The story of a knife: between real life and the law

translated by Prof. Patrick Sanlon and Prof. Amy Elizabeth Turner

12.7.2021

 

The knife store “Giacu” of Pattada (SA) sent me on my request a knife called resolza, whose blade is similar to the leaf of the native myrtle: a seemingly simple knife with ancient and humble origins, commonly used by shepherds. A resolza is expensive and fairly valuable, because of its high-quality materials and remarkable craftsmanship.

I still remember the feeling of enthusiasm of that day as if it were yesterday. I went to buy my knife directly at the source, in Pattada, a small village in the province of Sassari in Sardinia.

The day was unique, not the typical day at the gorgeous beaches that Sardinia is famous for. The charm of my escapade to the interior of the island and up a mountain had buoyed me when I chose the knife; but, despite my unbridled enthusiasm and intent to purchase my prize, the smiling artisan told me I was going to have to wait.

I had not imagined that there was a waiting list of years, and I would have to come back! I offered him a little more than the asking price, as a child who wants everything right away. The craftsman held firm, so I proposed 150% of the price, then doubling it to have it as soon as possible.

There was nothing I could do; the craftsman was inflexible. I appreciated his professionalism rather than simply making a profit, so I forced myself to be patient and wait. I paid and left. The knife arrived later at my home in a beautiful olive wood case.

I’ve told this story several times, intriguing others with my tale, underlining it with various details. However, I assure you that it was just like that: I waited years for that knife!

As fate would have it, time passed, and I defended a client on a weapons charge. My client, a foreigner, was stopped at the end of his working day by the Carabinieri for a normal area check of his person and vehicle. He was searched from top to bottom, likely because he was a foreigner.

The police found in his rucksack a multifunction pocketknife for daily use, one that he used to peel his salame and fruit during his humble meals. However, the eager officer, who ignored the pleas of my client providing plausible explanations, considered that the knife could cause bodily harm and was therefore illegal.

Certainly, this was not my most difficult case to be sure – the client was easily acquitted – but it was a chance for me to do a surgical analysis, thinking back to my own knife, which I had kept in my car, proud to pull it out and to tell my story whenever someone was willing to hear it.

This law is outlined in article 4, L. 18.04.1975, n. 110 (Law on Weapons Control), based on the fact that a person must demonstrate “founded motivation” for being able to lawfully carry on his or her person a “pointed or cutting instrument fit to cause bodily harm”, whatever its size.

If, however, my client’s knife had had a sharp tip and double-edged blade, it would have been a case of a weapon called “propria”, namely, a weapon whose sole and exclusive purpose is to be used as a weapon. Possessing a “propria” weapon would be considered a most severe crime according to article 699 of the Italian penal code. Article 699 refers exclusively to the carrying of the knife, and when a subject has immediate access to it. Such was the case as when I had put mine inside the glove compartment of my car. Had I therefore kept my knife in my trunk, it would not have been accessible in the legal sense. Now, with the knife in the trunk, transporting it is considered “regular” or legal, i.e., the object is not ready for use and therefore no justified motivation should be needed to transport it legally. It must be noted that visibility of the object and its accessibility are not always easy distinctions to make.

My preparation for the case led me to conclude that I have to transport my Sardinian knife as carefully as anything else. I’ll continue to keep it in the trunk along with the food I take to the sea or mountains so that it’s not visible and not easily accessible. I really hope that I’ll never come across a strict and inflexible Carabinieri: might he charge me with something if he finds my son’s toy guns in the car? Who knows…?