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Wisconsin relaxes decades-old ban on carrying switchblades

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You can now carry switchblades in Wisconson – but there's a slight catch.

At a gun owners' convention on Saturday, Governor Scott Walker signed into law a new bill reversing a decades-old ban on concealed switchblades, ABC 9 reports.

While you don't need a concealed carry permit to have a switchblade in your pocket, the law only applies if you are "legally able to own a firearm," according to the Associated Press

However, the bill does allow local governments to ban the weapons in public buildings such as courthouses, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

According to ABC 9, Walker said the reasons he signed the Republican-backed bill were "freedom, safety and heritage," as switchblades – which operate with the push of a button – are convenient to hunters, outdoorsmen, and even law enforcement who might need them in an emergency situation.

So why are switchblades illegal?

Switchblades, also known as automatics, have been legally regulated since the approval of the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958. According to the American Knife & Tool Institute, the act restricted importing and selling the knives across state lines, as well as mailing them through the U.S. Postal Service.

There is no outright federal ban on possession of the knives, the Institute points out, though each of the 50 states has its own laws regarding them.

Most states, according to this map, allow automatic knives with some restrictions. Two states require citizens who carry them to possess a weapons license, and in a handful of other states – including Minnesota – switchblades are illegal.

The reason switchblades are so tightly regulated is a murky issue that goes back several decades. According to tech blog Gizmodo, a backlash against the knives (which have been around a long time and used primarily for utilitarian purposes, the blog says) arose because of a public hysteria about 1950s street gangs and their supposed use of switchblades and other weapons.

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