will move forward with charging them with violating that statute,” Captain Aragon said.

A switchblade knife purchased by News 13 as part of our investigation has been turned over to the State Police.

State Laws Regarding Automatic Knives (sourc: http://www.akti.org)
State Laws Regarding Automatic Knives (sourc: http://www.akti.org)

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