Dueling Summary Judgment Motions Filed in CA Switchblade Ban Case

Motions for Summary Judgement have been filed by both sides in Knife Rights’ federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s complete ban on common automatic knives 2-inches and greater that the State prohibits as illegal “switchblades.”

The Plaintiffs’ motion sets out the indisputable facts under the standard laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen. These facts include those confirmed by California’s own experts during deposition.

While Bruen lays the burden on the State to provide evidence that these knives are not protected by the Second Amendment, Plaintiffs’ motion clearly presents evidence that automatically opening (“switchblade”) knives are common, and not “unusual,” in three ways: numerically, categorically and jurisdictionally. As such they cannot be “both dangerous and unusual.” This should be the end of the issue, period. Moreover, the motion shows that there is absolutely no historical tradition, as informed by Bruen, for banning knives. As such, the State cannot ban them under Bruen.

California’s motion relies on fanciful interpretations of Bruen and the irrelevant history cited by its experts and their often hyperbolic and irrelevant testimony, in an effort to magically sidestep the unambiguous instructions from the Bruen decision.

Their contention that Plaintiffs must prove that automatically opening knives are “commonly used for self-defense” is a purposeful misstatement of what Bruen says, which, put into plain words, is that the arm, in this case automatically opening (“switchblade”) knives, “must be commonly possessed for lawful purposes, including self-defense.” There is no requirement under Bruen that they be actually used for self-defense.

The state would like to take a time machine back to before the Bruen decision and use means-end scrutiny to support their arguments. Unfortunately, the State can only dream. Bruen explicitly rejected this kind of argument.

The short version is that we have the facts and all they have is generalized, irrelevant, and unsupported claims. There will now be filed a series of opposition pleadings and replies by each side prior to the scheduled hearing before Federal District Court Judge James E. Simmons, Jr., set for April 22, 2024, in San Diego.

Attorney John W. Dillon of the Dillon Law Group, representing the Plaintiffs, said, “After reviewing the State’s motion and supporting documents, it is clear that they cannot produce any legitimate historical justification for their unconstitutional ban under the Bruen standard. We look forward to submitting further argument to the Court and invalidating this ridiculous prohibition on automatically opening knives.”

Joining Knife Rights as plaintiffs in this case are Knife Rights members James Miller, Garrison Ham, and Eliot Kaagan and knife retailer members North County Shooting Center and Poway Weapons and Gear.

Please support Knife Rights’ lawsuit with a tax-deductible donation to the Knife Rights Foundation at: (select Knife Rights Foundation)

Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter said, “Under Supreme Court precedent, California’s ban on these common and constitutionally protected automatically opening (switchblade) knives cannot pass muster and must be enjoined. Automatically opening knives that are banned in California are widely legally possessed in at least 43 of 50 states. There is no question that these knives are ‘commonly owned for lawful purposes, including self-defense’ and therefore cannot be banned.”

Knife Rights last year won a similar Second Amendment lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia.


Broadly, in NYSRPA v. Bruen the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment includes the right to be armed for self-defense at home and in public. This right can only be limited to the extent that there is a historical tradition of limitation in the period immediately prior to and around the time of the Constitution’s framing in the late 18th century up to the late 19th century. A few restrictions on knives of various sorts that are outliers from that time period do not count. Restrictions imposed later, including on switchblades in the 1950s, don’t count. Possession and carry of knives survives this constitutional test.

Bruen upheld restrictions on weapons such as machine guns that are deemed by the court to be both “dangerous and unusual.” A weapon that is either not “dangerous” or not “unusual” cannot be prohibited. Automatically opening (“switchblade”) knives and other knife designs and opening mechanisms are neither “unusual,” being legal and common in most places today, nor any more “dangerous” than other non-prohibited knives or weapons. Knife bans existent today do not pass constitutional muster after Bruen.

Bruen also emphasized emphatically from the court’s prior Second Amendment McDonald decision that “the constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” Second Amendment decisions by courts must be made on the basis of strict scrutiny, just as with other rights. Intermediate scrutiny or “interest balancing” can no longer be used to decide Second Amendment cases. As such, the government can no longer defend knife bans because government doesn’t like a particular type of knife, for whatever irrational basis it comes up with.

Knife Rights ( is America’s grassroots knife owners’ organization; leading the fight to Rewrite Knife Law in America™ and forging a Sharper Future for all Americans™. Knife Rights efforts have resulted in 44 bills enacted repealing knife bans in 27 states and over 175 cities and towns since 2010.